A Big Loophole That Will Save You $25+ When Flying

This past weekend, I visited sunny LA (ok fine, it rained half the time), and I had a lot of stuff to bring for my four day visit. In addition to my my regular clothes, I brought several nice shirts as well as a tuxedo, which I packed carefully in a real ‘suit-case’. When folded the suit doesn’t get all wrinkled, which is pretty sweet.

I flew Virgin America, which is an awesome airline that features live tv, outlets, and unlimited free drinks. The only downside is that they charge $25 for a checked bag.

Not cool, Virgin America. Not cool.

Of course, since I hate spending more money than I need to, I wanted to find a way around checking a bag. You see, there’s a big loophole that most people don’t think about. Most blindly follow the rules without thinking about other options.

Instead of checking my second bag, I wanted to simple have two large carry-ons. While it would be a pain to carry two big bags through the airport, it beats paying $25 for each bag.

But they’ll notice, right? The thing is, who will notice? It won’t be the person at the counter (also, by not checking a bad, you can print your boarding pass at home and save time not sitting in line!).

The TSA agents watching your stuff going through the screener couldn’t care less as long as it fits. They’re not affiliated with the airlines and have no reason to enforce their rules.

The only people who may notice are the flight attendants and even then, only if it doesn’t fit in the overhead bin. By then it will be too late for them to do anything about it.

Let’s pretend a flight attendant said something about it. At best, they could set it aside and put your bag beneath the plane, but they’d never charge you. I’ve flown a lot and seen lots of bags but below the plane, but I’ve never seen or heard of someone being charged for a bag once they got past the security checkpoint.

Readers, would you try this trick? Is this considered stealing something that you should have to pay for?

19 Responses to A Big Loophole That Will Save You $25+ When Flying

  1. Actually they can. Most airlines I’ve flown allow you one carry on that goes in the bins and a small item that has to fit under the seat in front of you. What you’re doing would make sense if you were the only one doing it, but the problem presents itself when more and more people on the plane start doing it. The bins are only so big and over the years, carry on luggage has gotten absurdly big. Nothing annoys me more than when I see someone board a plane, stick something in a bin five rows away from where they’re sitting, then go sit down. What happens to the person that’s sitting under that bin? They then get screwed.

    If you walked in with two carryons and were not able to put one of them in the bin, I think it would be completely justified if you were charged and one had to be moved to the luggage area anyways.

    • Daniel says:

      @Money Beagle, Justified? Yes. I think it’s hard to complain about paying for something you should. Still, why not try?

      What I’m saying is that why not give it a shot? I was on a completely full flight and was one of the last to board and still had plenty of room for my bags. And let’s say they want to put it under the plane? It doesn’t hurt anyone and you get your free checked bag!

  2. Not stealing, it is Skycheck.

    I use it all the time when I travel. I usually have a purse and then my huge carryon, I don’t even bother to stuff it into the bin, I ask for Skycheck.

    Of course, you can’t Skycheck a HUGE suitcase but if you don’t need anything from it, I don’t see the harm.

    • Daniel says:

      @FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com, I love it. I did something a little more risky. I took two large carry-ons. Plus my laptop, plus another small bag of goodies, etc. 4 bags, 2 personal items, two overhead bin items: $0.

  3. LL says:

    I’m so glad to see someone writing about this! Last year, I took 5 short haul trips (approx 1 hour flights) to and from the city I was temporarily living in. The first time I did it, I brought a smaller, wheeled suitcase that would fit in the overhead bin of a regular size airplane. However, since these were short haul flights, the planes and the overhead bins were much smaller. So, my bag was checked for free. I did that pretty much every time I flew between my permanent home and my temp home and was never charged. I was flying United, btw.

    I plan to do this as much as possible from now on.

    Oh, by the way, I was generally going on short trips, so I only had the one suitcase, a backpack, and a laptop bag (although the laptop was usually in the backpack), so it’s a bit different from your situation. I have, in the past, successfully brought on more carry-ons than I was allowed.

  4. krantcents says:

    I like the trick, however I am concerned about lost baggage too. I went to New York using Virgin (from Los Angeles) for a wedding in September for four days too. How’s that for coincidence! My wife and I packed enough clothes and formal clothes in two (2) wheeled 24″ carry on bags. The trick for suits to avoid wrinkles is keep the dry cleaning plastic on. Some airlines Continental and Delta allow one (1) free bag each traveler as a frequent flier/credit cardholder.

  5. Jessi says:

    It’s a great trick and I totally wish it worked better for me. The problem is I’m used to traveling with things that you’re not allowed to carry on.

    If I really worked at it I could probably get my shampoo, conditioner, face soap, and hair gel into 3 oz bottles that would pass through security, but I always forget about my nail clippers and then they get taken away! Unfortunately the nail clippers themselves don’t make it worth the $25 to check a bag, but it’s still sort of a hassle for me either way because I’ve either spent $25 to check the bag, or I’ve gone through the trouble of rebottling my liquids and I have to spend a week without nail clippers, tweezers, etc.

    It’s an awesome idea though!

    • Daniel says:

      @Jessi, With liquids and suitcases that won’t fit over, there’s not much you can do. Sometimes the hassle is more costly than the $25.

    • Normaljen says:

      @Jessi, I actually send for free samples of many of the items you mentioned and use them for traveling.They are for 1 use but if you can get enough they work out great.

  6. Dr. Timothy Lawler says:

    Great freakin’ post! I completely agree. If you make it onto the plane and they decide to check them at the gate, then you are home free! No paying extra fees for you! Thanks for the tip about Virgin by the way. Free drinks! Sweet! Keep up the awesome posts.

  7. Fine with me, but be prepared to accept the consequences when something goes wrong. Maybe they don’t let you through security or they ask to charge you $25 via the credit card machine for drinks.

    • Daniel says:

      @Kevin McKee, I will definitely accept whatever happens. I had extra time for my flight, so if something did happen, I was prepared to pay for what I should have. Can’t fault me for trying, right?

  8. I’d add that the flight attendants will take your bag if there’s no room in the overhead bins and they’ve been known to lose them! My husband, who hates checking on luggage, lost his bag twice on flights to and from his destination. The first time, he was lucky and they “found” his bag within a few hours. The second time it took weeks to locate his bag. If you’re okay with possibly losing your bag, then by all means take those bags on board and hope for room in the bins!

  9. Sure be a jerk and do it. :D You’re one of those guys that drive on the break down lane too aren’t you? (car talk this week)

    heh heh, I would do it too if I need to. I have never paid a bag check fee yet and don’t plan to.

    • Daniel says:

      @retirebyforty, Haha nope, but I know people who are! I’d be too afraid of getting a ticket! With my flying system, there’s not much of a downside!

  10. Miss T says:

    Great tip. I think there is no harm in trying it if you need to. We travel really light, one bag each (checked) so we may not need to use this one.

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