republican debate

Do airline gate agents have an incentive to say your bag is too big?

(NEXSTAR) – It can be infuriating to score a cheap flight, then watch the savings melt away thanks to a carry-on baggage fee – but do airline gate agents have an incentive to charge you?

In the case of at least one U.S. airline, the answer is yes.

In the wake of multiple TikTok videos claiming that customers were forced to pay fees despite having items that fit in the personal baggage checker, Frontier confirmed to Nexstar in a statement that agents do receive a commission, but only to incentivize team members “to ensure compliance with the bag size requirements to ensure all customers are treated fairly, including the majority who comply with the rules.”

Frontier, like other low-cost airlines, offers ticket prices that are often substantially lower than other airlines but makes up that money with limited amenities and fees for anything other than a personal item.

As for the strict carry-on policies of low-cost airlines, some see them as a good thing. “Good for Frontier! I wish all airlines would do the same,” one person wrote in a travel forum. “I’m tired of seeing other travelers lug on their clearly oversized bags, then having trouble finding space for my very modest undersized carry-on.”

Just like Frontier, Spirit includes one small personal item with the fare, but anything over that comes at a cost. The Florida-based airline did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether or not its gate agents receive a commission for carry-on fees.

There’s no legal problem with having a commission system for gate agents, however, a source familiar with the situation told Nexstar that if those employees are found to be charging a fee without cause, that would be a violation of the law.

Jetblue, another low-cost airline, told Nexstar that they do not incentivize gate agents with commissions on fees.

While not a U.S.-based budget carrier, Ryanair told Nexstar in a statement that gate agents do not make a commission on excess baggage fees. In 2013, the Daily Mail reported that the Irish carrier incentivized ground service providers at many airports “to levy correct excess baggage charges.”

But what about so-called “full service” and other carriers?

“We certainly do not offer commission to our gate agents for catching oversized carry-ons prior to boarding,” a United spokesperson told Nexstar in a statement.

Southwest, American, Hawaiian, and Delta also confirmed that they don’t provide commissions on fees for oversized carry-ons.


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