I’m still mostly content with my decision to switch from United to American as my primary carrier for business travels mostly in North America. One area of frustration has been with gate checked bags. American just can’t seem to get it right.
Valet Baggage tag, for gate checked bags on American (Eagle/Envoy)
One positive feature of my move to flying American as my primary carrier for my business trips is the fact that I can mostly fly mainline flights. Even from MKE, so this is a less frequent issue than when I was mostly on United. Still, it is annoying when I do have to gate check. Milwaukee has daily mainline flights on AA to Dallas (4 x MD-80) and Phoenix (2 x Airbus 319), plus Charlotte has a mix of CRJ-200 and CRJ-900. United is all Express RJs, mostly CRJ, with a few ERJ, and the rare CRJ-700 to Houston.
Unfortunately due to the MD-80 being gradually retired from the AA Fleet, occasional Mesa CRJ-900s have been filling in on the MKE-DFW services. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I’ve had multiple other flights this year on the Envoy fleet with both Canadair and Embraer planes. The new E175’s are quite nice, but all of the others require gate checking roller bags.
American uses a red “Valet Tag” to mark gate checked bags (see above). This means bags are brought on to the jet bridge after each arrival rather than collected at baggage claim at the final destination. In some cases, and in particularly it seems like at legacy AA facilities, all bags are lifted at once onto the jet bridge by a large cart. There is no priority for first class or elite baggage with this system.
First Class Valet Baggage
I finally got my hands on one of these First Class tags, too bad it doesn’t really work…
A legacy from US was the concept of “First Class Valet” tags. These yellow tags do occasionally work in my experience, but they are only inconsistently offered. I had to be ‘that guy’ and ask for one of a recent flight, since I saw them sitting on the gate agent’s desk. Unfortunately, this meant nothing; my bag was one of the last 10 or so brought out.
An old US Airways tag for ‘priority’ gate checked bags, etc
In limited experiences with gate checked bags on American, legacy US hubs seem to manage it better. Actually prioritizing these bags, since I presume they have experienced a similar system for some time. It is still a ‘new’ feature for legacy AA.
A better system?
United uses a simple system for baggage priority that I have found to work quite well. Several years ago, United started sending our Yellow baggage handle wraps to Platinum and higher elites. I was initially skeptical, but in most cases, bags with these tags are consistently the first bags brought to the jet bridge. Credit to United, they don’t often do the little things well. This simple solution is very well and still works 3+ years after the program began.
An example of the United baggage handle wrap, simple but effective!
US carriers continue to play copycat of each other. Of course, often only benefiting their bottom line rather than any feature most customers would like. I wish American would add a similar benefit. Maybe just copy this simple solution that United took to provide a nice benefit for their elites. It would sure be a nice change after all the benefits taken away with recent changes to the AAdvantage program.
What has been your experience? Have you been as annoyed with the slow gate checked bags on American as I have?