Got luggage? Get to the airport extra early

Checking luggage on your next flight? Better get to the airport early. Very, very early.

US Airways appears to have a new policy for domestic travelers who want to check luggage in one of 12 cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and Philadelphia. Those customers must be there a full two hours before their flight leaves.

Yep, two hours.

[Note: this post has been updated. US Airways is now saying the cutoff time is 45 minutes. See below for details.]

I’ve asked US Airways to comment on this change, which one of its passengers brought to my attention today. I’ll update this post with the carrier’s response when I receive it. I’m told that the previous cutoff time had been an already-generous 1 1/2 hours at some airports.

A check of the other major airlines suggests US Airways is alone — at least for now — in requiring such long check-in times for passengers with baggage.

The closest appears to be United Airlines at 90 minutes. And that’s not even required — it’s just recommended.

Continental Airlines has a long list of airports with various required check-in times, but few come close to the new two-hour rule.

Flying on Delta Air Lines? In San Juan and St. Thomas, if you’re checking luggage, you need to be there an hour early. That seems to be the maximum for domestic flights.

American’s cutoff times are among the shortest. Nothing over 45 minutes.

What’s going on here? There are any number of possible explanations, from security screening problems to issues affecting the airline’s baggage system.

Related story:   Can the Palladium Travel club just refuse my refund like this?

But from a customer’s point of view, having to arrive more than two hours before your flight in order to check in a bag is just silly — particularly if it’s a short-haul flight.

Instead of requiring passengers to get to the airport earlier, US Airways should try to fix whatever luggage problems it’s having.

Update: Just received the following email from a US Airways representative: “You’ve caught an error in the
text of this Web page. The policy is in fact at least 45 minutes prior
to departure for those twelve cities, not 2 hours as written. We’re having our Web people correct the textual error.”

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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