If you’ve ever flown without anything more than a personal bag, you’re familiar with how much more streamlined your travel experience can be: Fewer bags to go through security, lighter luggage to schlep through the airport, and, once you’re onboard, all you have to do is plop yourself in your seat without worry of finding space in an overhead bin. If only it could be this easy every time you fly.
But, unfortunately, you can’t always travel this light. While full-size luggage may sometimes be overkill, that carry-on bag sure does come in handy in other situations. But what if you could check your carry-on bag without paying the cost of a full-sized checked bag? According to JetBlue, that might soon be a possibility.
What's the status on the $5 gate check program and can you bypass this with one of the best travel credit cards in your wallet?
JetBlue tests $5 fee to check your carry-on bag
Two weeks after Delta came out with its new SkyMiles Select program, giving Delta travelers a year’s worth of Priority Boarding and drink vouchers for $59, JetBlue is testing the waters of a possible new feature of its own. In a trial at Orlando International (MCO), JetBlue is assessing whether travelers are willing to pay $5 to check their carry-on bag before passing through security.
While this move doesn’t bump you up a boarding position, it can help expedite your boarding experience. Checking your carry-on bag can free up your hands, as well as time, since you’ll have fewer bags to carry through security and can spend less time looking for empty overhead bins once onboard. So far, this experiment is only being conducted in Orlando, and there’s no word on how long it will last.
Participating bags must be 22” x 14” x 9” and weigh 25 pounds or less. But if you can meet those requirements, it could add up to significant savings — checked luggage on JetBlue normally cost $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second.
What’s that look like in practice? If you travel on JetBlue four times a year and typically check a bag each way, that $25 discount on your first checked bag could translate to $200 saved each year on baggage fees alone.
Is it worth it?
Plenty of travelers opt to voluntarily gate-check their bag for free — but how many would pay $5 to reliably check their carry-on every time they fly? That depends on what kind of travel experience you’re looking for.
The upside: If you can squeeze all your in-flight essentials into your personal bag, paying $5 to free your hands of another bag and enjoy a more streamlined travel experience might be worth it. Travelers with children will likely also see this as a godsend, as will passengers who find it tough to abide by the TSA’s three-ounce restrictions on liquids.
The downside: Checking any bag puts it at risk of disappearing into the void where lost luggage and missing socks end up, so there’s the risk your carry-on won’t show as you wait for it at the carousel. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, JetBlue mishandled 7,342 bags in August of this year. For every 1,000 checked bags, about six were “lost, damaged, delayed, and pilfered.”
JetBlue’s $5 checked carry-on feature is only in testing right now, so it may never fully come to fruition; it might not even stay at $5. But if it does, paying a small fee in exchange for one less bag to worry about, a simpler security screening, and an easier boarding process might just be worth it.
At the end of the day, even if they continue to offer this service, you should still be able to board with your carry-on free of charge if you choose. And if overhead bins are full, you’ll likely be able to continue gate-checking your carry-on free of charge.
Prefer to skip the headache entirely? Consider other options. If you’ve got one of the best airline credit cards from JetBlue, you'll get other perks. With the JetBlue Plus Card, your first checked bag is always free for you and up to three companions on the same reservation. Avid JetBlue fliers can also get two free checked bags when they reach JetBlue’s TrueBlue Mosaic status, which is achieved after earning 15,000 base flight points within a calendar year.
You might not want to pick credit cards for this perk alone, but most have other rewards and benefits. Would you pay $5 to check your carry-on bag?
Mega Points for JetBlue Flyers
JetBlue Plus Card
Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases (and paying the annual fee) in the first 90 days
6X points on JetBlue purchases, 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1X points per $1 spent on all other purchases