American Airlines Placing Restrictions On Gate-Checked Strollers

American Airlines, stroller, gate-check, gate check stroller, restrictions

Flying The Family-Friendly Skies?

Babies are expensive.

When we first purchased a stroller, I did not want to have to go out and buy other strollers for different uses (ie. travel). I wanted one that was comfortable for the baby, easy to push and fold, and not so expensive that I’d fret about it being lost, damaged or stolen. My one and only attempt at buying a cheapie umbrella stroller to keep in the car was a big, fat, FAIL.

When people ask me what kind of stroller they should travel with, my first question back to them is what kind of stroller they currently have. If they enjoy pushing it, and baby enjoys riding in it, and it folds down, there is really no need to go out and purchase another one. Until now, if it’s over 20lbs and their flight is booked on American Airlines.

According to MSNBC, As of June 1, 2011, American Airlines requires all strollers being gate-checked to be an umbrella-type that weighs less than 20lbs.  Strollers that do not fit this bill must be checked as baggage- but they may do so fee-free (Gee, thanks.) The article suggests that United already makes families check larger strollers at check-in, but their website only says that “large-sized, non-collapsible strollers cannot be checked at the gate”. I am not aware of any strollers that don’t collapse in any way. Southwest was quick to point out that they do not place such restrictions on traveling parents. Refreshing, actually.

So now if I decide to fly American, I not only need to pay $25 for the FIRST bag I check, but I need to purchase a new stroller as well. We currently use an Uppababy Vista that folds nice and flat, but at 24lbs is over the limit. Chances are, I’ll go out of my way NOT to fly AA – I can add them to the list along with Spirit Airlines.

Maybe Spirit and AA can join forces to be that child-free airline that everyone is always clamoring for.


[Photo: wbaiv]

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14 Responses to American Airlines Placing Restrictions On Gate-Checked Strollers

  1. guidemd at #

    Do you have much experience with Air Canada and strollers? Their website actually lists a size limit for strollers that can be gate-checked (collapsed diameter not exceeding 25.5 cm/10 in and a length not exceeding 92 cm/36 in) and we were panicking a bit before we went to London over New Year’s as our Peg Perego Pliko P3 seemed to be about 1-2 inches over each of those limits. When we checked various forums and blogs there were people complaining a few years back that they weren’t allowed to gate-check their stroller (ie. seemed that AC was enforcing the policy when they instituted it a few years ago) but then no more recent comments. We had no problems with ours on our trip so I presume that Air Canada isn’t strictly enforcing their limits or perhaps just using the policy if someone shows up with a tank-size double stroller that they want to gate-check?
    (and then we bought a Maclaren at Harrods’ Boxing Day sale for much much less than they ever cost here, so no problems getting under the limits now for us in future).

  2. Corinne at #

    We had no issue with Air Canada when it came to gate-checking our stroller either time we flew with them, and I’m sure our strollers fit outside their parameters as well.

    My issue with Air Canada was charging my $75 for ONE overweight bag, as opposed to my lugging along 3 (allotted) suitcases under the 50lb limit. I was flying solo with my kids on that one.

    Have heard great things about Maclarens, but don’t feel obliged to spend an extra $100+ to find out. I get that it’s handy to have an umbrella stroller, but we’re overloaded with stuff as it is and simply don’t need one.

    • guidemd at #

      Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t need an umbrella stroller/have too much stuff already/etc then you shouldn’t have to buy one just to be able to travel and gate-check it, I certainly agree that the airline policies are misguided. Air Canada’s policy I think says they “strongly recommend” an umbrella stroller which I guess gives them wiggle room – American’s policy seems pretty cut-and-dried unfortunately with their weight limit and the wording of “required”. I wonder with the airlines sometimes whether eventually you’ll have to ship any luggage entirely separately from your flight (there are companies that do this for bikes to avoid airline charges) or else have to pay just as much for luggage as you did for your ticket, the way things are going.

      For the things we do, an umbrella stroller is a really great fit in general (we figure we probably didn’t do enough research to realize what we’d want from a stroller before we bought our main one – we have a hand-me-down Chariot as well), but we weren’t going to pay Canadian/North American prices for a Maclaren, didn’t want a really cheap one that wasn’t sturdy and would probably break, and some of the others didn’t actually seem to be much lighter than our Peg even if they were more compact. So, we figured we’d just make do with what we had until we lucked out seeing this great deal.

    • guidemd at #

      and I hear you about being charged for one overweight bag when you only have one bag in total and can’t reasonably pack around 3 separate bags just to avoid the weight charges – we try to pack just one bag for the 3 of us and are always having to weigh it before we go… you’d think they could have some sort of “share your weight allotment with your travelling companion” if you’re flying with kids…

  3. Corinne at #

    I wasn’t criticizing! A deal on a Maclaren is probably worth the splurge. Peg P3 would’ve fit the bill though, no? Thought they were 16lbs? I had an A3 that was 18lbs, but not “umbrella style” so not sure it would have passed.

    WestJet let us combine our weight allotment. In fact, I think most airlines would be flexible with that…

    • guidemd at #

      yeah, we thought our Peg P3 would be great because it’s lighter than so many others (most of my friends have Graco travel-system “tanks” that seem to weigh nearly twice as much) – and yet in London, ours seemed like a tank compared to all the strollers the locals were using! (the saleslady at Harrods even commented about how hard it must be to have such a big stroller). It didn’t work well going in and out of tube stations that didn’t have elevators – once we got the Maclaren it was easy enough to fold it up and carry it/carry our daughter if needed (such as when we mistimed things and ended up on the tube at rush hour, oops).

      much appreciate your site /twitter feed btw 🙂

  4. Insane! Do airlines not want families to travel? You’d think they’d want to encourage kids to grow up traveling so they’d keep doing it when they grow up! We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our Vista, but we’ve never traveled with it. We have a G-Lite – actually, now we have two! – and think the $100 was well spent. 6lbs is a LOT easier to carry on to the bus/train/subway than the Vista. On the other hand, I do my shopping using the Vista’s basket while my 2-yr-old & infant are comfortable – priceless!

  5. Corinne at #

    I gave away a G-Luxe which seemed like a really good umbrella stroller, but I don’t want to feel like I HAVE to buy another stroller!

    • Ayesha- at #

      Did you ever travel with your G-Luxe ?. I have an i’coo and I know that’s too heavy for gate check-in. And I’m about to purchase the G-luxe for my Air Canada flight to Toronto. But as I found out it’s a few inches over the limit. Just wanted to know. Thanks

      • Corinne at #

        I don’t actually own a G-Luxe – just gave one away and thought it seemed pretty good.

        We have a Vista which we’ve traveled with extensively, but never on an airline with such restrictions. The Vista is 24lbs, so we’d miss the cut off with AA.

        i’Coos seem pretty light, no?

  6. Meg at #

    So typical of U.S. based airlines. I’m with you on only buying one stroller. We had a heavy one but only traveled with it a couple of times. One of the times was on a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong & Bali. I got a hard time because my carry on bag was over 7kg but they didn’t look twice at gate checking the stroller. Etihad actually had strollers at the gates for passengers to use around the airport. I’m flying domestic for the first time in two year and taking Jet Blue.

  7. I’d say it really depends on how often you travel and your needs in airport and at the other end. I love my bob jogging stroller but having done 80+ flights with my 2 year old, having a good quality umbrella/travel stroller has been part of my essentials.

  8. Corinne at #

    Meg, that’s not the first time I’ve heard that Asian carriers are far more family friendly.

    Kelly, 80+ flights?! That’s a lot, although if I added up both my kids’ trips we’re probably getting close. My point is that an extra stroller, in most cases, shouldn’t be necessary. I’ve got too much baby crap cluttering up my house as it is!


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