Just when you've perfected your shirt-rolling technique, acquired "the bomb" suitcase and minimized your beauty products to fit a quart-sized bag, airlines pull out another fee to trip up even the most strategic of packers.
Enter: the gate-service fee, tied to the new Basic Economy fare options with American and United. Unless you're a loyalty member or qualifying cardholder, passengers who choose the lowest base fare available on select routes won't be allowed a full-sized carry-on bag to store in the overhead compartment.
Instead, Basic Economy flyers will be charged a normal checked-baggage fee — generally $25 or more depending on the number of bags and destination — for anything bigger than a backpack or purse that can fit under the (already shrinking) seats. If they fail to check their bags at the ticket counter and make it all the way to the gate, they'll be charged an additional $25 gate-service fee on top of the checked-baggage fee.
*cue the groans*
If this nickel-and-diming sounds familiar, it could be because it's a similar model to discount airlines like Spirit and Frontier, both of which notoriously charge a low base airfare to get your butt in a seat, but additional fees for bringing on anything bigger than a personal item.
As for the gate-handling charge, a representative with American Airlines explained to The Wall Street Journal that the goal is to encourage flyers to check their bags at the counter instead of at the gate. This, in turn, can speed up the boarding process.
But for those of us who rock out minimalist packing (take it from me; long-distance relationships provide a loooot of practice), the added charges don't feel worth a quicker departure. Instead, if you're considering saving a few bucks by flying Basic Economy with these carriers, it's probably only worth it if you're able to cram everything into a backpack.
Otherwise, you could risk any number of lost-luggage horror scenarios. Alternatively, consider another carrier altogether (shoutout to Southwest's two-free-checked-bags policy). Because flying is already stressful enough, right?