Have you ever wondered what to do with your stroller when traveling by airplane with your little one? You might have heard of the term “gate check stroller,” but what exactly does it mean, and how can it make your travel experience smoother? If these questions resonate with you, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll dive into the practical aspects of gate-checking a stroller and guide you through each step to gate-check a stroller effectively.
Understanding Gate Check
Definition of Gate Check
Gate check is a service provided by airlines that allows you to keep certain items, like strollers or car seats, with you until you reach the boarding gate. At this point, the items are taken from you, tagged, and put in the hold of the aircraft. Once you land at your destination, these items are returned to you right as you exit the airplane or at the gate, allowing you to use them immediately after landing.
The Gate Check Process
The gate check process is pretty straightforward. When you arrive at the airport, you’ll first go through the usual check-in procedure and security. Then, you’ll proceed to your departure gate with your stroller. Before boarding, inform the gate agent that you wish to gate-check your stroller. They’ll provide you with a special gate check tag. Attach the tag to your stroller, and then leave your stroller in the designated gate check area, typically at the end of the jet bridge. Airline personnel will then load it into the cargo hold of the plane. Once you’ve landed, you’ll find your stroller waiting for you as you exit the aircraft.
Gate Check Vs. Checked Luggage
The main difference between gate checking and checking in a stroller as regular luggage is where and when you retrieve it. With standard checked luggage, you hand over your stroller at the ticket counter, and it gets returned at baggage claim. When you gate check a stroller, you keep it until you board the plane, and it’s returned at the gate upon arrival. Gate-checking a stroller can be beneficial as it allows you to use the stroller at the airport and reduces the risk of damage or loss associated with the standard luggage process.
How to Prepare Your Stroller for Gate Checking
Check the Airline Policies on Strollers
It’s crucial to note that different airlines have varying rules and restrictions regarding the size, weight, and type of strollers that can be gate checked. For example, many U.S. domestic airlines don’t have any size or weight limitations, like Delta and JetBlue. On the other hand, American Airlines only allows strollers under 20 lbs to be gate-checked. To avoid surprises at the airport, it’s always a good idea to check your airline’s specific policy ahead of your trip.
Choose the Right Stroller for Your Trip
Some strollers are better suited for gate checking than others. Portability, durability, and functionality play a significant role in this decision. When choosing a stroller for travel, consider opting for a lightweight, compact, and easy-to-fold model that can fit in the overhead bin or under the seat.
My family has the Veer Cruiser stroller wagon, which we’ve never had a problem gate-checking. It folds together in an excellent compact way and comes with a durable travel bag. I recommend it to anyone with kids.
Protect Your Stroller from Damage
Even with gate checking, there’s always a chance for your stroller to get damaged during loading and unloading. Here are a few tips to protect your stroller:
- Use a Stroller Bag or Cover: A stroller bag or cover provides an extra layer of protection against scratches, dirt, and damage. It’s especially useful if your stroller has fabric elements that could get stained. Some popular stroller bags for gate checking include the JL Childress Gate Check Bag for Standard/Double Strollers and the Zohzo Stroller Travel Bag, both known for their durability and ease of use.
- Attach a Luggage Tag: A luggage tag with your contact information can be helpful if your stroller gets misplaced. This way, airline personnel can easily contact you to return the stroller.
- Remove Loose or Detachable Parts: To prevent loss or damage, remove any loose or detachable parts from the stroller before gate-checking it. These parts might include cup holders, trays, or toy bars.
Gate-checking a stroller can significantly simplify your travel experience when flying with a baby or toddler. It allows you to keep your child comfortable and mobile right up until boarding, while also ensuring that your stroller is handled with care and returned to you promptly upon landing.
How to Gate Check Your Stroller at the Airport
Now that you’ve prepared your stroller for gate checking, let’s move onto the process at the airport. It involves three key steps: getting a gate check tag, storing your stroller at the gate, and retrieving it at your destination.
Get a Gate Check Tag for Your Stroller
Firstly, you’ll need a gate check tag for your stroller. You can usually do this at the check-in counter or the boarding gate. To streamline this process, consider the following tips:
- Arrive Early: The earlier you arrive, the less rushed you’ll be. This extra time allows you to get your tag and prepare your stroller without stress.
- Have Your Boarding Pass and ID Ready: Having these documents handy will expedite the process of obtaining your gate check tag.
- Ask Politely for a Tag: The airport can be hectic, so a little politeness can go a long way in receiving assistance.
After receiving your tag, securely attach it to your stroller. Make sure to write your name and flight number on the tag to help ensure your stroller is returned to the correct flight.
Fold and Store Your Stroller at the Gate
Next, you’ll need to fold and store your stroller at the gate. This is a crucial step to ensure your stroller is safely stored on the plane:
- Remove Any Personal Items: Remove any items from the stroller basket or pockets. These could get lost during the transit process.
- Place the Stroller in a Designated Area: Once folded, place your stroller in the designated gate check area, which is usually near the jet bridge or door.
If your stroller is too large or bulky to fit in the designated area, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from a gate agent or crew member.
Retrieve Your Stroller at Your Destination
Finally, you’ll need to retrieve your stroller at your destination:
- Follow the Signs or Announcements: Pay attention to airport signs or announcements to know where to retrieve gate-checked items. These items are typically returned at the jet bridge or gate after deplaning.
- Check the Condition of Your Stroller: Once you’ve retrieved your stroller, do a quick check for any possible damage or dirt. This step is crucial in case you need to report an issue to the airline.
- Report Any Issues Promptly: If there are any issues with your stroller, report them immediately to airline staff or customer service. The sooner you do this, the better.
If your stroller is missing or delayed, make sure to file a claim with the airline or contact their baggage service center. Though this is an unlikely event, it’s essential to know the process just in case.
Airline Gate Checking Stroller Policies
It’s important to note that each airline has different policies for gate-checking strollers. Below are the stroller policies for some popular North American and international airlines. If you have any specific questions, it’s recommended to contact the airline directly.
North American Airlines
- Air Canada: Allows one stroller per child. Small collapsible umbrella-type strollers are recommended. Small strollers not exceeding 10 in. x 35 in. can be gate checked. Large heavy strollers over the size limit can only be checked at the baggage counter.
- Alaska Airlines: They will transport your child’s car seat and stroller free of charge as checked baggage. You can check these items with your other baggage, or wait until you reach the gate area.
- American Airlines: Allows one stroller and one car seat per ticketed customer to be checked free of charge. Strollers over 20 lbs must be checked at the ticket counter. All other strollers should be checked at the gate before boarding
- Delta Air Lines: Children’s strollers and child safety seats are not counted as part of the standard baggage and, therefore can be easily checked for free. For your convenience, these items may be checked at the curbside, the ticket counter, or at the gate.
- Frontier Airlines: Strollers can be taken to the gate but must be checked from there.
- Hawaiian Airlines: Strollers must be checked-in if they are non-collapsible or weigh over 50 lbs.
- JetBlue Airways: Allows strollers and car seats to be checked through when you arrive at the airport or gate-checked at the jetbridge.
- Spirit Airlines: We will happily check one stroller and one car seat per child for no extra cost at the ticket counter. If you are traveling with two children, you are more than welcome to check a double stroller instead. You may also check these items at the gate. We’ll have them waiting for you in your arrival city when you get off the aircraft.
- United Airlines: You can check one car seat and one stroller or folding wagon per child you’re traveling with, for free. This can be done at the gate or ticket counter. Large or non-collapsible strollers and non-folding wagons must be checked at the ticket counter. However, they’re also free.
- Austrian Airlines: Allows transportation of a foldable baby stroller up to 10 kg (22 lbs) free of charge. Heavier strollers must be checked in.
- British Airways: Allows single-piece, fully collapsible pushchairs under 38cm x 117cm x 38cm to be gate checked. Pushchairs within the dimensions will be tagged and placed in the hold, and can be collected upon arrival. Larger pushchairs will be available at the baggage carousel with checked baggage.
- Cathay Pacific Airways: Allows one fully collapsible stroller or infant carrying basket/car seat in addition to baggage allowance for infants.
- Emirates: Allows one carry-cot or one fully collapsible stroller in the cabin if there is room. If there is no space, these items will have to be checked.
- Etihad Airways: Allows one pushchair or carrycot, or car seat for free, in addition to your child’s checked baggage allowance.
- EVA Air: Allows one infant’s carrying basket or fully collapsible stroller, pushchair, car seat, or CARES harness. Small collapsible strollers can be stored in the overhead bin if there is space available. Large strollers must be checked in.
- Finnair: Allows foldable pushchairs in the cabin if they do not exceed size and weight limits for carry-on baggage. Larger pushchairs are carried as checked baggage free of charge.
- Japan Airlines (JAL): Allows use of baby strollers up to the boarding gate at some airports, though checking in your stroller is strongly encouraged.
- Korean Air: Allows strollers exceeding certain dimensions to be used up to the boarding gate, but they must be checked in as baggage. Completely foldable umbrella-type strollers are allowed on board.
- Lufthansa: Allows foldable pushchairs or buggies to be used and handed over just before boarding. They will be returned immediately after landing.
- Qantas: Baggage allowance includes a collapsible stroller and collapsible cot, bassinet or baby capsule. You can use a stroller provided by the airline at the airport for free and check in your own.
- Qatar Airways: Accepts one stroller, collapsible carrycot, or pushchair per infant without charge.
- Singapore Airlines: Allows a compact, foldable lightweight stroller on board the cabin if it meets certain weight and dimension requirements and is stored in the cabin overhead compartment. Strollers not meeting the requirements or if there’s no space in the cabin, it will be checked in.
- Turkish Airlines: Strollers for infant passengers can only be transported in the cargo hold. Infants in their strollers can be brought as far as the plane entrance, where guardians can hand over the stroller to staff. The stroller will be returned to the guardian at the end of the flight.
- Virgin Atlantic: Allows a fully collapsible pushchair and car seat or booster seat in addition to the free checked baggage allowance. In most airports, your pushchair can be used right through to the gate, and your car seat or booster seat can be used onboard. Anything not needed during the flight will be stored safely in the hold.
Does it cost money to gate-check a stroller?
Generally, no. Most airlines allow you to gate-check a stroller free of charge. However, specific policies vary by airline.
Can I use my stroller in the airport?
Yes, most airports allow you to use your stroller until you reach the gate.
Do you need a bag to gate-check a stroller?
While not required, it’s a good idea to have a sturdy bag to protect your stroller from dirt and damage.
Are all strollers allowed for gate check?
Most airlines permit gate checking of strollers, but there may be restrictions on size and weight. Always check with the airline beforehand.
What size stroller can I take on a plane?
The allowed stroller size varies by airline. Some allow small, collapsible strollers in the cabin, while others require all strollers to be checked.
Can you take a stroller through airport security?
Yes, but it will typically need to be folded and screened by the X-ray machine.
What if my stroller is damaged during gate check?
If your stroller is damaged, report it to the airline immediately. Policies on this vary, so it’s crucial to understand your airline’s policy before you fly.
Can you gate-check a double stroller?
Most airlines allow you to gate-check a double stroller, but it’s best to verify with the airline directly, as policies can vary.
Gate-checking a stroller can make your travel experience much smoother and more comfortable, both for you and your little one. By understanding airline policies, arriving early, communicating effectively with airline staff, and having a backup plan, you can ensure a smooth gate check process. Remember, each airline has its own policy, so always check in advance.
While occasional hiccups can occur, the convenience of having a stroller during your travel is often worth it. So, go ahead, plan your trip, pack your stroller, and enjoy your travel experience to the fullest.