Baby, your brawny, tricked-out stroller no longer will cut it as a gate-check item on American Airlines. The carrier changed its rules Wednesday and now requires passengers to check bulky baby strollers at the ticket counter before proceeding to the gate.
The new rule applies only to non-collapsible baby strollers weighing more than 20 pounds, airline spokesman Tim Smith said. So-called umbrella strollers and collapsible models that weigh less than 20 pounds will still be eligible to be checked at the gate.
"It's a handling issue," Smith said. "Gate-checking of strollers occurs at the busiest time at the gate ... and holds up the boarding process." Ticket agents must take cumbersome and heavy strollers down to the jet bridge area and deposit them into a chute to be loaded onto the plane, he said. On the return, baggage handlers must carry them up steps to the owners.
American isn't alone in the big baby stroller rule. United Airlines has a similar policy that applies to large strollers. However, Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Virgin America, Southwest and Frontier Airlines appear to allow courtesy gate check-ins for strollers regardless of size, according to their websites and phone calls that I made to reservations agents.
Of course, baby strollers on all of these airlines fly free -- no matter how you check them in.
And just a note for newbies flying with kids: Check out the Federal Aviation Administration's Web page on Child Safety on Airplanes for rules about what restraints can and can't be used on a plane.