Over spring break, I was flying PDX-SFO-BOS on the new UA. One noticeable change that I saw was how carry-on bags (specifically rollaboards) were handled at the gate.
My first flight, PDX-SFO was on a CRJ-200, so naturally (most) rollabaords were valet-checked on the tarmac, as always.
When boarding my connecting flight SFO-BOS on a 757, I was expecting that the agents would offer to check carry-on bags for free, like airlines almost always do. (However, my connection turned out to be very close, thanks to the usual weather delays in SFO - I should know better!) For this reason I didn't hear any of the boarding announcements - the final call was made upon my arrival at the gate. But I got the impression that no bags were offered to be checked at the podium.
When I got to the aircraft door, there was in fact an agent there with a stack of bag tags, but once again I got the impression that very few bags (if any) were checked. Because I was one of the last pax boarding that flight, naturally the flight attendants were latching bins shut left and right - very little room left for my bag. I assumed that my bag would have therefore needed to be checked manually, but I heard an FA tell another pax, "No, the baggage hold is closed, we are not checking anymore bags." The same FA then came over to me and said "Here, give me your bag. I'll see if there's room for this in the closet."
Sure enough, he did find a spot for it up in first class (though it might've actually been in a bin) and I was able to reclaim it there upon deplaning in BOS.
So... Why is this?
On my return trip, neither my BOS-SFO flight (757) nor my SFO-PDX flight (A320) offered to check bags. I even asked the gate agent in BOS if I needed to check may bag, as I was boarding in Group 7. He looked something up on his computer and said, "You should be OK." Turns out I was!
First off, what was he looking up on his computer? Secondly, how is it possible for a completely full 757 to depart on-time without checking a single bag, and during spring break travel? The reason I ask this is because I flew on a very similar flight one year before (BOS-SFO, again on a 757), and a LOT of bags had to be checked.
My SFO-PDX flight was the same - no bags were checked. I didn't even see an agent with a single bag tag.
So, my questions are essentially as follows:
1. Does UA no longer offer to check bags at the gate for free on mainline flights?
2. Does this have anything to do with the merger?
3. How do agents know that space is still available on-board?
Any other information would be most appreciated!