I recently discovered that the minimum time for baggage check before plane departure is set by the individual airports, not by the airlines. Delta’s JFK staff has a one hour prior to departure bag check policy, while Delta’s SFO staff has a 30 minute prior to departure bag check rule. Unfortunately, I learned this as a result of a bag check incident at JFK that led to me missing my flight for only the third time in my 10+ years of traveling (previous post).
Why does JFK need an extra half hour? Although JFK is definitely busier than SFO from Delta’s standpoint, there were probably 3x the amount of Delta employees at JFK versus SFO. Does it really take 2x the amount of time to load up bags at JFK vs SFO?
I believe the minimum time for baggage check before departure is in place to gives airlines and baggage handlers enough time to get the bags onto the planes; it certainly should not be a hard and steadfast rule to prevent passengers from checking in their baggage after the deadline. Baggage handlers are professionals and should do whatever they can to accommodate passengers, especially when airlines are charging passengers up to $30 to check in each extra bag.
For your reference, here’s Delta’s published prior to departure bag check time for each major airport in the US: