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United boarding and carry-on policy

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I flew United from San Francisco to Boston yesterday. My husband and I had aisle seats near the back of the plane and were in the last boarding group. The gate agent announced that everyone in boarding group 4 had to check any rolling carry-on bags at the gate because there would be no room to stow them in the overhead bins.

There is stuff in my carry-on that I put there for a reason. If I wanted to check everything, I could have put it all in my checked luggage and avoided carrying a bag with me on the plane. Fortunately, my husband had a duffle bag that I could stuff my camera into, and I just figured I'd leave my netbook in my own bag and take my chances with it.

I understand the policy of putting people in aisle seats in the last boarding group, this makes sense for boarding efficiency. But does this mean that if I have an aisle seat, I need to pay extra for early boarding so they will let me bring my carry-on? Or start lugging a duffle bag through airports again instead of the much more convenient roller bags? Is this another way of charging for carry-on luggage?

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