Saturday, 27 March 2010

The most dangerous things on airplanes? Bags falling from the overhead bins.

I’ve often heard, and find it credible, that bags falling from the overhead bins are the leading cause of injury on airline flights. (If anyone can point me to good evidence of this, please let me know or leave a comment.) Some law firms specialize in damage claims for injuries from falling items.

For what it’s worth, allowing passengers to carry on “rollaboard” luggage makes a mockery of all the searches of passengers and carry-on bags. It’s impossible to tell whether the x-ray opaque metal tubes that form the handles and frame of a rollaboard suitcase — as much as two feet long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter — contain a stabbing or bladed weapon or form the barrel of a firearm.

Many passengers prefer to keep custody of their bags, to reduce the risk that they will be lost or misdirected, and aircraft manufacturers and airlines have been designing and deploying bigger and bigger bins.

Airlines are conflicted, however, because handling checked baggage costs money. Airlines want baggage to be a profit center — after all, air cargo is, by many measures, more profitable for most airlines than passenger transportation — but charging for checked baggage encourages passengers to carry on as much as they are allowed, in order to minimize the charges for what they have left to check.

This month, following a survey of its membership on the problem, the largest of the flight attendants’ unions, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), launched a campaign to “End Carry-On Crunch”.

The goal of the AFA is to enact into Federal law the same carry-on allowance as is already specified in the tariffs of most U.S.-based airlines: one piece of “luggage” and one “personal item”, of specified sizes, plus any or all of a list of specific items exempt from the limit.

(I have no objection to these exemptions, most of which would be required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they too make a mockery of the zeal with which other items are inspected. Memo to would-be malefactors: If you want to be allowed to carry a three-foot hardwood club onto the plane, walk with a limp and forge a doctor’s note that says you need a cane for mobility.)

I sympathize with flight attendants’ plight as the people on whose heads excess carry-on baggage is most likely to fall. But airlines’ tariffs are already legally enforceable. A passenger who refuses to obey the crew’s orders not to bring something prohibited by tariff onboard, or to take it off to be gate checked, is already subject to criminal and civil penalties as well as denial of transportation. It’s not clear how or why a new Federal law would be preferable or why we would want to give the out-of-control TSA enforcement power over passengers’ contracts with airlines (given that the TSA is already in the business of violating passengers’ rights to transportation under those same common carriers’ tariffs, Federal law, the U.S. Constitution, and international treaties).

It would do more for the safety and security of passengers and crew alike to limit carry-on baggage to much lighter items than are currently allowed, while guaranteeing a large enough allowance of free checked baggage to reduce the motivation for passengers to try to carry excessive amounts onboard.

That’s actually what has traditionally been the rule for international flights. It’s changing, under pressure from the U.S. “piece” rule, but the international norm has been a free baggage allowance 20 kg (44 lbs) per person, including both checked and carry-on baggage, regardless of the number of pieces. And many airlines have limited carry-on baggage to 5 or 10 kg (11 or 22 lbs) per person. Most people can’t get by with 10 kg, much less 5 lg, for more than a day trip. (I’m sure I’ll hear from some of you who can and do. More power to you! But most people can’t or won’t follow your example.) If it all goes on the scale together, and something will have to be checked anyway, there’s little reason to try to carry on more than is essential.

That’s still what’s specified in the IATA general rules for the “weight” concept”, but so many airlines now either use the “piece” concept (with varying per-piece size and weight limits and charges) or depart from the general rules entirely for some or all flights, that it is now necessary to check each airline’s rules for each specific flight to know what’s allowed. No new Federal rule in the USA can fix the breakdown of international standardization.

Link | Posted by Edward on Saturday, 27 March 2010, 17:32 ( 5:32 PM)

When overhead bins had no doors and only contained blankets and pillows, airplanes were not only safer, they loaded and unloaded passengers with speed and ease. As a rule, passengers carried on a briefcase, a purse, perhaps a shopping bag--and that was all.

Putting the doors on the bins encouraged carry-on luggage, and airlines have been cowards about enforcement. That little size-box sits by the jetway completely ignored by everyone.

We like to demand safety, when it doesn't inconvenience us. So, most travelers insist on carrying aboard every item they possess, and airlines refuse to take on the role of "bad guy" and enforce their own tariffs.

As a disabled traveler, this mountainous load of carry-on paraphernalia inconveniences me in many different ways. I have been knocked down more than once by rollaboard-wielding men and women who are oblivious to anyone around them. I've had bags fall on my head and so no longer sit in aisle seats, though I really need to be able to do so.

More importantly, the long delays in loading and unloading an aircraft have all been created by this carry-on madness.

Now that airlines charge for luggage, they should take the next logical step and ban luggage from the cabin. It would be a financial boost to their bottom line and make the cabins safer.

Of course, it would also take guts, and like the Congress, the airlines have none.

Posted by: Anonymous, 28 March 2010, 16:35 ( 4:35 PM)

I agree with a ban on roll-a-board luggage in the cabin. If its to heavy or too big to carry it, then it's too big and too heavy to be in the overhead bins.

Back in the day, the overhead bins were for coats, hats, maybe blankets, small purse or briefcase. That's it. nice and light.

I have traveled most of my life, circumnavigated the globe (1 checked bag, one carry on for 8 weeks, business trip not backbacking) and visited many many countries and have NEVER lost a bag that I checked in!!! I've had bags not arrive with me, but usually it was either my choice, weather delays, or missed connections, but they always showed up the next day and where delivered.

Mark your bags properly, allow plenty of time for connections and check-in early for flights, that's all it takes!

I think its outrageous the the airlines now charge for checked luggage. One large checked bag should be FREE. And have a maximum of 2 checked bags. (You're not moving all your worldly possessions, if you are moving , ship it cargo, ups, fedex, postal service, van lines, etc, etc)

I would like to see the carry on bag size be much much smaller and be scrutinized closely (has to fit the measuring box) before boarding.

I once went thru an xray checkpoint and they had placed a plexiglass cutout in front of the machine, so only those bags small enough would get thru,. Genius!!!

As an experienced traveled, I know to carry important documents, medicine, any valuables, money and one change of clothes with me in the cabin in a small bag (placed under the seat in front of me, NOT in the overhead bin), so if murphy ever does catch up with me and I 'lost' a checked bag, all I lose is clothes. Big Deal!

The whole ticket pricing is a mess already with any two people paying hundreds of dollars difference in prices for the exact same flight!????

But now insult to injury, they charge for an aisle or a window, all going to the same place!!!

OK one more rant! Eliminate the reclining seats. Design a seat that is comfortable for an extended period and leave it alone. people reclining into the personal space in back of them are just rude. This has to be a safety issue as well, in the event of an evacuation. It doesn't lean enough to make ANY difference anyway, you are still sleeping sitting up.

OK on second thought, one more! Paying extra for airline food/snacks is just insane. Personally just eliminate food completely, there is NO point to serving food on a plane (unless going oversees, say 8 hours or more) (FA's are not waitresses/waiters). Again food carts in aisle, safety issue. The food is not very good anyway, and nobody ever has small bills and the FA's have to scramble for change, its ridiculous. Eat before you go people! Eat after you arrive! Bring some small snacks and a bottle drink in your SMALL carry on bag.

OK, to quote Buckaroo Bonzai : "no matter where you go, there you are"

Posted by: travelist, 29 March 2010, 10:11 (10:11 AM)

The issue isn't cost. If airlines want people to check more baggage they need to improve the efficiency and accuracy with which they return it. I stopped checking baggage more than ten years ago, when the US airport I used most at the time, Cincinnati, changed its layout so you had to wait for your baggage, clear customs, then recheck it *to the other end of the terminal*. Screw it: I am not waiting *twice*.

I am amazed at how much time I now save by not checking luggage and at the vastly improved travel options on arrival because the baggage I travel with is manageable. Yes, I shove a rollaboard in the overhad bin: I don't like backpacks. They're awkward to get on and off in crowded places (like the London underground), they are tiring to carry, and I can't move as fast as I can pulling something with wheels.

I will also say that despite people *complaining* about luggage falling on their heads I have actually not seen it happen, and I fly a fair amount. The only time I've seen things falling out of the overhead bins it's been poorly packed tote/shopping bags with fragile (lightweight) items within. The heavier ones tend to stay put IME.


Posted by: Anonymous, 2 April 2010, 06:16 ( 6:16 AM)
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