Saturday, October 2, 2010

You can travel nearly anywhere in the world with just a carry-on suitcase.

I know…because I do it all the time. I’ve worked for two major airlines over a span of nearly twenty years; I learned how to live out of a carry-on suitcase.

Recent checked luggage fees have altered the way we travel. People are packing as much as they can into their carry-on so they can avoid the fees and penalties. But are they packing the right things?

It seems not. I am continually amazed at how many passengers bring their oversized, overstuffed carry-on bag…swollen to the point that the zipper is threatening to explode at the seam. Yes, I understand how hard it is to know what to pack – and - how to pack. But more than not, we bring things that are never pulled out of the suitcase.

Though there is something even more mindboggling than the overstuffed bags…the people who force a bag into an overhead when it clearly isn’t meant to fit. How painful it is to sit and watch the oversized item being shoved into an overhead. At first the bag doesn’t fit, so it’s positioned upside down. Hmm…it doesn’t fit. It is then turned onto its side. Nope. Let’s try the other side. It still doesn’t fit.

Is it from sheer embarrassment of being watched by 92 other passengers - or is it merely out of ignorance - that these individuals then give it another try? They squish one part of the bag with one hand, clinch their teeth with determination, and then put their whole body weight into the push. The overhead creaks with pressure as the bag slowly makes its way into the compartment.

It’s funny because now something new seems to overflow into the aisle. Pride. They stand taller, puff-up their chests, look toward the back of the plane, smile as though they’re about to be awarded a medal. They truly have just accomplished the impossible! I am compelled to rate this feat amongst the biggest and best.

When does it occur to him (or her) that they might have the same fight to get the bag out? Have they come-up with a game plan? Hmm, have they realized the bag may not budge out of its compartment? I've often wondered this. I would bet money that it’s the same plan as earlier. Force it out.

Too many times upon arrival I’ve worked with the Inflight Crew when we’ve had to contact a maintenance person for overhead assistance. Did the person who shoved their bag into that compartment get it out upon arrival? Most of them, yes. But what they didn’t realize is that his or her act of shoving, pushing, leaning, and heaving created a small fissure in the overhead construction.

So if you want to know why the checked luggage fees will remain intact…ask the guy standing in the aisle waiting for his medal. Who is paying for the damage this fool just caused? You are…in baggage fees. The airlines can no longer absorb the cost of his force when they are paying completive labor wages in the year 2010 - at the same time - charging airfare that has barely increased since 1991.

I wonder if this guy (and others like him) think the overhead compartment is made out of concrete? Or steel beams? Do they not understand that this compartment was not made for this type of assault? Do they truly think the compartments will stay in place or remain locked if the aircraft hits turbulence? Fortunately, most of these people sit underneath the compartment they’ve just battered. When it opens they will be knocked silly by laptops, backpacks, and briefcases.

But of course, the result would be that he is a victim and it is the airline’s fault; and, we’d hear self-pitying declarations and dishonest accounts whimpered by him in court. Glad to know that corporate attorneys are able to spot him coming a mile away.

Wow…what a sheer waste of time, energy, and money. Hmm…is it possible that this is why the airlines are forced to affix additional miscellaneous fees to your travel? Wasting time in court surely must add-up over time.

Maybe we should make the compartments out of concrete. But then we’d have a weight and balance issue; so we would have to weigh each carry-on bag along with the passengers themselves. Hmm…do we really want to put ourselves in the position of stepping on a scale each time we scan our boarding pass? I'm not crazy about the idea simply because of a few fools.

Or maybe the plane’s overhead compartments could be constructed out of two-by-four beams. They wouldn’t easily break, crack or cause weight issues. But then of course eventually the shoving of overstuffed bags would loosen the nails that would then snag the luggage.  And it would be the airline’s fault; and we’d hear self-pitying declarations whimpered by the joker in court.

No, I am not an advocate of top-heavy corporations that pass the buck. Nor am I fond of the senior officer who arrogantly represents his or her corporation in a self-serving manner. I personally have friends and family members who work for a short wage at the expense of the greedy and over-indulgent few. So I'd be the first to shout "injustice" if inflated baggage fees were a means to victimize the general public. But that's not what this is about. 

Recent checked luggage fees have altered the way we travel. Yes, this is true. But I guarantee you that the airline industry is far more complicated than credit is given. I wish it was as simple as “raising the ticket price in order to eliminate the bag fees.” Maybe this will be another blog entry. Maybe not.

Actually I think my next posting will be about a full flight and the arrogant passenger who, at the inconvenience and expense of others, refuses to stash anything underneath the seat in front of him or her. Yes I get it…it’s their legroom. 

In the meantime, if you want to learn how to pack for a trip, whether for a carry-on bag or checked luggage, check out my book "Pack Like A Pro." It gives hope to weekend travelers, backpackers, skiers, cruisers, honeymooners, and much more! 


JD Thomas