Thursday, December 13, 2012

No, the overhead baggage bin is NOT full

Flying is hard. Harder than ever, maybe. There are longer, more invasive security checks. There's the 3 oz. rule. The fees. Add to that the uncertainty of winter weather, and you might begin wondering if a really long Skype to Grandma might be sufficient for the holidays this year.

(No, Grandma, we don't really wonder that.)

Now, US Airways has added one more peeve to the pile: The Empty Overhead Bin. In an effort to streamline the boarding process on fuller flights, the airline is telling some passengers they must check carry-on bags and leave them in the jet way because the overhead bins are full. But when passengers arrive at their seat, they find overhead bins with plenty of room, even after everyone has boarded.

Travelers are seething, quietly and not so quietly. Some are filling the friendly skies with frustrated tweets. Some are offering helpful, detailed suggestions on how US Airways can end the Empty Overhead Bin annoyance. A member of the O-pinion family, who's experienced EOB a few times this year, watched once as a woman snapped pictures of the empty bins and angrily posted them on Facebook.

So what's going on? We asked US Airways spokewoman Michelle Mohr, who helpfully explained:

US Airways has created a formula based on extensive study that takes into account the aircraft type, number of customers booked on the plane and average number of carry-on bags that our customers bring along to determine at which point during the boarding process we should begin checking bags at the gate.
So as passengers hand over their boarding passes at the gate, the agents begin counting down. There's also supposed to be communication about the overhead bins between those agents and flight attendants on board, Mohr says. "It's not an exact science, but works well in helping our agents know when to check bags," she says.

Mohr says the airline receives few complaints about EOB, but an informal, unscientific O-pinion poll of air travelers shows it's probably more of an issue than the airline thinks. It's also a problem that airlines brought upon themselves by charging fees for checked bags, which in turn encouraged more passengers to stuff belongings into carry-ons that fill those overhead bins. That, of course, led to passengers wandering up and down aisles looking for a whiff of bin space to cram their roll-away, which led to departure delays, which brings us back to that whole air-travel-is-hard thing. 

So understand this: US Airways isn't intentionally trying to irritate its customers with the overhead bin formula. (Although, we should note that it might yield yet another revenue stream - the airline is offering priority early boarding, for a fee.) Our plea, on behalf of all passengers: Keep refining. Free the overhead bin space. Make travel easier. Grandmas everywhere are depending on it.      


Peter St. Onge
 

16 comments:

Jason said...

As long as I'm not paying a fee, I don't care if my roller bag is in the overhead bin or gate-checked. Why would anyone care?

John said...

Jason - Umm, maybe because I don't want to hang out in the jetway for 10 minutes waiting for my bag when I have somewhere to go?

80a1180a-4542-11e2-ae4b-000bcdcb471e said...

or perhaps i don't want to spend 45 minutes in baggage claim waiting for my bag when overhead bin space is going unused?

WashuOtaku said...

Wow, the O-pinion actually wrote something I agree with. O_O

You are right, it is a self made problem by charging check-in baggage.

DynaSteve said...

If there was ever an industry that was begging to get re-regulated, this is it!

Wiley Coyote said...

US Air has been doing this for a couple of years at various airports.

Generally by Zone 4, they ask for volunteers to have their bags checked for free PRIOR to boarding.

Regarding standing in the jetway to retieve your bag, that only happens on small commuter planes.



Sean Cafferty said...

WashuOtaku... you're right it is a self-made problem, the airlines should charge for BOTH checked and carry-on baggage.

John... you don't like waiting 10 minutes on a skyway? How about those of us without rollers don't like following YOU around in the airport as you clog up stores and food courts with a packed-to-the-gills carry on.

Sean Cafferty said...

Even better is when someone with a roller asks for someone with a backpack or laptop bag to take it out of the overhead and put it underneath the seat in front of them.

If I wanted even more cramped footroom than I start with, I would've put it down there to begin with!

TA said...

How about the bin is only for the seats below...This would solve so many issues.

mac1208 said...

I work for the airlines on the ramp level. Trust me, we side with the PASSENGERS on this. So we load our normal checked baggage to find out the lazy passenger service agent has another 25 bags waiting on us in the jetway just so they can hurry people on the plane. This doesn't speed up the boarding process as they like to believe.

Its silly, passengers don't wanna be separated from their baggage if there's room, which there usually is 90% of the time.

J said...

"US Airways has created a formula based on extensive study that takes into account the aircraft type, number of customers booked on the plane and average number of carry-on bags that our customers bring along to determine at which point during the boarding process we should begin checking bags at the gate."

Who did the "extensive study?" I'm betting disgruntled flight attendants complained to their union goons that they have to work too hard getting people on board, then the goons had a meeting with some "consultant" who produces this document that.. wait for it... proves passengers are taking too much stuff on board! Curse those evil passengers! So here's a number. When the number of passengers passes this number, tell everyone else the overhead bins are full.

That's my conspiracy theory for today. Unions - the root of all evil.

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...

TA...

It doesn't totally "solve the problem" as some rows have no overhead space so you either go forward or backward.

The worst thing you can do is go backward.

RollTide24 said...

This wouldn't be as much a problem if they would police two of their own policies; 1) enforce the size limit of carry-ons, and 2) enfore the limit of one carry-on and one personal item. I had four people in front of me Monday morning with 3 items, a roller suitcase, either a backpack or large work bag, and something like a huge sack from a retail store like Vic Secret or Macy's, etc... And there are 20 people per plane with luggage that is larger than what is allowed, and that's a fact. I heard a lady stop a customer at ticketing in Dallas in January and the customer went ape-sh$t on her. He wouldn't go over to the measuring box so she brought it over. Of course it was too big so he went ape-sh@t again. They made him pay to check it. I went up and thanked her. But let me tell you, she is alone in this enforcement.

Eddy Capote said...

This exact same issue happened to me on Monday. I was forced onto a US Air flight due to a cancelation of my United flight. Although I purposely avoid US Air, I had no choice. When I start boarding, the gate agent tells me the bins are full and I have to check my bag. Needless to say, my bag showed up at my destination two days later. I knew it was going to go awry as soon as I was booked on that US Air flight without my knoweldge.

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