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