Things That Tick Me Off: Airline Baggage Policy

250px-American_Airlines_logo.svgToday, I am starting a new category for purely cathartic purposes: Things That Tick Me Off. The category is designed to reduce the chances of my committing battery or defamation out of an unexpressed frustration. By burdening our blogging community with a gripe, I hope to extend my life and my marriage. Today’s submission is airline baggage policy.

I returned from a speech at the ABA Convention in Chicago this weekend on American Airlines. As is my custom, I checked my bags. Even though the overnight bag would fit in the overhead, I prefer not to face the struggle of the now common sherpa scene of dragging my bags through security and fighting for overhead space. As I have mentioned before, air travel has become positively punishing as flights are delayed due to the large rolling bags brought regularly on to planes.

The airlines made the situation worse when they decided to charge to check even one bag. They initially defended this latest charge as necessitated by fuel costs. However, when costs fell, they (as expected) kept the charge. The rationale was never particularly convincing since the bags go on the same aircraft whether it is in the overhead or the cargo bay. The result was obvious. The number of people bringing their own bags on the plane skyrocketed. Security points are slowed by added luggage and flights delayed — as bags are shoved into the overhead in a free-for-all. While there was a time when you could put a jacket in the overhead, any jacket will now be crushed or torn by the added bags.

None of this, however, is the reason for adding this to “things that tick me off.” I have long given up on airlines extending any concern for the comfort of passengers. Indeed, I have never seen an industry that seems so hostile to its own customers. Indeed, in this case, despite paying a full fare for a coach ticket weeks ago, the airline would not allow me to select a seat — or even purchase a seat with a modicum of room (another favorite new charge in coach). On another airline — Air Canada — they charge you roughly $20 a flight to confirm a particular seat — otherwise to take what they give you at the gate. (Air Canada also sells you a diet coke if you want a drink on the flight).

However, none of that prompted me to write today. What ticked me off on Sunday was an announcement on my flight from O’Hare to National Airport. The flight attendants were faced with the now common overflow of rolling bags, so they announced that anyone who put a brief case or small carryon in the overhead would be required to put the cases under the seat in front of them. The result is that, if you agreed to pay the added charge of checking your bag for the comfort, you are now expected to put your briefcase at your feet to make room for people who want to avoid the charge. With one’s knees already touching the seat in front due to the reduction of space, this means that are left with about an inch of movable space. It also means that you are better off with a large rolling bag than confining yourself to a computer bag.

The announcement reaffirmed why air travel has become so unpopular with many of us. That ticks me off . . . and now I feel better.

46 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off: Airline Baggage Policy”

  1. donnatella writes: is your right to ask for a female (ESPECIALLY in the sense of a police officer) to ‘frisk’ you. It is against the law and downright ridiculous to be fondled during a routine check.

    Next time, know your rights and stand up for them.

    me: yeah. I know. the male officer at the courthouse had his hands on me before I knew what was happening. he said to me, when I complained, “to us you are all the same” meaning criminals, suspected criminals and others entering the building and that I did not have to be there. I offered my subpoena to appear for jury duty and that only angered him.

    I’ve been told at some airports that they dont have female officers available and if I want to fly I have to submit to their physical “inspection.”
    I was once instructed to unzip my trousers.
    and I’ve been told over and over again that it is not my right to board an airplane.

  2. I don’t fly much so it is hard for me to identify with your pain. But I will say that a few years ago I flew Southwest Air to New Mexico, a four hour flight. Longest flight I’ve ever taken. At the time, California was having trouble with wild fires. It got so bad that the airlines weren’t allowing any flights out of the LA area. Some people had been at the airport all day waiting to get the heck out of there. Lucky for me, my flight was only delayed for 2.5 hours. As I waited in the New Mexico airport I remembered all of the times I sat at home during the holidays watching the nightly news, listening to the newscaster report on flight delays while watching footage of crammed airports with wall to wall bodies. And I thought, “Damn, I’ve just become one of those people.”

  3. Patty C or Patty Cp aka Numb Nuts,

    Things that go clunk in the night. What is Patty C or Patty Cp aka Numb Nuts.

  4. Patty C or Patty Cp aka Numb Nuts

    It is against the law and downright ridiculous to be fondled during a routine check.

    Next time, know your rights and stand up for them.

    OH PULEZZE, she wasn’t fondled…


    You were not present. You do not know. Just because no one except a drunken sailor would have an Old Sea Hag such as you, provided they were drunk enough, you too could be so lucky. But I am sure they would not come close as the smell of your last drinking binge of swill would still be pungent.

    You know we have a Full Moon on Wednesday, you resurfaced. Humm about every 27 and 1/4 days. Makes sense to me now.

    Do you hear the Sirens calling your name. Ernest awaits in Ernst for your arrival.

  5. It is against the law and downright ridiculous to be fondled during a routine check.

    Next time, know your rights and stand up for them.

    OH PULEZZE, she wasn’t fondled…

  6. JT,

    I agree with GWLSM’s recommendation to stick with one or two airlines and try to reach an elite level. On AA, that starts at 25000 flight miles per year. It will waive all bag charges, allow you to always board first (so you CAN store a bigger overhead bag), and get exit row and bulkhead seating when you book. It also gives a chance at upgrades. To know exactly where to sit on a given flight (even without elite status), use

    AA also offers a “gold challenge”. It allows you to reach gold or platinum status quickly if you know you’re going to do 5 – 10K miles in a certain period.

    Although I have status with some airlines, I also find that JetBlue flies a of places, has real seatback TV, and very roomy coach seats can often be had for an extra $25 – $40 over the price of a basic ticket. That’s a lot less than therapy.

  7. “I returned from a speech at the ABA Convention in Chicago this weekend on American Airlines.”


    If you expect to fly to Chicago and be treated fair by an Airline go to Newark. They treat you even better, I will assure you of this fact.

    But the Problem is that you went to Chicago and forgot to Buy the Best Judge before you went. Not that all Judges are for sale, but Chicago has had more than its fare share. I am sure that the Teamsters will be happy to assist you in any mediation problems with the airline or anyone in Chicago in particular. What they won’t do the Longshoremen pick up and lay to rest any disagreements on terms suitable to them.

    I do believe that this is one of the few airports in the midwest that the Teamsters still controls almost every aspect, with the exception of the Flight Crew but that is debatable.

    Interesting fact is ORD stands for Orchard Field. It was renamed for a Pilot in WWII for his heroic efforts. The real kicker on this is that it he was also the son of one of Alphonso Capones’ Lawyers that turned states evidence on some irregularities in the way the books were kept.

    For some reason or another this lawyer fellow O’Hare ended up dead on a street in Chicago. What a coincidence.

    I did google up snopes.


  8. GWLM:

    It is your right to ask for a female (ESPECIALLY in the sense of a police officer) to ‘frisk’ you. It is against the law and downright ridiculous to be fondled during a routine check.

    Next time, know your rights and stand up for them.

  9. JT, you should always carry on an overnight bag for no other reason than the likelihood that the one(s) you check will be lost if you do not. It’s called Murphy’s Law. That’s the first thing.

    Secondly, you can fold your jacket, sort of like like a shirt, and roll it like a sleeping bag and place it inside and on top to prevent wrinkling… All true!

    As for the rest of it, bring your own ‘snacks’ and drink iced water with lemons -unless you prefer something more potent…!!!!!!!!

  10. So, you fly alot, do ya?
    United Airlines does not charge for seat selection or to check bags when you reach their Mileage Plus Premier level. Upgrade to First or Business and you won’t have as much to complain about except that they allow kids in First class and they don’t often come with your first cocktail quickly enough.

    Try them. btw…. Air Canada is about the rudest airline of them all. Seriously. I’d rather rent a car than fly AC. Singapore Air is fabulous. It’s almost worth flying to India just to be on one of their planes for 22 hours. I don’t have anything against El Al — they have the best security but you have to put up with the Ultra-Orthodox …. which you can do if you just stay out of coach. They have a marvelous first class lounge and great lox-bagels-whitefish for breakfast.

    Now, imagine all the frustrations you get with air travel and add one more little teeny tiny one: a hip replacement.
    yes, I know. I am very hot for my age and no one would suspect that I once needed a hip replacement. Bad genes, is all.
    Now imagine that every time you fly you get frisked up and down. back and front. I’ve had TSA agents fondle my beasts. Place their hands alllll the way up my thighs. and all because my titanium hip sets off their machine. now, they can tell when they wand me that their buzzer only goes off when it is in a very localized area… my very lovely reconstructed better-than-new left hip. And they can also tell how often I fly… which is alot now and used to be even more before I was recessioned out of work and while I still had money to pretty much go anywhere I wanted.
    Now imagine you get frisked every time you enter a court house. I get frisked every time I enter a court house. not that I go to court all that often. just for jury duty, which I used to enjoy. my hip, again. and sometimes I don’t get a nice lady cop, sometimes it is a disgusting male pig cop who frisks me while making jokes that I don’t look like a murderer or terrorist or old enough to have a hip replacement.
    isn’t this some kind of unreasonable search?
    isn’t there any other way?

    can’t anyone do something? Please?

  11. That guit-tar player got compensated for his broken instrument because United’s stock went down after his little song went out on YouTube…hmmm..

    Sing it loud, sign it proud JT!

    Vince, good for your father in law. Who says there’s no magic in the world anymore? It’s like light. The passanger is in one place and her/his luggage is in another depending on who observes the luggage at baggage handling!

  12. I’ve given up on traveling by air unless I absolutely have to. You, sir, most likely have to but with a little pre-planning train travel or automobile travel can accomodate most of us. As long as we continue to support these kind of business practices they ave no reason to change.

    P.S. Find another airline.

  13. The airlines stink, but that is to be expected in these days of corporate rape that passes for doing business. What drives me the craziest is that we have to remove our shoes, because one maniac had a dubious shoe bomb that was caught before it could even be lit with a match. The airline security could be fooled in so many ways, which I won’t mention in these patriot act days, lest a home visit by Homeland Security.

  14. American has always been a miserable way to fly, but I occasionally put up with it when assigned to them or when finding unbeatable deals. That was until they held my flight for an unforgiveable length of time for an unforgiveable reason–a late celebrity. This of course resulted in additional tarmac delays and many of us missing connections. I have not flown with them since that incident (2006) and I never will. I believe American was also the airline with the massive baggage debacle at JFK a year or two ago.

  15. My father-in-law went to the check-in counter at the airline. He asked them to give him a ticket to Chicago, but to send one of his bags to St. Louis and the other to Cincinnati.

    They said no. They could not do that.

    He asked, why not? They had done the same thing the previous week.

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