Today, 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.