Blaming biz travelers for carry-on problems

Yeah…that’s me quoted in this article on, making the point that it isn’t just leisure travelers or “kettles” who are responsible for the problem.  And I stand by my claim: “Business travelers never want to check a bag; they want to get off the plane and go.”  Those are the passengers who likely wouldn’t have to pay the checked bag fees but they (we, really) carry-on anyways.  And many times it is two bags in the overhead and nothing at the feet.  After all, that little bit of leg room is precious.

I really have to laugh at the claim in the same article by Joe Brancatelli, an “expert” on frequent flyer habits.  His claim that “[Business travelers] know the rules…and they’re prepared to hit the rules,” is a farce.  They know the rules and they also know that as customers with status in the frequent flyer programs they are going to board first, take up as much space as they want and not care about anyone else.  Oh, and they’ll pitch a fit if someone suggests that they aren’t allowed to carry the bags on. 

Every time I see one of those fits pitched it is by someone claiming to have status or more power or who is never going to fly said airline again.  And every time I laugh my ass off.

I flew from Los Angeles to New York City earlier this week on Virgin America.  I watched as about 40 bags were gate checked.  I chatted at baggage claim (my bag was WAY too big to fit at the end of a 10 day jaunt) with one of the passengers who was late to board and had to gate check her bag.  She “packed a smaller bag specifically to avoid waiting at baggage claim.”  Of course, when the bag came out I chuckled a bit as there was no way it should have been a carry-on.  But who’s fault is that?  Checking that first bag would have cost her $20 so I can understand wanting to avoid that, but no one was enforcing the sizing rules telling the customers that they have to check the bags.  As for all the customers who had to check their bags – not one whining, complaining or fit-throwing among them.

It isn’t a problem for the most part in Europe.  Either the agents are enforcing the rules much more strictly or there is better self enforcement.  But the same problems do not exist there at nearly the same level.  I don’t know why, but it just works better there.

I doubt the airlines are going to step up and spend the cash on the extra man-hours it would take to have their agents effectively police the situation.  They certainly don’t seem inclined to do it for a long enough period of time that they actually manage to change the behavior of the traveling American public.  Then again, with the TSA prohibiting customers from effectively locking bags and the constant stream of stories about theft and loss in the baggage handling departments I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to gamble with their bags that way.  It is a lose-lose situation.  And it sucks for everyone.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.