So, I’ve been on my holidays again, and this time I’m not going to be talking about the holiday itself, but the travel experience. Sadly it wasn’t the most edifying one.
I arrived at the airport after work and was travelling light. All I had was my hand luggage and even that was smaller than the maximum size allowed. In fact it’s smaller than some of the recently reduced sizes that a number of air carriers have recently introduced.
However, on this occasion, no matter how small it was, it would not have been small enough unless it was a wallet. This was something I wouldn’t realise straight away, but it was clear something wasn’t right as there was disquiet at the front of the queue. As I approached, it became clear why people were upset.
Everyone who had not paid extra for priority boarding was being told they had to put their hand luggage in the hold. The reason we were told was that there wasn’t sufficient room in the overhead lockers. The advise was to take out anything of value and carry that on. Unsurprisingly people were not happy at this. Complaints about now having to wait at the other end through to how to carry stuff on were swept aside. Just the other side of the desk was chaos with people struggling to find the room to open their bags and take out anything that really shouldn’t go in the hold.
I became one of these people, but I made sure I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The main reason for this being that something like 90% of what was in my bag shouldn’t go in the hold, and I was going to make sure they were aware of this. By the time I had finished, being quite vocal about it and in a position where those at the desk could see, it was clear that I would be walking on with a stuff piled upto my chest and with cables dangling everywhere.
I suspect that this was an image they didn’t want to project and a quiet word was had with me that they would make an exception and I should follow him to the gate. This left me with only a couple of minutes to repack (not an easy feat) and suddenly I was heading to the gate and boarding with all the people who had paid extra.
That would have been the end of the matter except for the situation just before take off when the crew come and close the overhead bins. A lot of passengers became even more unhappy at this point as the overhead bins were half empty when they were closed.
So here is the question, why inconvenience well over half of your passengers when you don’t need to. Other airlines I have flown have operated on the basis they will fill the overhead bins first and only then will people have to put their handluggage in the hold.
I can think of only 2 reasons why, the first is a speed thing. If they all have to go in the hold from the word go, then it means there isn’t any last minute faffing around trying to find space or reopening the hold. However on flights I’ve been on before this has never delayed a flight to any significant degree. The second is to encourage more and more people to pay extra so they don’t suffer a similar fate on future flights. The latter is all about the money in reality. What happens if everyone pays for priority boarding I don’t know!
However the lesson to be taken from this, sadly, is that quite often, if you make enough of a fuss, then you may well get treated in the way that you should. Personally, I find that a little bit sad.