American Airlines finds a new way to shaft passengers

Just a hunch, but has anyone checked to make sure that those IRS guys aren’t actually working at American Airlines? American’s newest, brilliant-est idea is to give priority boarding to passengers who don’t have bags for the overhead compartment.

While in theory it’s one small thing, it’s the totality of the F-U coming from the airlines, every freaking day, that bugs me. It’s as if someone keeps setting an egg timer, and every time it goes off they’re required to come up with a new way to kick the majority of their passengers, especially the 99% who fly in coach.

How long until the airlines start charging us for carry-ons? Oh, and you know THAT day is coming.

US airlines have always been stingy. I remember flying abroad for the first time, on a foreign carrier, and marveling at the fact that they had free alcohol in coach. And once I hit adulthood, marveling even more at the fact that they even serve aperitifs and after-dinner drinks, to everyone. On US carriers, your aperitif is a coke. And if you’re really nice, they’ll give you the whole can.

I’ve never been so rudely treated as I have been on US air carriers.

Old time flight attendants via Shutterstock

Old time flight attendants via Shutterstock

I remember flying to Mexico on a business trip on United once. The turbulence was the worst I’d ever experienced. People were doing their crosses, me included, it was so bad. Not a peep from the cockpit other than a simply warning at the very beginning of the flight that there might be turbulence. We literally thought the plan was going to crash, and the crew didn’t say boo to reassure us. Then once we landed, they still didn’t say anything. I asked the flight attendant why they didn’t come on and say something, and she got snippy. Then the captain got snippy. When I asked for their names, they replied, “you tell us your name.” Rudest flight crew of my life.

Then there was the other time I was flying back from Europe on some US carrier, and the flight attendant simply didn’t like Italians. A whole brigade of Italians were flying from southern Italy to the US, didn’t speak a lick of English, and the flight attendant couldn’t be bothered with them. She treated them exactly the way you’d expect a caricature of an ugly American to treat them – with disdain because they couldn’t speak Goddamn English (mind you, they had Italian flight attendants on the flight who were perfectly fluent in the language – she didn’t bother asking them for help). So the flight attendant just made faces at the Italians every time they asked for something, and then wouldn’t get them what they asked for. She was so rude, I finally intervened and embarrassed the hell out of her in front of our side of the plane. The other flight attendants came up to me later and told me she was a problem.

I avoid US carriers like the plague. Sadly, at home we don’t have much of a choice. But internationally, forget it. There’s a sense of entitlement I get from far too many US flight attendants. Mostly United, in my experience. But when you fly internationally, they all seem to have it. I’ve done service jobs, a lot of them actually, and I’ve been known to have a combattive personality – but I’ve never been a jerk while working for someone else in a service job. It’s just not allowed. But if you’re a US air carrier, it is.

And now with the “everyone is a possible terrorist” mindset that’s overtaken air travel, you can’t even stand up to their rudeness, lest you be accused of flying-while-Muslim.

So it’s no wonder that American Airlines has now come up with yet another way to slap their passengers in the face. It’s all part of the larger arrogance that US air carriers suffer from. You far too often feel like you’re somehow inconveniencing them by arriving for your flight.

And while they’re not all bad – I tend to fly American from DC to Chicago, and I do get nice flight attendants, mixed in with the surly ones – there’s something wrong with the larger culture at US air carriers. They hate their customers, and they don’t seem to like their jobs.  And it shows.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • BillFromDover

    Why can’t they study how people get off planes (without all the useless standing in the aisles, of course) and simply reverse it?

  • CottonBlimp

    Actually, the “in service of a serious point” is the difference.

    Frankly, I stand by the assertion that making an actual point with any amount of obscenity is more productive than a pointless one liner.

  • I wish they would charge for carry-on rollerboard size bags. It would make boarding and unloading the plane that much faster, and I wouldn’t have to lift bags for people who have no business carrying on if they can’t left their bag themselves.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Sorry, I was conflating two different trips into one.

    When I fly on my own dime, I try to not check a bag.

    When I fly for business and have to check tools, I do that, but make sure my computer and camera are never touched by airline personnel.

  • lilyannerose

    For years I’ve only flown South X Southwest and have always had a good experience with them. They have great online fares and usually have an attendant pick of the mic and deliver one song, which is fun! I do admit to impatience with all of that carry on stuff!

  • That very anarchist. I’m taking notes! :-)

  • Most also have posh lounge club privileges.

  • I can relate to that now. When shopping at CostCo, I often end up in the patio section to rest. Those of us who gather there call it the Senior Center.

  • You never mentioned the man you love until this, but you were flinging insults.

  • “It’s a matter of venting minor irritations in a hyperbolic way in service of a serious point.” that’s called trolling here.

  • “It led you to misread my tone” I seldom misread tombstone, toilet and shit when I associate them.

  • Should have read the pre-edit thread Flipper. You are late to the party.

  • I forgive your nastiness Flipper, living in Oakland would make anyone dour. Something about that oversize, anthropomorphic yellow M&M says it all. sigh
    ps. catch up on thread history and you might see the point.

  • Probably starting with Coors Lite.

  • rothfl! You nailed it (pardon the pun)

  • Well, aren’t you special.

  • ronbo

    I’m sorry you feel the need to share your every thought. Climb down from that cross, someone needs the wood.

  • Mark

    Personally, I never understood why they allow First class to board first. They are at the front of the plane, so it is easy and quick for them to get on or off. I also think it is stupid to let people board first who sit to the front of the plane in the economy class. AS to people with bulky carry on items, F them. They can be last. Why should I be forced to wait while they scrounge for an overhead bin when it only takes me a few seconds to walk to my spot and toss a small carryon under the seat?

    American airlines suck, but quit being a crybaby John.

  • John, they hate their jobs, they hate their cheating lying corporate monster bosses, they hate the fact that their union gets crushed every time they file bankruptcy, and they take it out on their customers.

    But I do love EasyJet.

  • Spirit is charging for carry-on bags and a few airlines are charging for water, coffee, and soda. My best flying experience was International on Air France, and Swiss Air.

  • condew

    If the airlines wanted to make boarding work better, they could point out that boarding last and disembarking first are the ultimate luxury. First class could be told they have 15 minutes longer in the lounge and can board after the rabble.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    If it weren’t for witless, pointless one-liners Karmanot would have nothing to say at all.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    You know what’s histrionic? A thread saying that this new policy shafts passengers.

  • Do ya know that trains charge 6 bucks for US piss-beers?

  • And what was the bad news?

  • I usually use the barf bag and stow it in the overhead when I deplane… usually across the aisle from where I’m sitting.

  • So women get a free pass?

  • Good point. Ain’t that where the shitters are located?

  • And all this time I thought all one had to do (to be disabled) was rent a motorized wheelchair at Disney World so ya could line-jump.

    Silly me.

  • Please take my seat as I always seem to get the one with the screaming brat behind me that won’t quit kicking the back of my chair.

    Little fuckers!

  • Try SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • For fun… I thought y’all beat up on cabbies for fun as swearing is so inbred in your culture?

  • I get where you’re coming from John, but honestly, I’ve never been on a flight where there weren’t people holding up the entire boarding process to load their bags in the overhead. It seems logical to let folks who aren’t going to do that board first for the sake of efficiency.

  • silas1898

    First Class get free drinks while they ignore the rabble in the aisle.

  • d3clark

    Singapore Air is superb. Pleasant, comfortable, on time and the planes are all less than a few years old and well maintained.

  • CottonBlimp

    I don’t understand why they don’t do this. I mean, I get that first class and business class want to board first because they paid more. But why do they even bother splitting economy into zones if they do the zones backward?

  • CottonBlimp

    Yeah. People’s image of disability is a guy in a wheelchair, but the reality is much more complex than that.

    It also doesn’t help that our Christian culture doesn’t take pain seriously. Chronic pain is seen as something that people should just “get over” instead of the life-hindering ailment that it really is.

  • CottonBlimp

    I’ve never been to Rochester, I’ve heard NY state is a different animal from the city. In NYC, even the kids in strollers are foul-mouthed, I love it.

    But NY aside, I’m genuinely surprised that people don’t grok the hyperbolic pseudo-furious rant thing. Lewis Black, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor; brits like David Mitchell and Frankie Boyle. It’s a matter of venting minor irritations in a hyperbolic way in service of a serious point.

    Sorry, actually, to be a dick about your disabilities, that DID come from anger.

  • condew

    Congratulations on the most sensible comment in the whole thread. Yes, if they board those farthest from the door first then nobody has to wait standing in the jetway while people stow bags.

  • condew

    A German company proudly identifies as a German company, same for Swiss, Japanese, and many other advanced nations; but U.S. companies proudly identify as “multinationals” with no loyalty.

  • condew

    I agree with you. I don’t look disabled, but standing for 20 or 30 minutes can ruin my whole day. Ask for special assistance? No, I’d more likely be ripped up for requesting services “intended for people who really need it”.

  • I’m glad you are fine—the better to care for your partner. It must have been the tone—the swearing. My family is from Rochester and we don’t talk like that—-even for an Irish family!

  • CottonBlimp

    When you’re disabled – and assuming you live long enough, you will be, eventually – you’ll find out that things like disability access are a lot more complicated than you realize.

    A company having a policy for the disabled doesn’t mean it’s enforced. It also doesn’t mean the people in charge are going to believe that you’re disabled when your conditions are invisible (like neurological pain or having metal screws bored in your spine). It also means that, if you’re capable of walking and standing for short periods with a cane, you might prefer a system that let you board the plane in an efficient manner with everyone else instead of having to personally request (and possibly argue over) often embarrassing and condescending special treatment *every* single time you fly for *every* single flight.

  • laughing!

  • Yep.

  • CottonBlimp

    Believe it or not, I wrote the original post in humor, too. I keep forgetting that doesn’t come across if people can’t hear my Lewis Black voice.

  • Naja pallida

    If I was trapped in a metal tube at 30,000 feet and exorted for cash to use the toilet, I’d probably just piss in the aisle too.

  • CottonBlimp


    You rushed at the chance to be a prick, dude. It led you to misread my tone (which you continue to do if you think I’m posting out of rage more than a desire to slack at work). I made some actual points and you made some bad assumptions.

    I hope you learned something, ’cause I’m fine.

  • You have no idea dude. No he doesn’t, if you could climb out of your anger, pain and pity pot you might find an empathetic few here to support you.

  • CottonBlimp

    That’s right. You don’t know.

    I make it a policy to help people when they need it. I’m the first one to help people load things into the overhead.

    Of course it’s a lot easier to help people load things into the overhead bin when aisle isn’t full of people blocking the way.

  • Sense of humor! Good start.

  • CottonBlimp

    I’m from New York. I swear for fun.

  • UncleBucky

    Your posts seem to be more histrionic than not. No need to swear.

  • UncleBucky

    When I get my bag in the overhead, THEN I help passengers around me, who might be shorter or with less upper body strength to get their carry-on up in the bin.

    We clear up the traffic by working together. You, I dunno.

  • CottonBlimp

    You can call me an idiot and I know you’re wrong. I can call you a piece of shit, and you continue prove me right.

    And no, you’re not in the same boat as my man. He doesn’t deserve his condition.

  • CottonBlimp

    Okay, maybe you can clear this up for me. Is complaining about extra wait times when boarding an airplane histrionic? Because if it is, why are you complaining about priority boarding again?

    In all honesty, what pisses me off in this instance has nothing to do with the Airline. It’s the lack of thought for others throughout these comments and your absence of self-awareness.

  • nicho

    Double pffftt. People with disabilities board first. If you had a partner and your partner had disabilities, you would know that. Go to your troll school. Ask for your money back.

  • The blimp didn’t dance on your grave and call you a piece of shit. I guess I win the troll special prize of the day.

  • I used to do Summer work on the Denver & Rio Grand as a kid and that’s where I got my love of trains.

  • Dude. You’re melting down over luggage. Seriously.

  • I emphasize totally with your man, since I’m in the same condition. I just assumed that your reference to ‘disability’ was in the context of your brain, or what passes for one.

  • Blimp me once, Blimp me twice and you are still full of hot air, but considering your anal fixation I would suggest another substance.

  • A guy freaking out histrionically about people with the temerity to bring luggage and HOLD UP THE WHOLE FUCKING LINE is accusing someone else of being butthurt? Do you even know what “butthurt” means?

  • CottonBlimp

    If your intent was to make me angry by making light of the near-constant severe pain inflicted, arbitrarily, on the man I love more than anything else in the world, then congratulations. You can put that on your tombstone, you piece of shit.

  • CottonBlimp

    tbh, when you respond with a witless one-liner and a total lack of any actual point, it kinda just makes me sure that I’m right and that you’re a butthurt dumbass.

  • rothfl!

  • Oh yeah!

  • pppfftttt

  • I bet they charge you mucho for that bag of hot f’ing air.

  • CottonBlimp

    And I’d pay an extra $50 to seat you in the tank with the rest of the shit.

    Considering you’re the sort of person who’d dismiss with a “pfft” the special needs of people with disabilities, I’m not really interested in what you consider “pleasant”.

  • nicho


  • nicho

    I would pay $50 extra not to have to sit next to you. That would be a pleasant flight.

  • nicho

    They will charge you more to sit in the pee-free zone.

  • CottonBlimp

    This comment deserves a lot more upvotes.

  • CottonBlimp

    Fuck this editorial.

    People with overhead bags hold up the whole fucking line. It wouldn’t take more than a minute to get everyone in their seats if not for the delay of every rube individually blocking the whole line with their ass as they slowly, clumsily get their bag in the overhead. It’s such a dick thing to do. Whenever I use the overhead compartment, I wait for the bulk of people to pass (or for the line to get held up by some other jackhole). They’re adopting as a policy something that ought to be common courtesy.

    It makes perfect fucking sense to let the passengers past who won’t take forever to get to their seats, and THEN let through the people who hold up the line. It’s more efficient – EVERYONE gets to their seats faster.

  • CottonBlimp

    *I* can stand it, but my disabled partner can’t.

  • perljammer


    “I never, ever check anything, ever. I can’t afford it.”

    “I take two bags, one with my tools, clothes and pocketknife that gets checked”

    What am I missing here, Comrade?

  • SkippyFlipjack

    It’s still free to check at the gate, per the article linked above.

    Even if it weren’t, yes, this would still be an incentive, sweetening the sour extra charge for checking a bag by throwing in priority boarding.

    Personally, I think they should just reduce (and enforce) the size of allowed checked bags to eliminate most rolling bags.

  • So the “incentive” is to take less luggage altogether? I mean, it’s either that or pay the substantial extra money to have it checked. Am I supposed to be “incentivized” to travel only with what I can stuff into a backpack then?

    Certain it’s an “incentive” not to fly at all, but I doubt that’s what you meant.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    To not haul your luggage into the main cabin and bog up boarding. Is that what you’re asking?

  • That’s Ok Flip, that giant smiley makes up for it.

  • This policy offers people incentive to not be part of the problem.
    An incentive!? To do what exactly?

  • nicho

    I once shared a European flight with a bunch of soccer hooligans. They would have had no qualms about peeing on the floor. In fact, some of them might have.

  • nicho

    You may want to check out the trains first. The Northeast Corridor trains are OK, but it goes downhill quickly after that. Some are just horrid.

  • Yep, there should be pee seating sections. Some of us would never make that gauntlet run if too long.

  • nicho

    Yeah, if they charge for bathrooms, a lot of people would just pee on the floor.

  • caphillprof

    Yes, it would seem that the system of curbside or front agent bag checking is the problem. Rarely do bags go missing when one takes them to the plane, check them immediately before boarding and pick them up at the airplane’s door when leaving. Bags travel on the same flight, bags get there rather than be misrouted, sticky fingers have little time to pilfer items, etc. etc. etc.

  • caphillprof

    I have always maintained that no one should travel with more carryon luggage than they themselves can carry, pick up and place into the overhead bins and/or remove from the overhead bins.

  • caphillprof

    The U.S. airlines industry is in need of, not just government regulation, but Soviet style regulation.

    Also, everyone knows that they should load from the back forward.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Sorry, I didn’t get that it was a joke; I thought you were serious. My bad!

  • You mistake focus for narrow mindedness and, as usual, have a debilitating, lack nor a scintilla of humor or irony.

  • Oh for Christ’s sake Flipper, lighten up.

  • “She was from southern Alberta, and you just couldn’t call her small.”

  • Oh, don’t you know, the rabble have absolutely no respect for the platinums. It’s outrageous, I tell you, absolutely not acceptable.

  • When I was traveling regularly in the States I finally got to shipping my luggage in a box to the destination in advance and freed myself of the hassle. Now, the shipping has gone through the roof and the US Post often has ‘missing’ incidents. If I could afford it now, I travel by train.

  • And a $5.00 fee to pull down the tray or use the bathroom.

  • Heck – Im shocked they havent yet charged for Oxygen Masks….and a sir charge IF you use the call button and ask for assistance.

  • nicho

    I’m in the group that would prefer to travel on the plane with nothing but my laptop, but I’ve had so many bad experiences — including the one where I had to wait a whole day — unable to do anything else — because they were delivering my bag that they lost on the flight the previous night. I had to be present to sign for it, and it was finally delivered at 5:30 pm.

    And the rolling bags are a huge problem because they tend to make people overpack. If people had to actually carry their bags, they would carry a lot less. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen whose bags were so overpacked, they couldn’t lift them at all — never mind lift them into an overhead bin.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’m sure this is part of it, but I’ve seen increasing use of rolling bags as carryons for years, predating costs for checked bags, even on airlines that don’t charge extra for checking bags. At this point I think people have an irritating sense of entitlement that they should be able to take whatever they want with them into the main cabin.

  • Aw, man, waiting an extra ten minutes! I don’t know how you stand it, poor thing. Want a hankie?

  • clarenceswinney

    Those based in the U.S. Boosted their work forces in 2011 almost entirely by hiring workers overseas, underscoring the slow growth in the U.S. Job market.
    The U.S parents of multinationals account for about one -fifth of total private U.S. Employment.
    Since 1999, employment by U.S. Multinationals is down by 1.1 million inside the U.S, while it is up by 3.8 Million overseas.
    The hiring of American companies is not happening in the U.S. These companies hold $1.7 Trillion of profits away from shareholders and out economy to avoid taxes.

  • MyrddinWilt

    The gate crew almost always try to get people to check their rollaboards if the plane is full. Sometimes they will offer to let you board in group 1 if you do. Which is totally stupid as the only reason I want to board a plane early is to get carryon space for my bag.

    This idea does not annoy me but I will be very pissed when they try to charge me to take my bag carryon which I suspect is what is coming next.

    I don’t fly as much as I used to. I haven’t even made Premiere Silver (25K) in the past three years, in the past I have already made gold (50K) by this time in the year. One of the reasons I push back on travel so much is that they make it so horrible to fly.

    Came in from Newark last week, flight was over an hour late. Three weeks before that I missed a connection coming back from Rome and was stranded in JFK overnight.

  • Naja pallida

    Even Ryanair had to cancel their plans to charge people to use the bathroom.

  • ComradeRutherford

    I have not had to check my carry on, I would never, ever do it. My laptop is my life, all my work is on it. If an airline broke it, I’d be so screwed. I never, ever check anything, ever. I can’t afford it. Checking luggage costs way too much.

    I am very careful to stay within their guidelines. I take two bags, one with my tools, clothes and pocketknife that gets checked and one that has my computer and fragile things, like my camera, which I will NEVER check.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Yes, because the airlines are just like the Nazis. Way to keep the discussion reasonable.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    actually the article says that American is continuing their policy of not charging for checking bags at the gate. maybe they’ll charge extra for putting them on the “no losing” cart.

  • Are they charging to pee yet? That should bring in millions from some of we seniors.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Southwest might as well be called “B49 Air” because that’s the number you’ll generally get if you check in exactly 24 hours before your flight, with the various priority folks taking up all the rest.

  • nicho

    And if everyone checked their rolling bags, they would be charged for them, and half of them would be lost. I can’t imagine taking a long trip without two days worth of clothes that I can wear while the airline decides to return my bag.

  • “What on Earth is to be gained by insuring that your workforce is permanently pissed off?” —–third world status?

  • nicho

    God forbid your champagne toast in first class should be disturbed by the sound of plebians trying to manage their luggage in coach. It must be so disturbing.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    You’re nice; you could have told them even seat numbers are in the front of the plane and odd ones in back.

  • I’d even swear that the American air prisons were trying to kill off seniors to prevent more Social Security payments. First, there is the torture of TSA abuses, the standing in lines without one’s terrorist cane, the teeny tiny wee little seats, and nasty airtrons that scold or ignore.. My tin foil hat is acting up today. The industry has turned into flying reformatories. “Please Sir, may I have more?”

  • nicho

    To all those people who are questioning how this is screwing anybody, it’s quite simple. American started charging — sometimes exorbitant rates — for checking bags. They made up some cockamamie story about how is costs too much money to transport bags. The point is that when people travel, especially on vacation, they really do need to bring some clothes with them. Being able to bring a reasonable amount of clothes along as part of your trip is not an unreasonable expectation.

    In order to avoid those extortionate fees, a lot of people started carrying on more than they did in the past. Passengers have to consider economics just as much as the airlines.

    However, now airlines are trying to force people to check more bags, thus increasing revenue, by making it unattractive for them to carry on bags. As many have noted, the fee for checked bags isn’t the only disincentive for doing it. Having your bags lost for a couple of days is no picnic either.

    I don’t mind the Alaska gate checking of bags for free because I on’y do it on return flights. I would never do it on outbound flights.

    What American is doing is a lot like what the banks tried to do — and have failed so far. First they installed ATMs. In order to make that more profitable for them (by letting them fire tellers), they started charging people to talk to a real person. Once they got everyone using ATMs, they tried to institute fees for using the ATMs — even the ones at your own bank. That has failed — so far.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    You may not want to board early but many people do. The funny thing is, if this policy worked and everyone checked their rolling bags then there wouldn’t be a fight for overhead space and people wouldn’t care about boarding first — so would return to carrying on their rolling bags.

    If you’ve had your laptop force-checked you might consider putting it in a bag that’ll fit under your seat.

  • sorry, platinum AA member here and people who have huge carry on bags waste time, hold up the line and can’t fit their oversized bags in the overhead bins. And don’t know that the center overheads do not fit roller boards. Those people should either check their bags, or board last.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    If you’re almost debilitatingly narrow-minded, yes.

  • Now that’s just rude! She can’t help it if her butt is big-boned…

  • Unfortunately any reference by Matt Yglesias automatically ruins the validity of even the most cogent argument.

  • Oh yeah, maybe in the future mini tasers will help move the crowds along even faster. When they post “”Arbeit macht frei” in the boarding area I will finally give up flying.

  • Justin

    This article couldn’t have been written any better!! Your exactly right, flight attendants can be some of the rudest people in the world!! They could care less who you are and where your going. They don’t even look happy to be at work… Now you do get your sprinkles of nice airline employees, there are actually quite a few, but the bad outweigh the good! You forgot to mention the gate agents, how could you miss them? There even worse!! I fly quite frequently and each experience is different. I’m simply sit back and take it all in… One last thing I would like to say is, you do not have to be the first to get on the plane!!! I fly standby so I’m usually the last to get on the plane!! It’s the best!!! Everyone thinks there seat is a first class one and they should be the first to board regardless of who else is flying. Sit the [email protected]&$ down somewhere!! Fellow airline passengers can be very annoying, especially the women who was literally touching my butt the whole time in the security line. That’s how close she was. I politely asked her to step back and put my bag in between us as a barrier. It somewhat worked lol.

  • nicho

    You and a lot of other people. Unfortunately, they’ve made it an either/or proposition. When I’m flying home on Alaska, I always take them up on their offer to gate-check my carry-on for free. Then, I can just wander on the plane at any old time. The airlines could avoid a lot of the problem if they just enforced the size rules for carry on and the size rules for “personal items.” I’ve seen women with purses the size of a steamer trunk claiming it is a “personal item.” I could get two weeks worth of clothes in it. And don’t get me started about the people whose “carry-on” would take up most of the room in a box car.

  • It didn’t use to be that way, it doesn’t have to be that way.

  • “I’ve never been so rudely treated as I have been on US air carriers.” Amen to that and thank you for the rant!. American air carriers are the absolutely worst in the world and it’s hard to tell which is absolutely the worst—American, United or the dangerous leased short hauls which cut corners on safety by servicing in slack-off third world countries. I have been flying for nearly 50 years and one of the worst flights in my time has been a jaunt from Albany to Atlanta. The sky waitress had attitude higher than altitude and a big butt, so that every time she went down the isle she bumped the seats. God it was awful. Worse, the evil cow, hummed constantly.

  • nicho

    The last time I flew Southwest, toward the end of boarding, there was one couple wandering forlornly in the aisle. I asked them if there was a problem and they said “We can’t find Seats B14 and B15. I had to explain the procedure to them.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Airlines have it all backwards. Why do they think people want to board planes early? I don’t want to sit in a confined and crowded airplane one second longer than I have to. I’d pay an extra $50 to board at the last second AND have space to store my carry-on bag (no forced-checking of my laptop).

  • Short-term profits in the current quarter resulting in stock price bumps which then translate directly into obscene bonuses for the CEO plutocratic bastard class.

    That’s what they have to gain.

    I’m reminded of the collapse of the dot-com tech industry in the early part of the last decade. Employees increasingly replaced by contractors and ‘perma-temps.’ Then someone got the bright idea to start outsourcing programming and documentation work overseas — the latter of which really hurt my business as an independent contractor. In the short run, much cheaper. But the code and docs these clients of mine were getting from overseas were often total garbage, in short, getting roughly what they were paying for.

    But they were able to point to short-term labor cost reductions. Which boosted the current quarter’s profits. The longer term erosion of these companies’ reputations for delivering quality products was deemed unimportant, not a priority. The plundering always took precedence.

    Eventually it will all collapse.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I fly southwest a lot and I like how the “free-for-all” boarding results in such a predictable pattern — people always sit from front to back, aisles and windows, then start filling up the middle seats from back to front as they get trapped back there when the windows and aisles run out. there are always a few clever folks who take the front middle seats instead of gambling.

  • You’re right, John: Increasing numbers of them don’t like their jobs. They’re losing their unions. They’re constantly being asked to accept cuts in pay and benefits. Their working conditions are getting worse with each passing year.

    A lot of people working in a lot of different fields can say the same thing, and it prompts a question: what exactly are employers gaining by making sure that their workforce is permanently unhappy? Cutting pay, cutting back on hours, shifting hours around in an unpredictable manner, taking away benefits or never offering them in the first place–workers in all fields have had to put up with this crap. What on Earth is to be gained by insuring that your workforce is permanently pissed off?

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I like Matt Yglesias’s take on this today, which includes your point — airlines are squeezing multiple sides of a balloon (to use his analogy) which makes new problems pop up elsewhere.

  • hoplite_i

    ok easy there… calm down. How is this screwing anybody? Alaska Already does this. It’s to speed up boarding. And it works. Additionally, if you’re in coach, really the only reason to get on the plane first is to get overhead bin space. They wont be handing you a newspaper and serving you drinks. So why the rush to get on? Nobody is going to take your seat. Or maybe you like sitting in those dirty ass aluminum tubes for longer than you need to. I don’t.

  • citizen_spot

    Every time I fly on American, they have group boarding, but they still load from the front to back. There is always someone blocking the aisle near the front despite the grouped boarding system’s best intentions. If they loaded from the back first, then folks who take forever to get settled wouldn’t be blocking everyone, just some near them. I don’t know, it just seems like it would make better sense to do it that way.

  • Yeah, well, there aren’t always a lot of choices when flying internationally.

  • nicho

    But now you can buy “priority boarding” on American. It’s gotten to the point where on some American flights, most people on board have “priority boarding,” which makes the group boarding by row meaningless.

  • NorthAlabama

    i have witnessed similar behavior on domestic carriers with exceptions – the major airlines are the biggest offenders, much more often than their smaller counterparts. i found a smaller, lower cost carrier when flying frequently from east to west and back (no longer flying), and they provided the best service of any carrier with which i have ever flown.

    the smaller carriers tend to work harder at customer service, and i would imagine because they are trying to gain customers. it’s as if the big carriers are arrogant, more concerned with nickel and diming passengers after advertising artificially reduced rates, than offering any kind of service whatsoever.

  • No one likes checking luggage because the airlines now charge a lot to do so. And having my luggage lost (only for a day or two) several times, I always bring a day’s worth of everything on board. That said, I don’t have a problem with this new policy.

  • Cazo

    They do, it is called group boarding I only fly american airlines and this is how they do it. Some passengers who have priority boarding board ahead regardless of seating position.

  • nicho

    I tend to agree. Alaska will let you gate check (for free) your carry on bag and then will let you board first. The problem with American is that they board first class and business class first, along with premium members, along with people who will pay them an extra $10 or so for early boarding — and now people with no carry on. In other words, just about everyone will “board first.” It reminds me of the time I flew out of Fort Lauderdale. After they boarded everyone who “needed a little extra time,” there were about five of us left. When we got on, the aisles and overheads were clogged with luggage and walkers.

    What they need to do is crack down on the “huge rolley bag” thing. They have little frames that your bag is supposed to fit in. If your bag doesn’t fit, you should have to check it — and at a slightly higher cost than at the front desk. I’ve seen people get on with duffel bags they could have fit a body in — or two. That shouldn’t be allowed. Also, people shouldn’t be allowed on with “carry ons” they can’t carry. All of a sudden, you’ve got this 5’2″ person who weighs 83 pounds trying to lift a 50-pound bag into the overhead. That can tie up the aisle for a long time, until some kind soul gets up and helps. Then, you have to reverse the procedure on deplaning.

  • FLL

    My experience with US carriers has been the same. Flight attendants on US carriers are so eager to pick a fight with customers, and they know that their employer will back them up and threaten customers. I’ve always used Mexicana and Air Canada for that reason. Unfortunately, if you’re flying within the United States, you’re a captive audience. Stupid beyond words.

  • nicho

    It all started with the douchebag at American with a spreadsheet who figured out they could save $x by removing one olive from every salad — after all, no one would notice. That is a legendary case study among corporate “cost cutters.” Of course that started a race to the bottom in seeing how much they could cut before people finally said “screw you.”

    As far as Singapore Airlines — being a dictatorship allows them to be a little more generous toward the paying customers. They’re not bothered by such things as unions, seniority, etc. If a woman gets a little old — say 28 — or puts on a couple of extra pounds, she is no longer a flight attendant.

  • NCMan

    allowing passengers w/o overhead luggage to board first probably speeds up the boarding process as those passengers can just walk on and sit down without being held up in the aisle by people struggling to jam over-sized bags into the overhead bin which wasn’t designed to hold them.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    How is this shafting people? I love it. No one likes checking luggage so everyone brings their luggage on board with them and calls it a carry-on. When the overhead bins fill up they have to check the rest, slowing everything down. This policy offers people incentive to not be part of the problem. Yes, charging for carry-ons would suck, but this is just behavior modification that helps everyone — just think, now you’ll have more space overhead for your huge rolley bag.

  • nicho

    I was on a flight the other day and they boarded from the front of the plane first. It was insane. I asked them why they did this and call they could say was that some flights they do it one way and some flights they do it the other. I think they just get a kick out of the clusterfuck they cause.

  • citizen_spot

    What I don’t get is why they don’t let people seated in the back of the plane board first, or to let window seats board first. It just seems that would be more efficient.

  • Dont know it, will check

  • You’re right, John: Increasing numbers of them don’t like their jobs. They’re losing their unions. They’re constantly being asked to accept cuts in pay and benefits. Their working conditions are getting worse with each passing year. They used to be able to depend on having a reasonably stable “home city”; nowadays, flight crews are all but working hobos, living out of tiny suitcases and cheap hotel rooms for months at a time.

    The glamor and prestige of being on a flight crew is gone.

    And yes, the entire notion of flying being a grand and exciting adventure has been turned into mini airborne prisons, with passengers also increasingly surly, ill-behaved, and unhappy at the sheer unpleasantness of air travel. It’s the airlines that decide they’re not going to give out free drinks like they used to, and crappier meals, to charge outrageously for every little thing, and to cram seats so close together any international flight is a thrombosis lottery. (All so the CEO-class can get even bigger bonuses.) Plus let’s not forget all the annoyances to get through screening. All these irritations add up, making it all the less likely passengers will be in good moods.

    Anyway, the intense traveling days for my wife and I are probably over for now (maybe even for good), but when we were bouncing between the SF Bay Area, London, Singapore, and Bangalore, we never flew U.S. carriers. It was always British or Singapore Airways (and of the two, I preferred the latter because they had more comfortable seats and better food). When you’re stuck in a plane for up to 12 hours, every little comfort counts, especially when one is trying to economize.

  • nicho

    Just put it in my Netflix queue.

  • So, how do you really feel about domestic airlines, John?

    Actually, if you want to see a brilliant parody of airlines and airports, you really should check out the short-lived British comedy, “Come Fly With Me,” with Matt Lucas and David Walliams (the duo who created Little Britain). They each play a dizzying array of hilarious characters, that really puts the air travel industry in its place. There were a total of 6 episodes, but each a gem.

  • nicho

    For every inch of legroom they take away, Southwest Airlines makes $773 million.

  • nicho

    How long until the airlines start charging us for carry-ons? Oh, and you know THAT day is coming.

    Frontier Airlines just announced that they will charge up to $100 for a carry-on bag. AND, they’re going to charge $2 for coffee or soda.

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