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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150 Responses to “American Airlines finds a new way to shaft passengers”

  1. BillFromDover says:

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

  2. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  3. Stevious says:

    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.

  4. ComradeRutherford says:

    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.

  5. lilyannerose says:

    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!

  6. karmanot says:

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

  7. karmanot says:

    Most also have posh lounge club privileges.

  8. karmanot says:

    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.

  9. karmanot says:

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

  10. karmanot says:

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

  11. karmanot says:

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

  12. karmanot says:

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

  13. karmanot says:

    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.

  14. karmanot says:

    Probably starting with Coors Lite.

  15. karmanot says:

    rothfl! You nailed it (pardon the pun)

  16. karmanot says:

    Well, aren’t you special.

  17. ronbo says:

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

  18. Mark says:

    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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. condew says:

    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.

  22. SkippyFlipjack says:

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

  23. SkippyFlipjack says:

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

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

  25. And what was the bad news?

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

  27. So women get a free pass?

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

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. Try SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

  33. Blogvader says:

    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.

  34. silas1898 says:

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

  35. d3clark says:

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

  36. CottonBlimp says:

    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?

  37. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  38. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  39. condew says:

    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.

  40. condew says:

    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.

  41. condew says:

    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”.

  42. karmanot says:

    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!

  43. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  44. karmanot says:


  45. karmanot says:


  46. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  47. Naja pallida says:

    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.

  48. CottonBlimp says:


    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.

  49. karmanot says:

    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.

  50. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  51. karmanot says:

    Sense of humor! Good start.

  52. CottonBlimp says:

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

  53. UncleBucky says:

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

  54. UncleBucky says:

    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.

  55. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  56. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  57. nicho says:

    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.

  58. karmanot says:

    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.

  59. karmanot says:

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

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

  61. karmanot says:

    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.

  62. karmanot says:

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

  63. 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?

  64. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  65. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  66. karmanot says:


  67. karmanot says:

    Oh yeah!

  68. karmanot says:


  69. karmanot says:

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

  70. CottonBlimp says:

    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”.

  71. nicho says:


  72. nicho says:

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

  73. nicho says:

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

  74. CottonBlimp says:

    This comment deserves a lot more upvotes.

  75. CottonBlimp says:

    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.

  76. CottonBlimp says:

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

  77. perljammer says:


    “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?

  78. SkippyFlipjack says:

    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.

  79. 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.

  80. SkippyFlipjack says:

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

  81. karmanot says:

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

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

  83. nicho says:

    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.

  84. nicho says:

    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.

  85. karmanot says:

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

  86. nicho says:

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

  87. caphillprof says:

    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.

  88. caphillprof says:

    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.

  89. caphillprof says:

    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.

  90. SkippyFlipjack says:

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

  91. karmanot says:

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

  92. karmanot says:

    Oh for Christ’s sake Flipper, lighten up.

  93. karmanot says:

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

  94. karmanot says:

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

  95. karmanot says:

    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.

  96. karmanot says:

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

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

  98. nicho says:

    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.

  99. SkippyFlipjack says:

    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.

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

  101. clarenceswinney says:

    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.

  102. MyrddinWilt says:

    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.

  103. Naja pallida says:

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

  104. ComradeRutherford says:

    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.