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Flight Attendants Say Carry Ons Are Out Of Control

Will carry-on fees end overweight luggage overhead?

eTN Staff Writer  Apr 17, 2010

It appears that Spirit Airlines' latest fee levy for carry-on luggage was the straw that broke the camel's back. Passengers have simply had enough of the never-ending deluge of airline fees. The outrage has led to outcries and ranting, letters and petitions, and has even made its way up to Capitol Hill.

Spirit is the first airline in the United States to charge a fee for use of their overhead bins inside the aircraft.

But some passengers have expressed hope that the policy would reduce the number of people who bring overstuffed bags on board and "hog" the overhead space. Beyond inconvenience, the growing number of heavy bags showing up on board is also a serious job safety issue for flight attendants, although all airlines have a maximum weight for carry-ons.

Still, more than 80 percent reported being hurt over the past year while dealing with items in overhead bins, according to a survey released last month by the Association of Flight Attendants. The most common injuries were strained and pulled muscles in the neck, arms, and upper back.

Spirit's new fee could be effective in reducing the number of carry-ons and the industry will be watching closely to see what impact it has, said Rene Foss, a flight attendant for more than 25 years and the spokeswoman for the union.

Foss said: "At this point, it seems like anything is worth a try, I guess, because it is out of control on board the aircraft. Nobody wants to pay for checked luggage, so they bring it all on board the airplane, and they're bringing bags that are bigger and heavier. Often times, the passenger is unable to actually lift their own bag over their head ... [and] they want the flight attendants to lift it."

Passengers are also at risk of being hurt. Half of the flight attendants in the survey reported seeing carry-on items falling from overhead bins. If the compartments are overloaded, they can pop open during takeoff, Foss said. She recalled working on a jumbo jet one time when she saw a bag with a duty-free bottle of liquor fall out and hit a passenger on the head, causing injury.

The Association of Flight Attendants is supporting a bill sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, which would standardize the dimensions of carry-on baggage. Currently, the airlines have varying policies, Foss said, and the luggage sizers at the gate that are supposed to weed out overstuffed bags often aren't used. The union has also launched, a web site where people can read about the issue and leave comments.

Will carry-on fees end overweight luggage overhead?
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