This is an article about how airlines are pleasing all the wrong passengers

I fly a lot. In Gugin we have a number of airlines and airports as clients, where we help them to figure out how to deal with the very diversified behaviour different cultures have when they are together in a very small space like an airport or airplane.

Despite being fairly tolerant, open-minded and flexible I have my limits. I have previously written about parents behaviour onboard a plane, which you can read here.

I am a very frequent flyer with Airfrance/KLM. Like all other airlines they have rules for how big your carry on luggage can be. Below you can see the regulations from Airfrance, which are similar to most other airlines I have looked at.

The problem is that a lot of people carry on a lot more luggage, either because they don’t know the rules, think they are more important than everyone else or because they know the airline will not reinforce its own rules.

This lack of respect and/or reinforcement of rules has a number of unfortunate side effects.

  • Boarding and de-boarding takes a lot longer time than necessary
  • The flight crew has to spend a lot of time and energy on moving around luggage in the overhead bins, as some people don’t care if they take up all space or if the door to the overhead bin can be closed. I often wonder why the flight attendents tolerate it.
  • People, who bring smaller and softer items are forced to have them under the seat in front of them, which means they have reduced or no space for their feet.

As we work with a number of airlines on customer behaviour we have asked them on several occassions, why they don’t reinforce their own rules. The answer we usually get is that they are affraid of offending the passangers and usually it works out anyway.

My answer to that is that it may work our from an operational point of view, but certainly not from a passanger point of view – at least not mine. Here is why:

I am usually loyal to the Skyteam family for a lot of reasons that ease my many days in airports and airplanes. One of the advantages I have is that I can board the plane first irrespectively of my travel class. I usually check in all possible luggage and only carry a small bag onboard with my laptop and other things I may need to have access to during my journey. Very often the following happens: I board the plane and put my bag in the overhead bin together with my coat . As the plane fills up the stewardesses start moving things around and sometimes take smaller items out and ask the owners to store it under the seat in front of them.

I feel offended when it happens to me. Firstly, I am not the one breaking the rules. Secondly what is the point in giving valued customers priority boarding if you throw their hand luggage in their face later?

And this is ONLY necessary because many fellow passangers take on too big and too much luggage. They are violating some very sensible rules and I (and others) are paying the price for it.

Is that fair?

I don’t think so, so I have changed behaviour in order to avoid having my limited space reduced because the airlines let passengers violating their own rules.

I bring on a small hard case as hand luggage instead of the soft bag I used to use. It has several advantages

  • The flight crew can not ask you to put it under the seat in front of you.
  • The content remain safe despite the oversized luggage being throwed into the bin by people with similar big egoes.

The airlines are pleasing the wrong people

The airlines are pleasing those who are breaking the rules. These are rules that make a lot of sense. When there is no reinforcement more people will break them – of course. It is basic human behaviour.

Because they are afraid of offending the big egoes with the big carry on luggage we get

  • Delayed flights
  • Flight attendents who do heavy lifting, which they shouldn’t do
  • Angry passengers like me. (I know I am not alone on this)
  • Slow boarding and de-boarding
  • Tense situsations in the cabin during boarding and de-boarding

Dear Airlines – please change!

Start pleasing the right passengers and reward the proper behaviour. You are doing it all wrong. In that respect the so-called low-cost carriers are doing it right. You should do it too, but in a different way.

If you need help for this transformation you know where I and my colleagues in Gugin are. It is after all our core competence to fix things like this.

Please share if you like

Gugin provide training for airlines and airports around the world on how to deal with different cultures and how to create a culture that improves customer service and efficiency. Please get in touch if you want to know more

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