You’re boarding the plane, and the flight attendant’s voice pipes through the overhead speaker with that rarely-listened-to phrase… “Ladies and Gentleman, as you board today, please move into your row before stowing your bags to allow the passengers behind you to board.” Five minutes later, the same voice (a bit less patient this time) comes over the PA again and says, “Ladies and Gentleman, there are several other passengers standing in the jetway, please step into your row before stowing your bags, as this will expedite the boarding process…” Now, you have two options…you can stow, or step in your row. Let’s say you decide to step into your row. Surprisingly enough, this has some negatives. As you obey the rules, the other passengers put their bags in the overhead above YOUR seat, thereby taking your overhead bin space and subjecting you to the dreaded and despised realm of gate checking your bag. Also, you have to maneuver your overstuffed bag into the row, which means you have to pick it up and put those wheels in the very seat you will be sitting in for the next 5 hours. This of course, after you have just rolled it all over the airport, and through a petri dish of unknown flora and fauna…otherwise known as the airport bathroom. And what if you were just lucky enough to be the first person in your row? Now you have to either put your bag BACK into the aisle to allow your row buddy in, or you have to contort yourself by flattening your body like a gecko against said bag to allow passage into your row. Hopefully, you and your row buddy have “compatible dimensions” or this maneuver can become very interesting…. Meanwhile, some of my flying partners (because I would NEVER do this) are standing in the back galley, watching it all unfold and biting the inside of their cheeks to keep from laughing hysterically at the scene. We, I mean, “other” flight attendants only do this for a minute or two before fighting our way upstream (Alaskan Salmon style) to come help with the stowing process. Is there any hope? Why do airlines even ask passengers to do this? How can we, passengers and crew, work together to improve this process? To put my two cents in, I want to give you some background information to consider… In initial training, we saw this chart, which was based on FAA studies about the stress levels of crew during pre-departure activities. For some reason, even after over a decade of flying, the memory of this chart has never left me. Here is my interpretation of what I saw so many years ago: What? That doesn’t look official to you? As you can clearly see, your crew doesn’t enjoy dealing with bags just as much as you don’t. If we had it our way, there would be enough overhead space for everyone’s bags, umbrellas, coats, gifts, sombreros, pets, golf clubs, kayaks, kitchen sinks and whatever else you passengers feel like bringing onboard. But alas, we don’t. So to make things go a little more smoothly, you can try boarding like crew members do when we are using the travel benefits our friends are always asking us to share. Here is what I do…
- Pre-boarding prep: As soon as you line up to board (when your section is called of course) remove the stuff you need from your carry-on, and hold it in your hand.
- When you get to your row, toss said stuff in the seat, and in the same motion, toss bag into overhead bin wheels first, and quickly step into your row. Whew…now you’re out of the aisle.
- If you have two carry-ons (GASP!) Place the smaller of the two under the seat in front of you. Don’t be a bin-hog. Next time, if you can, just bring one.
- Sit down, close eyes, wait for movie and vodka cart, beverage cart.