Virgin Blue flight attendant puts baby in overhead bin

Virgin Blue flight attendant puts baby in overheadA Virgin Blue flight attendant has been fired after putting a 17-month-old baby in an overhead compartment as part of a peek-a-boo joke. Passenger Natalie Williamson was on a flight from Fiji to Sydney with her husband and son when the flight attendant put the baby into the overhead bin and locked it for 10 seconds.

“I stood up and there were people laughing and then I said ‘Get my son out of there now’,” she told Australia’s Sunday Herald Sun.

Virgin Blue admits that the incident happened but claims Williamson’s husband had been playing peek-a-boo with the overhead bin when the flight attendant joined in. The airline has offered apologies as well as three free flights, but the mother claims she and her child are too traumatized to redeem them, and her son still suffers from anxiety and withdrawal three months after the incident.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user David McKelvey]

Spirit Airlines to Congress: paying for overhead bins helps the poor

You just don’t need to take your bags on vacation, said Spirit Airlines CEO, Ben Baldanza. He’s told Congress that his airline, which brands itself as a “super-low-cost” carrier, actually makes it easier for the proletariat poor to take to the skies, even if it does require that they plop down $45 to stuff a carry-on into the overhead bin.

In a sense, it does. If you choose not to check a bag, that’s $5 bucks shy of half a C-note you’re tucking back in your wallet, but the cheap tickets can run a tad costly if you go with all the up-charges, according to a report by ABC News. So, the poor are all set as long as they exercise some restraint, it seems.

According to Baldanza, “We are certain that Spirit’s decision to unbundle services not essential to the transportation of passengers, has enabled more passengers to fly at lower cost.” He added, “Indeed given our low fares, it has allowed many to travel who otherwise simply could not afford to do so.”

So, what’s next for Spirit? I’m guessing that cake will be served on every flight, for a fee of course, which the airline will gladly let the poor eat.

Bag too big? Check with Congress

Every carry-on could become a federal case, so to speak. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-IL, has proposed legislation that would cap the size of each carry-on. Right now, airlines are left to their own devices, leading to a bit of confusion for fliers who use several carriers throughout the year. Since a de facto industry standard hasn’t emerged, Lipinski feels it’s a job for the folks in Washington.

Lipinski is quoted in USA Today as saying, “It’s clear if anything is going to be done, it’s going to take an act of Congress to do it.” The airlines aren’t enforcing the restrictions that they’ve enacted, he continues.

As with anything regarding Congress – and, for that matter, airlines – the public is divided. Supporters are glad to see a proposal that would keep oversized bags out of overhead spaces, seeing it as a safety measure or simply an increase in available space (they fill up quickly with large bags). Of course, on any flight, you’ll find people on the other side, passengers who refuse to check luggage and would cram a compact car into the overhead bin if they could.

Available space in the overhead compartments has become a problem recently. With airlines cutting flights in an effort to reduce costs, the remaining flights are becoming more crowded – as are the storage spaces.

The Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, doesn’t see overhead storage spaces as a matter for Congress. Instead, he believes it should be left to the airlines to decide.

Overhead bins become hot commodity once again

Does anyone else feel like the aviation industry is constantly looping in a vicious circle?

Take the development of “luggage rules” in the last couple of years, for example:

  1. People were able to bring everything on, including liquids
  2. The idea of not being able to pack liquids made people checks all their bags. (Oh, the days of fast boarding with no carry on luggage!)
  3. Airlines start charging for checked bags, hence you return to point 1 (with liquids in a ziplog bag, of course)

I am not looking forward to the battle for the overhead bin, as Scott McCartney, who writes The Middle Seat column at the Wall Street Journal predicts:

“To make sure they can find room, some customers already push their way through boarding queues. Passengers struggle to stuff large bags into small bins, and flight attendants often find themselves taking bags off planes and checking them to their destinations once bins fill up.”

Does that mean that you can get around paying a fee for a checked bag if you “attempt” to bring it on? Apparently, if you simply can’t find overhead bin space, but your luggage fits the carry on criteria (i.e. isn’t too big or too heavy), you will not have to pay. If it is too big, heavy or you have too many pieces of luggage, you will still have to pay.

Honestly, there is only one good thing that could come out of this. People might just start traveling light.