Stuffing your cabin bag into the overhead locker is one of the free pleasures of air travel, but perhaps not for much longer. US carrier United Airlines has announced plans to charge for use of the overhead bins on flights in the US. United calls its new fare Basic Economy, and restricts luggage to one carry-on that can fit under the seat. How the policy is to be enforced has not been made clear but Basic Economy passengers can check in their bags for a $US25 ($A33) fee.
The policy has attracted criticism, including from US senator Chuck Schumer, who called the overhead bin ‘one of the last sacred conveniences of air travel’.
‘One step closer to steerage’, weekly newspaper The Economist fumed, pointing out a study published by the US National Academy of Sciences that found a link between air-rage incidents and inequality in airlines cabins.
The study found flyers were 3.8 times more likely to behave badly if there was a first-class section on a flight, and even more likely to cause upset if they had to walk through first class to get to their ordinary seats. ‘People don’t so much dislike being treated badly; it is being confronted with inequality they resent,’ The Economist said, lamenting that United’s move would introduce more inequality in the cabin.
Other safety implications, such as if passengers who paid for storage of their cabin luggage would be more likely to retrieve it during emergency evacuations, are unknown. The effect on evacuation discipline of more passengers with no luggage to retrieve is presumably positive.