Since when did a suitcase almost as big as the person dragging it through a packed departure lounge count as hand luggage?
Chances are the heavily-laden lugger also has a handbag, full-length coat, suit carrier and a shopping bag overflowing with stuffed koalas.
And a tennis racquet. And a plastic bag of snacks and drinks. And a pile of magazines.
That hand-luggage hog will no doubt be sitting next to you, having crammed those items into the overhead locker, forcing you to squash your modest backpack under the seat.
Welcome to the brave new world of discount flights, where some travellers go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying a few bucks to put a suitcase in the hold. These hand luggage hogs are a boil on the behind of what is otherwise a great way to travel.
We had one flight where a large tour group carried enough on for an overseas trip … all for the sake of saving a few bucks and a few minutes at the luggage carousel.
I had to stuff my stuff under the seats and felt like telling them all to get stuffed.
On my most recent flight, the woman next to me had a suitcase that would have weighed 15 kilograms, plus a large carry bag with her handbag inside. The case was so big she almost knocked someone out lowering it to the ground.
This sort of thing makes a mockery of airline rules. Jetstar Economy Starter, Starter Plus and Starter Max passengers, for example, allow two carry-on bags totalling 10 kilograms.
The main item must not exceed 56cm x 36cm x 23cm and the second must be a small handbag, pocket book or purse, coat, umbrella or small lap top bag that can fit under the seat.
CHOICE spokesman Tom Godfrey says herein lies the problem. Airlines don’t allow passengers to take much on board and charge them at every turn so it’s only natural they try to “claw back as much as they can”.
Godfrey doesn’t blame hand luggage hogs for extracting their ounce of flesh. In fact he encourages them given the airline is probably already charging taxes and fees for seat choice, hold luggage, on-board food and entertainment and even blankets on top of the so-called cheap fare.
“At the end of the day the airline slugs you for everything,” he says. “We prefer that the consumer got more value. It’s great that there are cheap airfares. But what we’ve found is that the headline rates … don’t turn out to be that cheap.”
That is no consolation for those of us forced to fight our way to our seats through a sea of stuff.
Returning from the Gold Coast recently, an eagle-eyed flight attendant actually marched military-style past the line of passengers, scouting for bag over-stuffers.
Guilt-ridden travellers with trunk-sized “cabin bags” desperately tried to look inconspicuous as she pulled up a guy with a giant sports bag. Those of us with legal luggage clapped on the inside.
But this doesn’t happen enough and the way it’s heading we’ll soon be sharing cabins with surf boards and 12-man tents.
No-one wants to see cheap flights lost, so what we need is common sense. Airlines need to be more open about their charges and passengers need to be reasonable about what they carry on.
A friend also has a novel idea. He says people should be weighed with their bags.
“A 50 kilogram person with a 21 kilogram bag might be charged, whilst a 150 kilogram person with a 19.9 kilogram bag is grand,” he says.
“There should be a flat weight rate, person plus bag, and let them pay if they can’t stop shoving tucker down their pie-hole.”