Why Flight Attendants Won’t Help You Lift Your Luggage

Why Flight Attendants Won’t Help You Lift Your Luggage

Recently there has been quite a buzz about flight attendants refusing to help passengers stow their bags in the overhead compartments. Memes depicting flight attendants ironically refusing to help a granny with her carry-on have been making the rounds on social media.

But did you know, it is actually not in any flight attendants’ job description to help you lift your luggage. You pack it, you stack it, or I’ll check it!

Why? Well there are a few reasons flight attendants won’t help you lift your luggage. Let’s explore them, shall we?

Reason #1: Risk of personal injury

Lifting bags into the overhead bin is one of the most common causes of injury among flight attendants. The repetitive strain of lifting heavy carry-ons can cause lasting damage to our backs and shoulders.

I still have issues with my back and shoulders from giving in and helping the sweet, old granny with her suitcase. (I swear people pack their bags with actual bricks sometimes!).

As a result of the frequent injuries, airlines eventually started to prohibit flight attendants from lifting bags. Airlines simply don’t want to have to put flight attendants on leave to recover from an injury that they didn’t need to suffer in the first place.

And because of this new rule, airlines will also not cover any injuries sustained while trying to help passengers lift their luggage. This means flight attendants have to rely on their own health insurance to cover medical and physical therapy, which can cost thousands in the US, even with good insurance.

Reason #2: Risk of passenger injury

risk of passenger injury
The Mad Rush to Fight for the Overhead Bins (Photo credit: Can Pac Swire on Visualhunt.com)

Beyond injuring themselves there is always the risk that a flight attendant could accidentally drop something on the person sitting below while trying to lift a heavy bag.

If someone is hurt when a flight attendant drops something on them, the airline can get sued.

By officially prohibiting flight attendants from lifting bags the airline is not liable for anything that happens if/when we do help. So if we drop a bag on someone, and they decide to sue the airline, it’s the flight attendants who are on the hook for the costs.

In other words, lifting your bag might become incredibly expensive for us, and most of the time, it’s just not worth the risk.

Reason # 3: Flight Attendants are not paid during boarding or deplaning

Most people don’t realize this, but flight attendants are typically not paid for boarding or deplaning. In fact, most airlines don’t start paying their cabin crew until the aircraft door is closed and the parking brake has been released.

Despite this we are expected to do a lot during boarding. So it really adds insult to injury when we are asked to stow someone’s bag essentially for free, especially when you consider what I’ve already said about the costs we might get saddled with as a result.

PS: This is not an invitation to try to bribe us into lifting your bag for you.

Reason #4: There are other ways we can “help” you with your bag

Even though we cannot help passengers lift their bags, we can help make sure they are taken care of.

Flight attendants can request a complimentary gate-check service for passengers who are unable to lift their bags themselves. The gate-check service involves checking the bag to cargo after the passenger has already boarded the plane, and the bag is sent all the way through to their final destination.

On the plus side, it’s pretty relaxing not to have to lug your luggage through the airport, especially if you have a tight connection.

What to do if you can’t lift your bag

If you really cannot lift your bag to stow it properly, there are solutions beyond asking a flight attendant to lift or gate-check your bag for you.

Here are my recommendations.

➡️ Pack light

Pack light

If you are too short or too weak to lift your bag into the overhead compartment, pack light so you can easily stow anything you bring onboard under the seat in front of you.

There are actually tons of rolling carry-ons designed to fit under the seat in front of you. This one, for example, offers you all the features of a regular suitcase in a compact size that easily fits under the seats.

Just be sure you don’t book a seat in an exit or bulkhead row because you might not be allowed to keep your things under the seat in these rows.

➡️ Pre-check your bag

Pre-check your bag

If you know you can’t lift your bag into the overhead bin, go ahead and check it in advance. This way you know you’ll only be bringing a small personal item with you.

If you do decide to check a larger bag, make sure your medications and electronics are in a bag you can take onto the plane with you! This is both to ensure you have access to them and because certain things are permitted in the cabin, may not be allowed to be checked in cargo.

➡️ Ask Other Passengers for help

boarding plane
Photo credit: raymondtan85 on VisualHunt.com

Truth be told, there are plenty of other people boarding with them who probably can. The strong, young 22-year-old in a military uniform, for example.

Often other passengers are taller and stronger than us, and therefore can easily lift another passenger’s bag. This is why we often encourage people to ask for help from their fellow passengers.

In my experience, most young men have been very willing to help. There is also the added bonus that they are already in the aisle with you, and don’t have to fight upstream through a gaggle of boarding passengers to reach you. It’s a win, win, for everyone!

Final Thoughts

Although it might seem like bad customer service for a flight attendant to refuse to lift your bag, there are valid reasons behind our refusal.

Hopefully the next time you fly, you can take this into consideration and plan ahead so you can transport your things in a way that causes you, and your crew, the least amount of stress.

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