Making Design and Policy Agree

Post by Steven Dale

Image by Kevin Jaako.

Consider the common airplane and it’s absurd carry-on baggage situation:

Airline policy (at least according to their safety videos) is for passengers to store their heavier carry-on luggage below the seat in front of them and the lighter articles in the overhead compartment.

This is, apparently, for your own safety.

But have you ever been able to successfully accomplish that feat?

Of course you haven’t. Why? Because overhead compartments on airplanes are designed to accommodate the size and girth of a typical piece of carry-on luggage and the space under the seat in front of you is designed to accommodate baggage not much larger than a purse or a briefcase.

And given the airline’s recent stinginess on checked baggage, frugal customers try and cram as much as humanly possible into their carry-on. Those large and heavy carry-ons inevitably find themselves crammed in the overhead compartment.

Policy is a blunt instrument – and totally ineffective if the policy and the industrial design meant to service it don’t agree.

Even better: Get rid of the policy entirely and design baggage compartments such that people will naturally and automatically store heavier articles under the seat in front of them.

Do that and the need to communicate a heavy baggage policy becomes utterly redundant.

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  1. Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On with Back-Up Bag -> http://tinyurl.com/5s8at2f I love the reviews. That bag isn't acutally that small and nearly all of the reviewers say it fits under seat. But isn't the main aspect here the safety issue? Storage above is comfortable, clearly laid out and safe? Safety: Safer than pieces laying on the ground. Imagine the plane after some turbulences or an emergency landing. During turbulences pieces could move freely within the plane, afterwards they handicap peoples exiting/moving. Furthermore it is important for the crew to have a good overview of what's left in the plane (by looking under the seats straight down the floor). Comfort: I don't think I'm the only one who likes to stretch the legs during a flight. This needs space and I do it frequently. Next time on a plane check out how far your legs go and how much space they need. You'd be surprised. Cleanness: at the end of a day planes get cleaned. Same issue here like on the metro (at it's best no seat construction connected to the floor). Now to your text, Steven. Isn't there plenty of storage space in the lower body of the plane and isn't that what it is for? For the heavy stuff? Yes, from time to time I found myself having the same: a piece of baggage more than allowed on board. Some airlines won't allow that, others do. Money and safety/comfort issue. So I need to pay an extra fee to put it into the storage space, or they are telling: it's fine, for this situation we have a few options. But it is just for a couple of passengers, not for all of them. That's why some European have a checker-installation for the so called hand or cabin luggage/baggage (if it fits in there it's quite right). Depending on the destination and time of a flight and also of the culture of the passengers some flights can be very unpleasant (I made that experience once on a flight into the middle east, caused by almost unlimited allowance of cabin luggage). Putting the light stuff on top is also important for the performance of the plane (I know they are also balancing the luggage / luggage boxes in the storage space in the lower plane body). Also the weight of the whole luggage (excluding hand luggage) and passengers (+ a common weight for hand luggage) are needed to be known for the board computer. So, a redesign of a plane would be nice, but I have a feeling we already got that. Just pick another class. ;)
  2. In Europe they will even check Hand luggage at the gate if the flight is full and there is not enough space in the overhead compartment. Stowing baggage under the seats is discouraged. The main problem is that many people fear that their checked baggage will be lost or delayed. This causes major troubles especially if you have to travel for business. It happened several times to me and its very annoying if you travel thousands of kilometers and the airline cannot bring you your tools. You have an angry costumer half of your stuff is not there and you have to wait a half an hour in the hotline and get the luggage with 3 days delay. The lesson is if an airline cannot even afford to paint their planes stay away from it. Anyway my tools must be checked for security reasons anyway. Also sometimes it takes very long until the baggage is delivered at the belt. So make checked baggage more reliable and faster. There will be more space in the cabin. With all those security rules you have to check baggage if you want to bring your shaver a nailclip and some shampoo. If people only carry their laptop the security check would be much faster too. And since i am going off topic: A free bottle of mineral water or soft drink right after the safety check would save thousands of useless discussions and frustrated passengers.
  3. Love those suggestions.
  4. Matt the Engineer
    Checking bags is a waste of time. Checking bags these days is also a waste of money. But I always check my bag. Why? Because I'm a frequent flyer on Alaskan Air, which means my checked bags are free. But that wasn't enough - it's still easier to carry on*. Then they implemented a rule that if your checked luggage takes longer than 20 minutes they give you free miles. I've earned nearly a full free trip off of that policy. Anyway, I like the point of this post. Good design beats policy. Or text. Or even laws. Go to any wide suburban street and you'll find people doubling the posted speed limit**. But drive in front of my house and you'll drive less than 10mph. It's a single lane, with parking on each side that leaves very little room for car traffic. It feels very dangerous to drive more the 8mph or so, so people don't drive fast. The street is quiet, safe, and I don't think there's a single speed limit sign in my neighborhood. * If your packing more than will fit in a carry-on bag, no mater the length of your trip, you're doing it wrong. Seriously - I've done month long trips to europe and asia with a carry-on bag and had room for souveniers. Checked luggage in the modern world is for old people and packages that would cost more to ship than to check. ** I wonder how many lives have been lost thanks to fire marshals requiring lots of room for thier big fancy fire trucks?
  5. Let me guess you are a software engineer. If you bring even a screwdriver, you have to check it for security reasons. And alone for the protective clothing which you need to even enter a construction or industrial site you need a checked baggage. The carry on limit is 8kg plus a notebook. Luckily in Europe check in baggage is included in the ticket and with a silver card you can bring 30kgs. Still the overhead compartment for cabin luggage is always full so they had to check in the carry ons at the gate or even in the plane. The carry on luggages are always a source of annoyances. Last time i flew to the US about one third of the seats where occupied but the space for hand luggage was full.

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