We’ve known for several months that Australian flag carrier, Qantas has been cracking down on the hand luggage that passengers are allowed to bring onboard a flight with them. Qantas has traditionally had a pretty generous hand luggage allowance which permitted customers two bags weighing a maximum of 7kg each – more than many full-service carriers and certainly better than what budget carriers permit.
The problem, though, is that passengers weren’t following the rules and it was quite common for people to bring bags onboard that far exceeded the maximum weight. There were a couple of incidents in which passengers haphazardly placed their overweight bags into the overhead lockers only for them to fall onto flight attendants – one member of cabin crew suffered a particularly nasty concussion as a result.
In response, Qantas has been forcing passengers to weigh their cabin bags to make sure they comply with the policy – overweight bags then needed to be checked-in and claimed at baggage reclaim after the flight. While that was a sensible move to protect flight attendants, many passengers started complaining about the weight limit and the whole situation pitted ground staff against customers – not a great start to a flight.
So Qantas has been reviewing this policy and has decided to make a few changes. Now, customers will be able to bring one bag with an increased upper weight limit of 10kg and a second smaller bag weighing no more than 4kg onboard with them. The new policy comes into effect on Monday 25th March.
But it does come with a big caveat – don’t expect a Qantas flight attendant to help you lift your heavy bag into the overhead bin. If a passenger can’t lift the bag themselves (or perhaps enlist a fellow passenger to do it for them) then the bag will need to be gate checked and placed in the aircraft hold.
Cabin crew at the airline have been told there is no expectation for them to place bags into the overhead bins or even help a passenger. In fact, if they were to do exactly that and then ended up injuring themselves, they might find the airline offering very little support because they’ve ignored an official policy that’s designed to protect their health and safety.
“It’s about recognising cabin crew are not superhuman and simply want to go about our workday in a safe, supportive and respectful environment,” explained Teri O’Toole, president of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia.
“To everyone else, it’s a plane, but for us, it’s our workplace and we just ask to be treated with respect and not abused.”
The new Qantas policy is very similar to that mandated by many other airlines. Unfortunately, some carriers may have official policies that prohibit flight attendants from helping with passenger hand luggage but then pressure their cabin crew to do exactly that.