Spain’s National Court, the Audiencia Nacional, has ordered flag carrier Iberia to limit the amount of hand luggage that passengers bring onboard its flagship Airbus A350-900 aircraft because the planes have such large overhead lockers that flight attendants are scared they could be injured.
In a recent court ruling (in Spanish only), judges dismissed demands by a coalition of flight attendant unions that would have effectively exempted them from ever having to close one of the A350s supersized overhead lockers but instead ordered Iberia to limit the weight of hand luggage passengers bring on board.
The problem stems from the fact that the Airbus A350 is fitted out with what the aircraft manufacturer describes as ‘XL bins’ that can fit five full-sized carry-on cases per locker. The lockers are cantilevered, and the full weight of the locker and everything inside it must then be pushed up towards the ceiling in order to close them.
Each overhead locker is designed to carry a maximum of between 30 kg and 45 kg, but passengers are permitted a hand luggage allowance by Iberia of between 10 and 14 kg each.
Iberia does not, however, actually have a procedure to monitor the weight of each carry-on case being brought onboard, so the actual weight of each locker could massively exceed the stated maximum.
Flight attendants are expected to lift these lockers above their heads while simultaneously leaning over passengers due to the seating design. With 112 overhead lockers on each of its A350-900s, in some cases, flight attendants could be expected to perform this action 14 times each.
The overhead lockers are great at consuming the ever-growing mountain of hand luggage that passengers bring on board with them, but they could pose a serious health and safety risk.
Iberia took delivery of its first A350 in 2018 and has a total of 20 on order. The airline has carried out risk assessments on the lockers and looked at safe ways for crew members to close the lockers but the court found that Iberia had failed to “establish preventative measures”.
Flight attendant unions had asked for the XL Bins to be replaced with more traditional overhead lockers, or at least place a ban on Iberia expecting them to close the XL Bins.
The judge dismissed these demands, saying they weren’t feasible but did order Iberia to introduce new measures to weigh passenger hand luggage and ensure the airline’s own weight allowance was being adhered to.
The airline must also ensure that when shorter crew are working on the aircraft (below 1.63 metres) that two crew members close the locker together to minimise the risk of injury.
Finally, concern has been raised about Iberia’s recently introduced new uniform because the design of the female uniform is restricting movement around the shoulders. Iberia is already working on a redesign of some uniform items to ensure that flight attendants can close the overhead lockers.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.