Why do airlines change their luggage compartments?

Last week, Air France announced plans to change the baggage racks on its entire medium-haul fleet to a higher-capacity system, increasing the volume by nearly 40% compared to the current racks on Airbus.

This is a real underlying trend, which follows the movement initiated a few years ago in the United States, and which also follows the commercial policy.

A trend from the USA

In recent years, U.S. airlines have begun to modify their medium-haul cabins to increase the capacity of the racks, allowing all passengers to put their increasingly bulky carry-on luggage in them.

American Airlines has equipped all its medium-haul aircraft (excluding MD) with baggage racks in the same style as those now offered by Air France. Photo Credit : aa.com

The reason for these changes is simple: the trend of the last 15 years, initiated in the United States, is to unbundle tickets: choice of paid seats, in-flight services and checked baggage are now added to the lowest standard fare base, leading passengers to stop checking in their baggage, and therefore to systematically take a carry-on bag on board.

Excerpt from Delta’s Basic Economy Fare Terms and Conditions of Sale, which do not include checked baggage. Credit : delta.com

However, the space available in the baggage racks is insufficient with the standard racks of the Airbus A320 or the first generation Boeing 737. Indeed, on an Airbus A320 of the national airline for example, equipped with 165 seats, the current capacity of the racks is 104 cabin luggage.

United goes one step further by banning carry-on bags on Basic Economy fares, except for frequent flyers

The U.S. airlines started this business trend a long time ago, so it makes sense that they started replacing the racks a few years ago.

Relieve the crew’s workload and reduce passenger stress

The carry-on situation is stressful for passengers, ground staff and crews alike.

For the crews, they have to make permanent announcements so that the passengers put only one element in the racks keeping their second element under the seat in front of them, and to make this “police”, it is to devote less time to the real reception of the customers.

Well, they still don’t help the passengers, eh!

The airline will also no longer have to send SMS messages inviting passengers to check in their luggage for free, thus ruining its own commercial policy.

For the ground agents, going around the gate to try to check in as many bags as possible is also very tedious.

Finally, for passengers, those who travel light will no longer have to worry about having their luggage checked when they wanted to keep it close to them, and those who travel a lot will no longer have to wait in line to board early for fear of running out of room.

So it’s a win-win for everyone!

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.
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