No Assistance from Flight Attendant

April 18, 2015

in Luggage Stories

My experience wouldn’t really be considered a “Flight from Hell” — but it was an irritant. I was flying first class from Denver to Omaha and was carrying on my bag. I walked onto the plane and noticed a male flight attendant. I am a 60 year old female and I asked him if he could help me put my bag up. His response was,”No way, I have four herniated discs” (or something to that effect). He then walked away.

I struggled to put my bag up. One male passenger sat there and watched me, commenting, “I tell my wife if she packs it, she carries it.” HAHAHAH. I really had a hard time getting the bag up.

Finally a nice gentleman came to my rescue and put my bag up. I’m just wondering, was this an unreasonable request on my part?? (I usually check my bag, but was under a time crunch and decided to try to carry it on.) Was I asking too much of the flight attendant??

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth April 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

It's not the flight attendant's job to put your bags up – I'm with the other passenger, if it's too heavy for you to lift, you should have checked it.

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Sherrie April 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

What part of “I usually check my bag, but was under a time crunch and decided to try to carry it on” don’t you get?

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xxRonxx April 29, 2015 at 8:57 am

So failure to properly plan your arrival becomes another's problem? This definitely falls under the rule of "Failure to properly plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine."

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Beth May 9, 2015 at 10:57 am

I understood you were in a time crunch. But grow up – it’s not someone else’s problem for your time crunch. If you can’t lift it, gate check it.

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RGM May 27, 2015 at 8:46 am

Or shove it under the seat in front of you.

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Kitty February 14, 2017 at 8:30 am

I am 5'2", and having the same problem to put my luggage above my seat after certain age. I understand why this lady is not very happy.

1. Sometime, the connection flight is no way to wast time at waiting for getting check in luggage. Or, there is only one connection flight in the same day after airline company shrinking the flight number, and trying to make all the flight fully occupancy. I even had experience my first international flight company couldn't promise me if my second flight can take my check in luggage until I already in airport and ready to check in my luggage! so, I must carry on my luggage, even it was too heavy for me.

2. At about 20 years ago, I could easily fit my carry on 20 inches hard shell rolling luggage under my front seat even I was on aisle seat. Now, a lot of people said not anymore, only the middle seat can fit full size carry on luggage under seat.

3. My husband also noticed the above head luggage area is higher than before, it makes people like my high even harder to put luggage above seat area.

Sooooo, it is all airlines faults, it makes shorter people like me harder to carry on my luggage. If these CEO make less salary or bonus, flights can keep our old bigger and comfortable seats,more chance to put our full size carry on luggage under Seat!

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Kitty February 14, 2017 at 8:51 am

I am 5'2", and having the same problem to put my luggage into above head luggage bin after certain age. I understand why this lady is not very happy.

It is all airlines faults, because they keep shrinking our seat! it makes shorter people like me harder to carry on my luggage. If these CEO make less salary or bonus, flights can keep our bigger and comfortable seats which we had before, more chance to put our full size carry on luggage under Seat!

1. Sometime, if y have connection flight, there is no way to wast time at waiting for getting check-in luggage. Or, there is only one connection flight in the same day after airline company start shrinking the flight number, and trying to make all the flights have full occupancy. I even had experience my international flight company couldn't promise me if my second flight (after I arrived US)can take my check in luggage until I already in airport and ready to check in my luggage! so, I must carry on my luggage, even it was too heavy for me.

2. At about 20 years ago, I easily put my 20" carry on luggage under my front seat when I was on aisle seat. Now, a lot of people said not anymore (I re not check this) only the middle seat has chance to fit full size carry on luggage under seat, and if nothing under it.

3. My husband also noticed the above head luggage area is higher than before, it makes people like my high even harder to put luggage above seat area.

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Conway April 19, 2015 at 12:26 pm

In the United States most airlines have rules that if a FA gets injured on the ground putting up luggage during boarding it is NOT consider an on the job injury and is NOT covered by workers comp.

To answer your original question. YES you were asking too much. It is YOUR bag and your YOUR responsibility. YOU should have gotten to the airport in time to check your bag. If something happened that put you under a "time crunch" it is not the FA's fault/responsibility.

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gdsmithtx May 14, 2015 at 7:35 pm

That's not how that works. Businesses — airlines included — don't get to make the rules on what is and is not a job related injury.

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Travis October 11, 2015 at 8:11 am

As someone who works with workers comp, that's total bull. If a injury happens while working regardless how it happens. Workers comp will cover it. Example. If there is a safety rule for not doing something. An employee knows this and breaks the rule and is still injured. The injury will still be covered. Workers Comp laws are not on the side of the employer ever!

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Don January 18, 2017 at 7:30 pm

You have to be working to collect workers comp. FA's are not paid to board planes.

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Tom April 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

nobody 40+ posts here, if you can't lift it up 2 feet then I don't understand how you could of carried it around the airport… And also it's all your responsibility not anybody elses.

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James April 20, 2015 at 8:13 am

Over 50 years old. And I remember when checked bags were free on all airlines, and I've helped countless people with their carry-on — even if only to prevent them from unwittingly crushing my own.

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xxRonxx April 29, 2015 at 9:00 am

Agreed, it wouldn't prevent me from offering to help, but if I were in the OP's position, I wouldn't expect it of the FA-it's not his or her responsibility, and yes, they do often have job-related injuries from these kind of things. The other passenger's response wrt his wife was callous at best…no need to be a s**t about it or make fun of someone.

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Jodi April 24, 2015 at 12:17 pm

I'm sorry but if you're not over 40 how do you not know that most luggage is wheeled and pulled nowadays? P.S. I'm over 40.

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Disne December 25, 2015 at 9:40 pm

So am I and I just helped another older passenger lift her carry on up because I'm not an asshole like everyone else in this thread. Is there kindness anywhere in the world? Gross.

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Stephen January 6, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Ridiculous. The woman probably didn't ask very nicely. I've been a flight attendant for 20 years and believe me I am suffering very badly from damage I've done to myself lifting bags. Hundreds of times a week, it is not fare on the FA. Another passenger-ok fine but you used the word asshole and then ask is there kindness in the world..no your gross and an asshole

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susanna December 22, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Oh please ! I am a well and way over forty female , fly over the world with my bag . hoist it up like a pro . so get over your ageist self tom . However If you can' t lift your bag regardless of age or other issue , check it. This is about strength. Personally , if I see someone struggling , male or female , young or old I will usually try to assist unless that person seems to appear entitled just because

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Disne December 25, 2015 at 9:43 pm

So do I. What the fuck is wrong with all of you? You can have a carry on bags just awkward and sometimes requires a little help. I've flown 300,000 miles in the last 18 months and it's always the assholes like you who try to prove some kind of bizarre point when you could just be a decent human being and lift a bag that takes 10 extra seconds out of your day.

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Auburn April 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Whats with you people? Nasty and rude doesn't begin to describe your attitudes. 90% of people getting on planes have at least 2 huge bags that don't comply with the size restrictions the airlines don't enforce. They scurry around hogging the over head bins or getting there luggage checked free. Class real class. Sitting and doing jack squat, your mothers must be proud! The " stewardess" are doing a great job passing out water or soda. Since they can't help any passenger, what is their purpose. I would also suggest to the lady that asked for help to sue the airline for injuries sustained trying to put her bag in the bin. Oh and Tom there are people over 40 that post , grow up!!

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Rich April 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I started out agreeing with you. Yes many of these comments are unnecessarily rude. If you don't want to offer to help that is your problem! For me, I help if I can. However referring to the flight attendant (FA) as a "stewardess" and suggesting this OP sue is equally as nasty. In today's world the one and only job the FA has is to insure the safety of the passengers. Service is a distant second. So the FA was well within there rights to refuse. That being said, it would not have hurt to help. The excuse given was beyond stupid. As stated earlier the FA has to be ready to assist in an emergency. This includes opening doors and emergency exits and assisting passengers, most of whom will weigh more than 40 lbs. If the FA has a medical issue that prevents him from lifting a carry-on then he should not be working the flight. He is still within his rights to refuse, but he needs to be far more polite in his refusal or just be a reasonable human being and help the lady.

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Matty July 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Well Said

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Mark July 27, 2016 at 8:40 pm

do you not understand that if a flight attendant lifts a back and is injured there is not compensation…why take the risk. Please understand that you cannot take kindness and courtesy to the doctor or to the bank when you are out of work…too many Flight attendants get injured on the job. The company is not interested nor is the passenger. Lift you own bag…END

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jackie April 21, 2015 at 3:08 pm

This has nothing to do with being rude. A heavy bag can injure someone. I do assist people with their bags but people really need to check their entitlement.

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Beth May 9, 2015 at 11:01 am

The flight attendants are there in case of an emergency. When the plane crashes that’s why we have them. Passing out water and tellin people they can’t use the first class potties is only if they have time.

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Jenna May 23, 2016 at 8:34 am

FYI, the flight attendant's primary job is to keep the passengers safe in an emergency. We're trained to evacuate an aircraft in under 90 seconds, deal with a wide array of medical emergencies, and even physically combat would-be terrorists—all things that are tough to do with a torn rotator cuff from lifting some
body's penny collection that they've packed in their carry on.

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Curious April 19, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Although I do agree that a person's bag is their own responsibility, the posts I'm seeing here are ridiculously insensitive. If I had seen someone struggling with a bag on a flight, I would have done my best to help them. Why? Because I'm a human being, that's why. If things have gotten so bad that a little empathy is going to strain your brain then we are definitely devolving as a species.

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Beth May 9, 2015 at 11:02 am

She could have gate checked it if she couldn’t lift it up. If she couldn’t lift it who is to say anyone else could?

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Disne December 25, 2015 at 9:44 pm

And finally, sanity enters the thread.

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CMR April 20, 2015 at 12:38 am

I don't understand why it's such big deal to help someone out. Especially if they are older. I wouldn't expect a grandmother (that's not directed towards the OP, just a general scenario) to be able to lift 25-30 pound bags over her head. You can tell people to pack less and lighter, but in reality that's not going to deter them from packing what they need for their trip.

I can understand a flight attendant or someone with back problems not willing to assist, but just keep asking other people. Most people if able will be happy to help out.

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Reader April 20, 2015 at 8:30 am

I agree that it's not the flight attendant's job to lift heavy bags into the overhead compartment (although the FA's response here sounds a bit rude). As for the man who watched you — he's definitely no gentleman. I'm a 50+ female and I've helped people lift bags into the overhead compartments before. It sounds like this was a "let's see if I can deal with only a carry-on bag" experiment that didn't work.

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Sarah April 21, 2015 at 9:14 am

You're right, Reader. I will check my bags from now on. Charges are not an issue as First Class allows free checked bags. The issue was that I was traveling alone to visit my son who was shipping overseas to Iraq. I had a limited amount of time to see him before he left and thought I would try to "carry on" and meet my car to take me to Newport Beach quickly.. The first 3 legs of my trip I encountered wonderful gentlemen who gladly helped me. I was just taken aback at the last leg.

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Zombie April 21, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Four legs for a domestic trip? That alone should qualify as a flight from hell.

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Sarah April 21, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Not domestic — international FYI.

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Zombie April 22, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Please pardon a logistical question — Your initial post only referenced a flight from Denver to Omaha — a domestic flight. In the comment to which I replied, you said your son "was shipping overseas" and you were meeting a car to take you to Newport Beach quickly. While it may appear California is another country, it is still part of the United States, so flying into an airport for Newport beach would also be domestic.

Omaha is an unusual routing to get from any international origin to Newport Beach, California. (For that matter, flying into Omaha from Denver would be an unusual routing to get to any international destination at all.)

If I may ask, what were the four legs of this journey, and how did Omaha end up being one of the stopovers?

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Sarah April 22, 2015 at 2:17 pm

I understand your confusion. Flew Montreal to LAX (layover in Washington D.C.). Three days later flew LAX to Omaha (layover in Denver). Omaha was not a stopover — it was my final destination. Carried on my bag all 3 legs without any problem — with the exception of Denver to Omaha. As previously stated, "a carry-on experiment" gone wrong.

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Zombie April 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Thank you.

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jackie April 21, 2015 at 3:05 pm

It's not the FA's job to handle your luggage. Pack accordingly. If you can't lift it, you shouldn't bring it.

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Sarah April 22, 2015 at 11:37 am

OK, I've read through all these post a few times and, with a few exceptions, you people just don't get it. Among other things, excellent customer service is usually what separates you from your competition. If that means a United FA is needed to help A CUSTOMER with their bag, so be it. I fly alot and my opinion of United went down a notch or two due to that FA refusing to help me with my bag. And I am really sick of airline employees complaining about their jobs. The Customer is KEY and if you can't take care of them, get another job. Yes, working for the airlines is frustrating but so is working at McDonalds, raising toddlers, working in Wall Street, driving a cab and fighting for our country oversees. Geez, lighten up people and try being a little kinder.

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Conway April 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm

How about you look at it from THEIR prospective. Most FA's who work domestic U.S. flights have several flights a day. If on each flight just two or three customers expect the FA to lift their heavy luggage they could easily be lifting 10 bags a day. If they are injured from lifting all these bags and then miss work from the injury the airline WILL NOT TAKE CARE OF THEM. You are literally asking them to risk injury and risk their job to provide good "customer service." Do you expect them help you brush your teeth? Maybe do your nails during the flight? From Sarah's logic both those things would be "good customer service" and as she said "taking care of the customer is KEY." Perhaps they can hand wash some of your clothes during the flight too? My point being that some requests, such as putting up heaving luggage, are NOT reasonable.

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Conway April 22, 2015 at 1:26 pm

As an aside, as a frequent traveler, I have assisted MANY people with their bags. Sometimes it isn't an issue of weight of the bag, but height of the person. It just isn't reasonable to EXPECT it from the flight attendant.

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Sarah April 22, 2015 at 2:23 pm

And FYI people, go to United website and search Flight Attendant Job Description. You will find the following in under the heading "What it takes to be a United Flight Attendant":

"Assist customers with carry-on items"
https://ual-pro.taleo.net/careersection/10080/job

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KAH July 27, 2016 at 5:45 pm

"Assist with carry-on items" means to help find space, adjust the items to make more space, or to check bags that do not fit or when there is no more space. Flight attendants are specifically Told not to lift bags into the overheads, but that does not excuse not being polite to passengers.

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RJ April 22, 2015 at 6:19 pm

I agree with Sarah. True one cannot expect a flight attendant to do all the heavy lifting however I do expect a flight attendant to help and not just help but do it courteously. Sarah is right that assisting with bags IS in the official job description of flight attendants. Now I don’t expect a flight attendant to lift something that will hurt them but this flight attendant could have and should have helped . He could have found someone strong enough to help out or figured something else out if even politely saying it needs to be checked plane side. Being snarky and walking away was completely wrong. Just a step further if he has such a bad back should he be in charge of people’s safety…in an emergency if I need assistance getting out of a plane do I want someone saying no can do I have a bad back?

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Conway April 22, 2015 at 6:32 pm

FYI Sarah… "Assist customers with carry-on items" does NOT mean lift heavy bags into the overhead bin. As many people have said over and over again, YOU are responsible for YOUR bag and it is unreasonable for you to expect a flight attendant to lift your heavy bag for you. The same job description also says "Ensure the safety and comfort of our customers" which is why a FA might serve you a meal but it is UNREASONALBE for you demand for them to cut it into little pieces for you because you aren't capable of chewing food.

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Sarah April 23, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Conway, you've obviously taken the level of customer service to the absurd and ridiculous which tells me you have absolutely no business savvy whatsoever. Brushing my teeth, doing my nails and hand washing my clothes are NOT in the United FA's job description. However, a mani/pedi would be nice . . . hmmmmm.

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Conway April 23, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Oh Sarah…. It appears you don't appreciate the current state of the airline business. The airlines make A LOT of money by charging to check bags. They KNOW the people are not going to switch airlines based on if the FA's help people with heavy bags or not. People buy almost exclusively on PRICE, followed by schedule. SO the airlines told FA's NOT to lift heavy bags and if they did and got injured the airlines would NOT cover their medical costs. THAT is the state of the airline business right now. You can complain and moan all you want about not getting a level of customer service that you expect…but that doesn't change how the current airline business model works.

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Sarah April 22, 2015 at 6:39 pm

Thanks RJ — and Conway, if you'll read my original post I asked the FA to "help" with my bag i.e.. "assist".

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Anonymouse April 24, 2015 at 12:20 pm

OP – that man who told you if his wife packs it she carries it would be divorced if I was married to him. And had I been there I would have helped you and I'm only a 5'2" woman. I think it is awful how everyone is all about themselves anymore. Our society has really gone down hill. Helping an elderly lady is a sign of a good person, sitting there watching her struggle is a sign you're an ass. Remember that next time people.

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Black Ryan Bingham April 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm

It’s funny – I was on a POS Indian domestic airline today and watched FA who were all young, tiny women due to the airlines policy of only hiring petite women to save fuel costs (no lie!) attempt help everyone and anyone store their bags. I helped at last 3 people load and unload their bags. Some where women holding baby’s and others couldn’t reach.

This workers compensation thing has gone way too far but do get the fact that if they hurt the airline will stick two fingers up at them. That’s the part I think isn’t right.

Maybe airlines should in the same way have those things that you can test to see if the bags are the right size for lockers ask passengers to lift any suspiciously heavy hand bags while at check-in counters? If you can’t lift it gets checked. They make more money, save money on compensation and make it clear to passengers from get go.

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Creeping Jennie May 1, 2015 at 9:59 am

I'm over 40, but look at least 10 years younger. I also have a problem with my back, and I am short in stature, so lifting a heavy bag above my head is not a possibility for me. I do not expect anyone to do things for me. My carry on bag fits nicely under the seat in front of me. Problem solved.

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guest May 14, 2015 at 2:49 am

Sarah, I'm sorry but other people have a problem here. FAs are supposed to serve their clients. If there is an issue, there is a polite way to solve the problem. Other commenters here are rude. I'm over 50 and I frequently assist other pax with their overheads and don't complain. I'm not an FA but travel frequently in Asia where other FAs are more than happy to assist. BTW, Asians are of much smaller build than your North American counterparts.

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Abhilash Vithlani June 1, 2015 at 2:18 am

Most of the comments posted over here are downright rude. There is a reason I avoid flying by any European or American airline. They serve you as they're doing you a favour. And yes the FA could have been nicer to you. Never faced such a problem with Singapore Air, Cathay, Malaysia air or Jet Air. Polite, eager to please, good seats and good food.

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lnelson1218 June 2, 2015 at 3:23 pm

What is also forgotten is that due to no many no longer checking in luggage, they are really pushing the limits when not right going over them of what they can bring on the plane as carry on.
I have seen plenty of passengers with "carry on" that clearly aren't and not really fitting in, so the FA really shouldn't be responsible. I would like to see enforcing the rules more. Too large or too heavy. Into cargo it goes.

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Banford July 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Sounds to me like a bunch of whining….air travel can be difficult with a lot of unpredictable factors. You got on the plane with your family when others did not, then weather and stanby baggage issues

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Geenag August 18, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Your bag, your responsibility. I'm a 63 yo woman and can handle all my own luggage just fine because I make a point of going to the gym and lifting weights. You pack it you handle it, the attendant was right. His job does not require him to lift bags overhead all day long.

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Baba August 30, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I am a F/A for a major airline. If we are injured lifting a passengers bag into an overhead bin, we go on Workers Comp and then Short Term Disability at only 60% of our regular salary. Besides not wanting to be injured, most of us can not afford a 60% reduction in salary. How many of our passengers could afford this? I had a pregnant woman on flight the other day (Who had no evidence of pregnancy.) Told her could assist her with stowing bag but could not lift it all by myself. She then proceeded to tell me I had to put her bag away and she had been told by my airline this is what Flight Attendants must do. Lady, why not just check your bag? My look of annoyance was based on a fear of getting hurt and how would I pay my
bills? Flight Attendants truly want to ensure our passengers have a good experience but not at a risk to being injured. Help us out… "If the bag is too heavy and you can not lift it please check it."

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RedHead0186 August 31, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I think there is a difference between assisting someone with a bag and doing it yourself, as you pointed out. Personally, I might ask a FA for assistance with my bag (simply because I'm short and can't always get the right angle to get the bag up there, especially on larger planes), but I'd never expect him/her to do it for me.

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Traveler1 December 31, 2015 at 11:22 am

I've asked FA's to help me lift my luggage many times and only 1 has ever acted hesitant (but not rude). I'm a relatively healthy woman in my 30s with no physical disabilities, I 'm just short and have a hard time carrying heavy luggage up. I've always asked nicely and FA's here in Australia have just assisted without getting pissed off, and I've always thanked them for it. Other passengers are almost always willing to assist when asked or even when they see me struggling. Human civility is amazing once you eliminate that bullshit stuck up Americanized litigation-obsessed "it's not my job" mentality.

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prieurs February 22, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Flight Attendants are legally not allowed to lift your bag for you. It's a safety issue, if they get injured while helping you lift your bag, they could claim worker's comp, therefore, the airline tells them not to life your bag for you. Once it is in the overhead bin they can help you make it fit, but they cannot physically help you get it up into the bin.

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