There’s a lot to love about the Airbus A350. In addition to its spaciousness, large windows, and modern electronics, it features massive next-generation overhead bins that easily accommodate everyone’s carry-on bags. Yet it is precisely these giant A350 overhead bins that have angered flight attendants and even led to a lawsuit seeking a court order alleviating flight attendants of the responsibility of closing them.
Flight Attendants Sue Over A350 Overhead Bins…And Lose
Older aircraft like the Airbus A330 or the Boeing 767 have overhead bins with a lid that goes up and down like an automobile trunk. These are very easy to open and shut, but the fixed space inside limits carry-on items and in some cases forces passengers to turn larger bags sideways, even for some bags within the permissible size limit. That results in greatly-reduced overall hand baggage capacity and thus may force passengers who board late to check bags.
The A350 (and also new modern Boeing jets) solved this problem by developing a new type of overhead bin. Airbus calls its new bins “XL bins” and boasts that each one can accommodate five full-size carry-on bags. These cantilevered bins are no doubt more efficient, but when the bags are placed in, the weight of all the carry-on items must be pushed up when the bin is closed.
While flight attendants are not required to lift bags, they are required to close overhead bins, which has presented quite a challenge on jets featuring these next-generation bins. I focus on the A350 because it has been the subject of a recent lawsuit in Spain.
Earlier this year, the union representing flight attendants at Iberia sued the airline in a Spanish court, asking for relief. The union sought a court order that required Iberia to either retrofit overhead bins to the “old” style ones or make it optional for flight attendants to have to close them.
The court instead ordered Iberia to limit the weight of customer carry-on items. While Iberia has a published weight limit (10 – 14 kg), the limit is not practically enforced. It is not clear how Iberia will abide by this court ruling.
You can read the 10 November 2022 Audiencia Nacional court decision here.
This court decision is over a month old, but I stumbled upon it when talking to a Lufthansa flight attendant yesterday who was complaining about the same issue. I had not considered it before, but these new overhead bins do indeed take some force to shut when full. While I think the better solution is to have two flight attendants close these bins together, I do understand the concern.
If you’re a flight attendant, have you struggled to close or even injured yourself with one of the new next-generation overhead lockers?