What would you do? Flight attendant yells at passenger over carry-on

Today has been a super fun traveling day. Weather delays in Chicago meant we sat on the plane for two and a half hours before 5-12-14 small bagtaking off. Yay. But before the glory of that flight, I witnessed an interesting scenario that I want to get your take on.

The flight to Chicago was overbooked (shocker). I felt very lucky that I got upgraded to first class for the first time in like six months. Not only was the seat comfy and I got plenty of wine, but I had a front row seat to some pre-flight entertainment. Towards the end of boarding, the flight attendants announced that overhead bin space was almost full and that they would have to start checking bags. No big surprise, really. A few minutes later they announced they needed one more person to volunteer to take a later flight. Still pretty standard.

As the last few bags were being gate checked, a man in first class a few seats away from me stood up and put a small bag into the overhead bin. When I say small, I mean smaller than my purse small. It wedged into a tiny spot in the bin. As the man started to sit down, the flight attendant said loudly from the front of the aircraft, “Sir! You need to put that bag under the seat in front of you! That space is saved for larger carryons!” He said, “I already put a bag under the seat. This is my second bag.” She rolled her eyes and said, “Come on. You know how it works! The bag needs to go under the seat. We still have carryons coming on.” He said, “I’m not putting it under the seat,” and sat down.

For the next ten minutes, indeed until the plane was in the air, you could hear the flight attendant complaining about the man. “I just told him to put his bag under the seat and he didn’t listen! He completely ignored me. I can’t believe it!” Etc. Here’s the deal. It’s true, she did say that. But the guy had a point—if you are allowed to put one bag in the overhead compartment and one under your feet, you still get to do that even if both bags are small. And seriously, nothing would have fit in that space except for a small personal item. Definitely not a roller bag!

Readers, what would you have done? Would you have taken your bag out even though it was unreasonable? Or would you have done what the guy did and ignored her? Honestly, I probably would have taken it down, but I’m a people pleaser…

Have a travel question or suggestion? Send it to RoadWarriorette @ gmail.com.

Follow Road Warriorette on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest!

This post may include affiliate links. Thanks for your support!


  1. I had similar situations on my flights. Often, it was not problem to put the second bag in the Overhead bins as I explaines the FB the Situation. Only a few times I acted like the guy on your flight. The FB was not very amused but at the end the purser recognized my point.

  2. The flight attendant’s attitude drives me crazy. It’s not like a suitcase would have fit in the same space. Everyone is entitled to put a bag up there. I’ve had this happen to me before and I’ve stood my ground, too. I paid for my seat and am entitled to put a bag up there just like everyone else. It just happens that it isn’t a giant, overstuffed suitcase.

  3. With respect to the FA who must have been having a rough day, and it sucks to be delayed since they dont get paid for waiting….And happy FA didn’t freak out with “disobeying crew instructions” garbage for stuff like this.

    Surprising in F to hear any of this. F bins are reserved for F passengers, and it seems that by that time all bags were already stored. He did the right thing by waiting until the end before putting up a small bag no different than people with sweaters and coats.

    I would have likely spoken to the FA or listened until after takeoff then putting it up there.

  4. This is actually a huge deal to me. I almost always always check my large bags so I only carry on a small backpack. I don’t want it on the floor under my feet as I’m tall with long legs and size 15, yes 15 shoes so I almost always put it in the overhead bin. I have never been asked to take it out but I usually get priority boarding and put it up there first before the big rollers and I use the small side on MD-80s, etc. To me the guy is right. Why should he be punished because someone else wouldn’t check a roller bag.
    I am very very surprised she didn’t push the issue. I’d guess because she was wrong.

  5. Like DaninSTL above, I’m a tall guy and the space in front of my seat is for my feet. I check my big bag and put my laptop knapsack above. I was challenged by an FA on it and politely but firmly refused. I’m with the passenger on this.

  6. After 09/11 FA feel they are entitled to do whatever they want and have more authority than a police officer. The problem is that they can ruin your life. If a FA for some reason decides you are a threat to the flight she can call security and get you out of the plane and you may get into the “no fly list” and you are done. Thus, many times I wish I could say what I wanted but it is better to just be quiet, unfortunately that is the reality today.

  7. I agree with the man who did not put the second bag under his seat. But I would have probably complied anyway, as there are more than a few vigilante flight attendants who believe they are keeping the world safe from terrorism. And if I ran into one of them, I could face arrest or worse for refusing a direct order in this case. This particular flight attendant was obviously in a bad mood and not listening, so she could have easily blown her top. I have not yet had any bad experiences, but have seen flight attendants get pretty nasty with some passengers over trivial matters.

  8. I’m curious about what happens when you do challenge a FA these days.

    I had a situation a few years ago where I was seated in the row behind the exit row. A mother with an infant was seated directly in front of me, in violation of the rules for exit rows. The FA ordered me to switch seats with her. I refused (I needed to have my carry-on bag with me, not stowed above). The FA yelled at me and told me I had to do it, though of course when he finally asked for volunteers to switch seats someone else went for it immediately.

    Challenging the FA was intimidating, and I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had another good option (and I’m pretty sure you have to attest that you are willing to take the responsibility of the exit row seat in any case).

  9. I am with the passenger, but as a minority female I am unsure exactly what I would do.

    Despite what people like to think, the world is not free from stereotypes. I do not believe that I would win or be believed in the long run, even if I did not escalate the situation.

    While I would likely make myself sick by complying without saying anything, it would not be worth ruining my livelihood “being right” with a vigilante FA.

    I am pretty sure the person who stood his ground was not a minority.

  10. She needs to be fired period. I’m sick of these idiot flight attendants, they are worse than bouncers at a night club. Give a not very professional person a little control and they run a muck with it. Imagine if an Air Singapore flight attendant did that in their first class? She’d likely be left in LA and told to find a way home.

  11. I agree with the passenger – especially since it was in First Class as well. And for her to speak and complain loudly enough for him to hear is tacky. He was right in this situation.

    On Facebook, I recently came across a page called “Rants of a Sassy Stew.” I joined the page because it appeared to post hilarious pics of passengers doing obnoxious things. It does do that, but sadly a lot of the FAs that post on there really have simply terrible attitudes towards customers. As a frequent flier I know how awful people are, but some of the posters on there sound like this particular FA.

  12. Wow, I can’t believe that you guys in the states put up with that shit. It would be a complaint to the airline with consequences for the FA if they did that here (new Zealand). Complaining about the passenger afterwards like that – totally unprofessional behaviour!

  13. I once had an argument with an FA about a magazine! I was in the exit row and the door was leaking a little (very) cold air, making me very uncomfortable. So I had taken the airline magazine and jammed it between me and the door. I’ve jammed worse in that space before and since and never had a problem. But as we are preparing to land, this woman decided it would impede an evacuation and that I must remove it. Which I did. And then put it back after she had left, assuming she wouldn’t come back. But she did. And she was extremely condescending in her attitude and then said to me “do I have to get the Captain involved?” At which point the guy in the middle intervened and offered to swap seats with me for the landing, which ended the whole thing. But he and his partner were adamant that I should make a formal complaint to the airline. I was so angry I did not fly them (Virgin Blue) for two years! But I chose not to do complain to the airline because that kind of thing can backfire on you where airlines are concerned.

    Looking back at it, it was an odd experience, completely incongruous with every other interaction I’ve had with Virgin staff since then. They are generally a cheerful happy bunch.

  14. I would have listened to the FA. The Captain on every flight is PIC-Pilot in Command-legally, PAX have to do has he says. He delegates that power to the FAs. PAX are supposed to do what they tell you. iMO stowing luggage is included in this. End of discussion.

  15. The flight attendant was completely unprofessional. In ANY other business that would not be acceptable behaviour.

  16. This is aviation. The rules are different. You do what the flight crew tell you. As I said, the captain can delegate authority as PIC to the crew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.