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飞机的行李架上总是没有空间,怎么办

Dan Ctachpole 2020年01月05日

飞机的设计考量中不包含让所有乘客都携带行李,但鼓励机制却让每个人都想这么做。

图源:GETTY IMAGES

把随身携带的行李放上飞机,是一个高强度的零和博弈性俄罗斯方块游戏。有时,这个游戏的风险甚至大得荒谬。例如:2018年3月,在一架从达拉斯飞往洛杉矶的美国西南航空公司(Southwest Airlines)的航班上,对头顶行李架的争夺引发了一场互殴,驾驶员只得命令所有乘客离开飞机。

信不信由你,这种情况只会愈加严重。

随身行李的问题在于,对旅客和运营商而言,现行的行李鼓励机制和航空旅行及飞机的发展从根本上就不相匹配。飞机的设计考量中不包含让所有乘客都携带行李,但鼓励机制却让每个人都想这么做。

人们曾经没有这样旅行的习惯。但随着航空公司开始在旅客头上安装大型行李架,并针对托运行李收取高昂价格,旅客已经在劝诱之下把物品放在了头顶上方。如今,在空前拥挤的航班上,越来越多旅客发现自己的箱包被拦在门外,只能被扔到飞机的行李舱内。

随身携带行李的热潮开始于21世纪初。当时,越来越多的航空公司开始征收托运行李费,并安装搁板式行李架。随后,波音公司(和供应商Heath Tecna)在2010年推出了铰链式行李架。在此之后,又有容量更大的行李架面世。

尽管新式行李架的容纳空间远超标准的搁板式行李架,但却仍然没有足够的空间保障每一位旅客安放行李。

而新式行李架虽然可能减少了航空公司收取的托运行李费,却让关键的消费者——商务旅客感到满意。

长期就职于商务航空领域的资深人士乔治·哈姆林表示:“商务旅客想要更大的行李架,他们不想托运行李。而几乎所有航空公司的衣食父母都是商务旅客。”

为全球各地的航空公司提供客舱内饰咨询的Tronos Aviation Consulting的高级管理人员加里·韦斯尔表示,更大的行李架也有助于乘客更快登机和下机,降低航班延迟。

他说:“美国的许多大型运营商都增加了铰链式行李架,因为他们会(遭遇)延误。”

不过购置新式行李架成本不菲。韦斯尔指出,升级或重新安装更大的铰链式行李架的价格高达每架飞机75万至100万美元。此外,铰链式行李架拥有活动部件,这意味着更高的维护和修理费用及更大的重量。重量更大意味着燃料消耗也更多。

尽管新式行李架的构思在某种程度上是为了缓解旅客随身携带的行李难以放置的状况,但它们产生的后果却恰恰相反。多年来,美国最大的航班空服人员联盟空乘人员协会(Association of Flight Attendants)一直向航空公司施加压力,减少旅客能随身携带的箱包大小和数量,以“降低在飞机上受伤或引发冲突的风险”,该联盟在官方网站上如是说。

更多旅客,更高费用

各航空公司在安装铰链式行李架的大约同时,也开始征收并提高托运行李的费用。美国的航空公司从21世纪初开始收取这一费用,以应对高昂的燃料成本,之后随着2008年经济萧条,它又再次出现。托运行李费鼓励乘客减少行李并将它们随身携带,这加剧了头顶行李架的拥挤程度。

当然,比起萧条之前,如今乘坐飞机的旅客数量更多,运营商每趟航班的客座率也比以前高得多。专门从事国际旅游业研究的旧金山公司Atmosphere Research Group的总裁亨利·哈特维尔德表示,更多的乘客,就意味着更多的随身行李。

然而,航空公司如今的单通道飞机日益增多,它们的头顶空间更加逼仄。直到几年前,一些国际航线上还几乎都采用双通道喷气客机,它们有着大量的空间存放随身行李。如今,航空公司可以通过波音(Boeing)737或空客(Airbus)A320带着乘客跨越太平洋,更低的运营成本对航空公司的盈利大有帮助,但是对寻求节约行李费的乘客来说就不是那么友好了。

与此同时,2008年起燃油价格也出现跳水。然而,行李费却只增不减,根据关注航空公司的投资分析师的数据,这项收费每年给行业带来了数十亿美元的收入。

尽管乘客讨厌行李费,不过哈姆林对《财富》杂志表示:“华尔街似乎喜欢行李费等逐步增长的收入。”他们的理由很充分,美国航空公司不必为额外收费支付联邦税,这与机票不同,后者涨价的话,税费也会增长。

行李位之争的未来

讽刺的是,前文中大打出手的旅客乘坐的是西南航空公司达拉斯至洛杉矶的8号航班。这是美国大型运营商中唯一不收取行李托运费的公司,它提供了两个包裹的免费托运额度。西南航空公司的发言人布莱恩·帕里什表示,对公司而言,更好的顾客体验比行李费更重要。

西南航空这种特立独行没有影响公司的利润,它仍然是美国盈利能力最强的运营商之一。自从20世纪70年代成立以来,西南航空是唯一避免了破产命运的美国大型航空公司。

无论怎样,行李架在未来似乎会走向数字化。在2019年德国汉堡举办的航空内饰展(Aviation Interiors Show)上,空客展示了一个外部拥有指示灯的行李架,红色代表已经装满,黄色代表接近装满,绿色代表空间充足。为波音和空客制造客舱内饰的Diehl Aviation也展示了一个可预订的行李架原型。这种行李架可以让乘客预约特定的头顶空间用于存放行李。至于存放是否收费,则取决于航空公司。

两款产品仍然在开发当中。韦斯尔表示,如果它们投入市场,航空公司是否存在需求还不得而知,因为它们无法帮助航空公司的核心用户——商务旅客和其他常旅客。

韦斯尔说:“对和我一样的旅客来说,我为什么要额外花钱去预定头顶空间呢?我的身份可以让我提早登机,那时还有很多空间可用。”

另外,分辨已经被预订的头顶空间,带来更多的可能是烦扰而不是帮助。

最后,新式行李架可能会带来更高的成本。韦斯尔说:“你加入了电子产品、灯光、电线,复杂的事物需要更多的维护费用。”

不过就像下降的航班一样,未来会很快到来。在那之前,旅客还是会被建议少带行李,并把随身行李放到行李架上,尤其是带轮子的。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

Stowing carry-on luggage on airplanes is high-stress, zero-sum Tetris, sometimes with stakes perceived to be so high that they border on the absurd. Case in point: A March 2018 overhead bin battle sparked a fistfight on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Los Angeles, prompting the pilot to order every passenger off the plane.

And believe it or not, it could get worse.

The problem with carry-ons, for travelers and carriers alike, is that there’s a fundamental mismatch between modern baggage incentives and how air travel and airplanes have evolved. Planes were not designed for everyone to carry-on their bags, but the incentives make everyone want to.

 

People didn’t used to travel this way. But with with the installation of big overhead bins and introduction of hefty fees for checking luggage, travelers have been coaxed to stow their stuff above. Now, on tighter-than-ever flights, an increasing amount of passengers are finding their bags getting gate-checked—and tossed into the fuselage's bowels, regardless.

The carry-on craze really started in the 2000s, when more and more airlines started charging for checked luggage, as well as installing first bigger shelf bins and then pivot or articulated bins, which Boeing (with supplier Heath Tecna) introduced in 2010. And even larger bins have been developed since then.

While the new bins are far roomier than standard shelf bins, there still is not enough space to guarantee stowage space for every passenger.

And the new hardware may have cut into airlineschecked luggage fees, but it keeps critical customers—business travelers—happy.

“Business travelers want and demand larger bins,” says George Hamlin, a longtime commercial aviation industry veteran. “They don’t want to check luggage, and your bread and butter for almost all airlines is the business traveler.”

Bigger bins also helped passengers get on and off airplanes quicker, reducing flight delays, says Gary Weissel, a managing officer at Tronos Aviation Consulting who consults with airlines around the world on cabin interiors.

“A lot of the major U.S. carriers added articulated overhead bins, because they were (experiencing) delays,” he says.

But buying new bins is costly. Upgrading or retrofitting an aircraft with larger pivot bins can cost $750,000 to $1 million per plane, Weissel says. Also, pivot bins have moving parts which means higher maintenance and repair costs and are heavier. More weight equals higher fuel consumption.

And though the new overhead bins were conceived in part to cut down carry-on aggravation for flight attendants, they've had the opposite effect. For years, the country's biggest cabin crew union, the Association of Flight Attendants, has pushed airlines to clamp down on the size and number of carry-on bags passengers can bring into the cabin, to "reduce risks of injury and conflict onboard the aircraft," the union says on its website.

More fliers, more fees

Around the same time airlines started installing articulated or pivot bins, they also instituted and increased checked luggage fees. Introduced by U.S. airlines in the 2000s to cope with high fuel costs, and then again with the 2008 recession, the new charges exacerbated the overhead baggage crunch by encouraging passengers to pack less and carry their belongings with them.

Of course, more people fly today than did before the recession, with carriers having become much better about filling as many seats as possible on each flight. And more passengers means more carry-ons, says Henry Harteveldt, president of the San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, which specializes in the global travel industry.

But airlines are also flying more single-aisle airplanes these days, which have less overhead space. Until a few years ago, some international routes were almost exclusively flown by twin-aisle jetliners, which have plenty of room for carry-on luggage. Now airlines can ferry passengers across the Atlantic in a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320, whose lower operating costs are great for airlines' bottom lines, but not for travelers looking to save on baggage fees.

Meanwhile, the cost of oil has since plummeted since 2008. Baggage fees, however, have only increased, generating billions of dollars each year for the industry, according to investment analysts who focus on airlines.

While fliers hate the fees, “Wall Street seems to love idea of incremental revenues such as luggage fees,” Hamlin tells Fortune. And with good reason: U.S. airlines don’t pay federal taxes on additional fees, unlike a fare increase, which is taxed.

The future of in-flight baggage fights

Ironically for the punch-drunk passengers of Southwest Airlines Flight 8 from Dallas to L.A., the only major U.S. carrier that doesn't charge luggage fees is Southwest, which lets its guests check two bags for free. For Southwest, a better customer experience beats bag fees, says Brian Parrish, a spokesman for the airline.

The airline's iconoclasm has not hurt its bottom line. It remains one of the most profitable U.S. carriers. Since its founding in the 1970s, Southwest is the only major U.S. airline that avoided bankruptcy.

And for better or worse, it appears that bins may go digital in the future. At 2019's Aviation Interiors Show in Hamburg, Germany, Airbus showed off a bin with color-coded lights on the exterior: red for full, yellow for almost full, and green if there's plenty of room. Diehl Aviation, which makes cabin interiors for Boeing and Airbus, also had its bookable-bin prototype on display. The stowage bin allows fliers to reserve a specific overhead space for their carry-on. Whether it is free or for a fee would be up to the airline.

Both products are still in development. If they do become available, Weissel says, it is not clear that airlines will want them, because they don’t help airline’s core customers—business travelers and other frequent fliers.

“For somebody like me, why would I spend extra money to reserve overhead space, when my status lets me board early and there is still lots of space available?” Weissel says.

Also, sorting out reserved overhead space could be more hassle than helpful.

Lastly, the new bins would add even more costs. “You’re adding electronics, lights, wires, and complexity that is going to require more maintenance,” Weissel says.

But like a descending flight, the future will arrive soon enough. Until then, travelers are advised to pack less stuff and stow their carry-on luggage, wheels-first.

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