Last month, in one of my (almost) weekly blogs of tips for safe, solo travel, I wrote:
“Assume that no one will help you with your luggage. Carry no more than you can handle and lift by yourself.”
I was reminded of that in a long day of flying from Nantucket to Reagan National, Washington, to DFW to Corpus Christi. Nantucket may be the second busiest airport in New England—all those private jets and Cape Air flights—but it is an old-fashioned, small-town airport. There are no jetways. Passengers walk out on the tarmac, usually have to gate check all but the smallest hand luggage and then climb outside stairs to board the plane. There is no one to assist. Everyone is coping with his own hand luggage.
The situation at Reagan was a more typical problem. We parked away from the terminal, and all 65 passengers were crammed with hand luggage onto a bus to the gate. We at least had the option of elevator or escalator to the concourse, but those of us who were transferring to American gates had to walk down stairs to board a shuttle and then climb up stairs to another terminal.
Those who requested handicapped assistance probably avoided the stairs and had assistance with their luggage, but I do not recommend it for those who don’t have to have it. Too often the wheelchair attendant is not there to meet the arriving plane or shuttle.
Flight attendants are not lying when they tell passengers that they are not allowed to assist with luggage. Airlines had too many disability claims from attendants lifting heavy bags. (I speak with some authority on airline policies. My son is a pilot for a major airline.)
True, I often encounter polite gentlemen who insist on helping me with my luggage, and I am grateful for the extra hand that gives just the lift necessary for me to get a roll-on in the overhead bin without a struggle. But I don’t ask. A male friend admitted that he resents women who take his assistance for granted. He has had a shoulder replacement, and he and his wife carefully pack to avoid heavy lifts. Rather than be rude, though, he risks re-injuring his shoulder to help women who ask. To be blunt, we are not entitled.
I continue to experiment with my carry-on luggage. I dare not overload a soft hand or shoulder bag when I have long walks; but heavy roll-on’s are problematic on stairs, even when boarding buses where there is a step-up. With each trip, I seem to decide that more can go in checked luggage. On this flight my carry-on held my MacBook Air, iPad, cables, manuscript, reading glasses, jewelry and prescription meds. My small purse had only my billfold, travel docs, lipstick, mirror, granola bar and iPhone. If I get stranded overnight without checked luggage, I won’t be pretty the next day; but my fellow passengers and I will survive. I can get toothbrush and toothpaste at any airport hotel; and since I travel alone, modesty is not an issue. If I had a meeting or some function the next morning where appearance was important, I would carry a roll-on with a change of clothes and makeup. Otherwise, I view lost or delayed luggage as an excuse to go shopping.
Photos: Top, Boston Logan commuter terminal, where planes park on the tarmac, requiring buses and stairs. Insert, my current favorite options for carry-on’s–stella and dot expandable, zippered canvas tote; Rimowa business trolley; and Prada nylon satchel. Both the tote and the satchel can count as purses if need be.