The Unexpected Reason Flight Attendants Will Never Help You Stow Your Luggage

You board your plane, carry-on luggage in tow, and realize the bag is too big to fit under the seat in front of you. You find an empty overhead compartment and ask a member of the cabin crew for a hand stowing your luggage. To your surprise, they refuse to help, and you chalk the interaction up to low flight attendant morale (and start mentally outlining a complaint letter to send to the airline later).

This scenario is common, though it's not a sign of poor customer service or burned-out attendants, as you may assume. Rather, stowing luggage isn't part of the flight attendants' job duties. "Expecting your flight attendants to lift your luggage and put it in the overhead bin is one of the biggest misconceptions of the role of flight attendants," Jay Robert, a flight attendant and founder of A Fly Guy Travels, told HuffPost. "Not only is lifting passenger luggage not our responsibility, but we are also instructed by the airlines not to do it, and if we are injured as a result of lifting luggage, we will not be protected by the company's medical leave and injury pay protection."

This is especially true when flying with an airline that doesn't start paying cabin crew until after boarding is completed. In these cases, flight attendants are working off the clock when helping passengers stow their luggage, meaning there's often no right to compensation or paid time off if they get hurt.

What to do if you can't stow your own luggage

So, what should you do if you can't place your own items into the overhead compartments? First, if you can reach over your head but struggle to fit your suitcase in the bins, make sure you're placing the bag in the space properly. In many planes, the wheels go first, leaving the handle facing out. If your bag still doesn't seem to fit, ask a flight attendant which direction the bag should face, though don't expect them to lift or adjust the luggage for you.

If you're too short to reach the overhead bins or your carry-on is too heavy to lift yourself, politely ask for help from a nearby passenger. Chances are, someone will be willing to give you a hand, especially if you're holding up the line in the aisle.

If you know that lifting is a challenge, consider sticking to a smaller bag that can fit under the seats or packing light enough that you're able to lift the item yourself. Alternatively, as an airline employee named Cierra Mistt suggested in a viral TikTok video, ask to check your carry-on bag at the gate. Most airlines will take the luggage off your hands for free and return it to you again once you land.