The One Airline Passenger I Would Never Want To Be, Everyone Would Be Looking At Me

United Airlines flight 5505 from Aspen to Denver was delayed two hours on Wednesday because a passenger broke the latch on an overhead bin. Everyone on board – or almost everybody – was certainly connecting and most likely missed their connections.

It was a simple fix, but the United Express CRJ-700 flight operated by SkyWest needed a mechanic and didn’t have anyone on the ground in Aspen to do it. The wait was primarily for a maintenance worker to respond and drive to the airport for the quick work and associated paperwork.

Things happen. We don’t know if the passenger forced the bin improperly, or the latch was on the verge of breaking to begin with. But everyone was sitting on board looking at the person who’d done it.

Fortunately tensions didn’t escalate too far. But as people watched the clock tick and their chances of connecting slipping away, people were “blaming the passenger who broke the overhead bin closure.” He’s sitting there, in his seat, squirming knowing that he bears some responsibility for what’s happening not only to his own travel day but that of everyone else on board.

Another passenger even describes him in a photo on social media as “culprit.” It’s like forever being branded with a scarlet C. Or a United blue C.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m honestly surprised that this does not happen more often…in my experience, the industry-wide solution by the FAs for any issue relating to bin closure is to wind up and slam it HARDER!!! And their guidance to passengers having issues with closing bins is “You gotta SLAM it!!!” 99% of the time it does in fact work, but I always hold my breath and anticipate a shower of plastic bin parts going everywhere.

  2. Hilarious. At least he’s better dressed than most airline social media sensations: his baseball cap is not backwards, and his open-necked shirt without a tie is at least a button front shirt with a collar. And no visible neck tattoos Someone other than I will figure out how to monetize this bland passenger surrounded by uptight Aspen passengers anxious to connect to g0d-knows-where.

  3. Very similar thing happened to me on a Spirit flight–FA insisted that I push my personal item further under the seat in front of me, but it wouldn’t go. She said it has to go further. I’m pushing. Still won’t budge. I look at her again to confirm that she still isn’t satisfied–she isn’t. I finally really give it a push, and there’s an audible pop. She *then* states “don’t push too hard, or you’ll pop the inflatable seat belt underneath the seat.” Of course, I had popped the inflatable seat belt underneath the seat. The ordering of the instructions was off, in my opinion.

    Had to have a mechanic come on, replace the part, and fill out the required paperwork, but luckily Spirit had a mechanic on site at the airport (PIT) and it was only about 20-25 minutes of delay—and the flight was just about to push back about 20 minutes early before the snafu, so it ended up basically taking off on time.

    Also, since all this happened under a seat, rather than in the aisle in full view of the entire plane, only the people directly around me even knew why we were delayed, and they all heard the entire interaction, so most of the audible complaints were about the FA, rather than me. Can’t imagine what it would have been like as the delay stretched on and on for hours, and also realizing that almost everybody was connecting (my flight was PIT-LAS, and Spirit—certainly some were connecting, but most were probably stopping in Vegas).

  4. Wow! People are brutal! It was probably already broken or worn out to the point of the next unlucky person using it would be blamed.

  5. It’s unlikely that the “culprit’s” very first airplane flight was this flight between Aspen and Denver so it’s likely that he knows how to operate a bin and that he was just the unlucky person who was operating it when the already malfunctioning bin finally broke, rather than the possibility that a properly functioning bin broke because he somehow operated it in an improper manner.

    Given this woman’t less than kind interaction with United Twitter staff trying to help her, it could well be that she is treating “culprit” with the same unkindness and being unfair to him.

  6. Yeouch. Poor guy. It’s hard to break one of those bins, so I have to assume that he was the unlucky one to find the malfunction.

    I would be trying to fit *myself* under the seat in front of me at that point.

  7. I’m honestly surprised SkyWest doesn’t have an on-site mechanic at ASE considering they’re the only ones that fly there and for everyone. Seems like an obvious place to staff one during the day.

  8. Anybody that has traveled much has seen overhead bins taped closed. I assumed that was because of broken latches. So they would rather delay a flight, then use a piece of duct tape? If a bin latch breaks during turbulence mid-flight do they declare a mayday and divert?

  9. Lol. This is why I carry a travel size roll of duct tape in my “save a trip” bag, along with zip ties.

    Problem solved

  10. Come on Gary why post the pic you know better it’s more likely not his fault. You say you wouldn’t want to be him and then worsen it by putting the photo on the Boardingarea home page.

  11. Scat happens. I find it hard to blame him. Flight attendants should be closing the bins, not passengers, but since they are safety officers and not being paid until the cabin door is shut, things sometimes happen with poorly maintained equipment. The culprit arrow is not pointed at the right people. As far as missing connections, airlines build little fall back in their schedules so that probably happened.

  12. So, basically, the interiors of aircraft have been falling apart (noted by Gary’s weekly pics of passengers’ damaged seats, etc, etc) and it’s “this guy’s fault.?” Nope, United is to blame. And posting his pic is tasteless even if it’s from the back. Come on, Gary. Take it down.

  13. @Frank S United is not to blame, the regional carrier is. I guess that since United is painted on the aircraft’s tail one can trace it back to them, but everything about those planes is handled by the regional.

    @JorgeGeorge Paez I don’t know what city you live in, but most people do not have the luxury and / or option to space out connections. When airlines schedule a 30 minute connection as a legal connection (I’m talking to you, AA) you don’t have much choice. It’s made more challenging if you are traveling from small out-station to small out-station where flights are limited. You also have to keep in mind that the majority of people sitting on that plane are not super-users like we are. They don’t know about the things we have learned through year and years of IRROPS.

  14. People who don’t fly frequently don’t realize that you should, typically, take the recommended airline connection time and double it. When possible.

    In some cases if you’re flying somewhere harder to get to you might not have the choice to avoid a tight connection.

    But if you can, double it. I usually find that’s about the right amount of time you need to not have a stressful transfer.

    (And if you can, fly direct and avoid the entire thing).

  15. But Gary, you were great in that Stephen Colbert video.
    Great comedy chops!
    I bet people are already looking at you!

  16. Mak wrote:
    > It’s unlikely that the “culprit’s” very first airplane flight was this flight between Aspen and Denver so it’s likely that he knows how to operate a bin and that he was just the unlucky person who was operating it when the already malfunctioning bin finally broke

    Quite right.

    Also there is the lack of regulatoins requiring that bin to be latched if there’s no baggage in it.
    14 CFR 121.589(b) and (d). See e.g.

    Those rules apply to the stowage of baggage, not to the bin itself. No baggage, no rule.

    If that isn’t enough, FAA Air Carrier Operations bulletin 1-94-10 says “Baggage is neither properly stowed nor restrained unless the overhead bin door is closed and latched.”

    Those rules apply to the stowage of baggage and requires the bin door to be closed and latched IF AND WHEN there is baggage there. No baggage, no rule.

    Finally the blaming and shaming of the victim. The poor guy had a bin break on him just as he was done putting his baggage up in the precious precious precious insufficient overhead bin space.

    He’s no “culprit” or anything other than a victim of poor airline maintenance and poor FA instructions on slamming things. The LAST thing he deserves is the notoriety and disrespect, and Gary, I would have expected you to stand up for that guy.

    Commercial Helicopter Pilot
    We don’t have overhead bins

  17. I have been working as a Certified Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic for 34 years now. (God, I’m old). A plane can not fly with an open discrepancy. Period, sentence, paragraph. You have to have a certified mechanic to either repair it or defer it. Some airlines have pilot deferrable items, but the list is small and limited to items that don’t require any more maintenance activity than pulling a circuit breaker. To defer a bin, I’m guessing it requires it to be secured close so it probably would not qualify. Why United doesn’t have a mechanic or a vendor or even a contractor on call is the pertinent question

  18. Unfortunately that is one of the many things that is not MELable by the flight crew. Usually those types of MELs include maintenance procedures that unfortunately have to be completed by a licensed aircraft mechanic. Even if the step is as simple as “secure the bin closed”. It then would have to be written in the log book which is also only for people with authorization or an A and P license.

    Just remember, could always take the bus.

  19. You know that plane hits several flights a day. For sure the guy was just the unlucky guy that gave the bin it’s last push.

  20. Ummm… I thought passengers just left bins open & the flight attendants closed them? I never close them, typically in case they want to jam in someone else’s bag.

    This is yet another reason not to close the overhead bin. About 70% of the peripheral plasticy items on planes look like they are ready to snap in 2 and I’m not going to be blamed for breaking something.

  21. Those planes for the most part are old and go back and forth many times a day and the overheadbins get used and abused. ALso try to go Den-ASe-Den in sept for less than $1400 for a 22 minute flight.. UNITED is making a killing on this route monopoly!!!

  22. I despise overhead bins and rarely use them. I would favor removing them all, have people check their oversize bags crammed into overhead bins and convert the bins into self-serve minibars (with a 2 drink limit)

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