Traveling light benefits everyone

Liang Hongfu

2008-01-02 00:18:13  China Daily      

On a flight from Beijing to Shanghai, I helped a petite fellow passenger to lift her carry-on bag onto the overhead compartment. It was the heaviest thing I have lifted since I pumped iron in my first and only bodybuilding session many years ago at a neighborhood gym.

She obviously was not alone in overstuffing her carry-on luggage. I could see stout-looking men, their faces red with exertion, trying to squeeze enormous suitcases into the space that was originally designed for coats, hats and duffel bags.

But, of course, traveling light is a matter of personal choice, seemingly favored only by snobbish reporters whose basic essentials are a few pieces of clothing, a laptop computer for work and a paperback book for killing time in the airport lounge. The rest of the traveling public tends to haul their entire earthly belongings in wheeled luggage on to the plane on every trip.

Indeed, I've never been on a domestic flight whose overhead compartments were not overflowing with suitcases and bags of many different sizes and shapes. They are a menace on wheels to fellow passengers as they are being hauled through the narrow aisles and heaved up and down the overhead bins.

Ask any frequent flyer if he has ever had his foot run over by a suitcase on wheels, or face whacked by an overstuffed backpack when the backpacker in the next row makes an abrupt turn in the tight confines of the cabin, and the most likely answer will be yes. I have suffered such mishaps more than once, and I don't even fly that frequently.

It would be presumptuous to ask the lady I helped if she really needed all the items she packed into the case for a two-day business trip. But I was wondering why she, and the many other passengers on that flight, didn't do themselves and others a favor by checking in their heavy luggage.

Yes, I know. Waiting to collect check-in luggage at the airport can be a chore. But it is really not such a hassle considering that the process usually takes less than half an hour for most domestic flights. This is nothing compared to the long wait for taxis at Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai.

Nobody says traveling on the mainland is easy. Domestic airlines are struggling hard to keep up with the explosive growth in passenger numbers. The short supply of pilots, and myriad other factors, are not making their job any easier.

As passengers, we can help minimize the pain of flying by being more considerate of each other. Lightening your carry-on luggage is a good start. Unless your destination is some hermit village deep in the northwest, you can buy almost anything you may need locally. There is really no need to carry a bagful of toiletries and underwear with you on the flight.

For carry-on luggage, a shoulder bag should do just fine. It doesn't make any sense to bring anything that is too heavy to carry to the plane.

The enforcement of the rules limiting the number and bulk of carry-on luggage for each passenger may be too lax at many domestic airports. It is quite common to see a passenger boarding a plane with three or more items of luggage.

A Hong Kong friend confided to me once that she routinely carried more luggage on domestic flights than on international flights where the rules are applied more vigorously. You know what she meant when you see backpackers bumbling through the aisle with backpacks bigger than themselves.

If you must carry loads of luggage on your next flight, check them in. All you'll need on board the plane for a two-hour flight is your favorite magazine.