Because I was stuck in the middle seat and couldn't get out, I had time, after we landed at Auckland International Airport, to watch the other passengers get their bags out of the overhead lockers.

As usual, I was astonished at the amount of luggage some passengers had been allowed to bring on the plane.

The champion was a man who heaved out a suitcase that was bigger than my checked-in bag and then a second smaller case, filling an entire locker.

Then he moved on to the next locker and removed two more bags for his wife. What with four cases, a handbag and a plastic duty-free bag, this couple had pretty much filled two overhead lockers designed to meet the needs of 6-8 people.


It turned out I wasn't the only one watching this performance. As the last bag was hauled out, a smartly dressed male passenger standing nearby asked sarcastically, "Do you think you've got enough hand luggage there?"

"Eh?" said the luggage glutton. "What? What d'you mean? What's it matter to you?"

An educational discussion ensued: the sarky man observed that everyone else had experienced problems storing their bags because so much locker space had been taken up by one couple; the luggage glutton argued that he had to bring all his luggage in the cabin so he didn't have to wait ages for his bags; the sarky man wondered what made the luggage glutton so special that he couldn't wait like everyone else; and so on.

Having earlier had to leap up to prevent my little backpack being crushed by another luggage glutton with his two oversized cases, my sympathies were entirely with the sarky man.

But, more to the point, I wondered yet again why airlines don't uniformly police the hand luggage rule. I have on a few occasions been able to applaud when a passenger who exceeded the rules on number or size of hand luggage had it confiscated and stored in the hold. But that's the exception.

Usually airlines set the rules and then ignore them. Why?

There's a good reason why the amount of hand luggage is restricted: because - as the sarky man pointed out - otherwise everyone suffers.

So why don't airlines clamp down on the selfish few who take the kitchen sink on board, regardless?