They wrestle with the overhead storage, shove other people's bags aside to stuff theirs in.
The departure lounge at Frankfurt airport was packed. The Lufthansa flight to Geneva was full. Boarding was delayed as airline staff asked if some passengers could please surrender their cabin baggage to be put in the hold. No one came forward.
The Swiss Air flight from Geneva to London was not delayed (this is Swiss Air after all) but it was the same performance. Flight full, too much cabin baggage to fit, plenty of room in the hold, pleas to give up some cabin baggage ignored.
These were two of seven international flights taken on a recent trip. The airport service was seamless, the flights smooth, crew considerate, food almost edible, economy seats close to comfortable. The only thing out of control was the cabin baggage.
Whatever happened to the concept of travelling light?
As the virtuous carrier of one small back pack I feel justified to judge the "carry-on" of my fellow passengers. What is it that makes people feel they are entitled to push the weight and size limit to the hilt and often bring two pieces? Those wheeled suitcases have a lot to answer for, passengers now rolling on bags they can hardly hoist. There's no way the "Oligarch girls" at Frankfurt would have been able to physically carry on their Louis Vuitton cases (especially when already weighed down by big handbags, heavy makeup and the rocks on their fingers).
While I am quickly settled on the plane, my bag under the seat with plenty of room for my feet, I watch as passengers hog the aisles while they wrestle with the overhead storage, shove other people's bags aside to stuff theirs in, force the compartment closed.
The airlines get so much right, yet seem to have some quaint idea that cabin baggage can be self-regulating, that travellers will respect the limits and in doing so respect other passengers. Not happening. And, as a crew member on Lufthansa bemoaned, once it's in the cabin it's too late.
I have hardly ever seen anyone weigh their cabin bag on the scales provided nor slide their case into the size indicators at check in.
Nor have I witnessed or heard of anyone having their intended cabin baggage questioned by airline staff.
I will have huge respect for the airline that puts genuine checks in place and charges heftily for overweight or oversize; or demands it goes in the hold, charged heftily as the second piece of luggage.
I huddle under the perceived weight of that full-to-bursting overhead compartment imagining it dumping on my head during turbulence, or an air crash when a plane simply drops out of the sky under the weight of its carry-on.
In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton expounds on why we travel rather than where and illustrates how high hopes we have for holidays to transform us are often sabotaged because we bring personal "baggage" with us.
Feel free to take on board all the attitudes, hang-ups and prejudices that weigh you down. Just lighten up on your carry-on baggage.