A320 - "No gate checking will be allowed due to weather"

 
Old Nov 23, 13, 6:54 am
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A320 - "No gate checking will be allowed due to weather"

On this morning's ONT-PHX the GA just made an announcement that "due to weather we will be weight restricted and unable to check any bags at the gate. Once the overheads fill up we will be required to deny boarding to passengers with carrying baggage."

I've never heard anything like that... The fuel load for a 350 mi flight can't be that much and I can't imagine everyone's checked baggage could weigh more than a full fuel tank.

So is this a scare tactic to get people to stow bags quickly? Did they take on a pallet of lead cargo? Or is there a weather reason why they would allow checked bags at the ticket counter but not at the gate at all and would deny boarding on an A320?
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Old Nov 23, 13, 7:18 am
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Makes zero sense. If they deny boarding to someone with bags that are within the allowable limits, then there's compensation due. Why would a GA bring that upon themselves where they'll need to start writing vouchers?

And what does weather have to do with making a 350 mile flight weight restricted unless they need to fly half way across the country and back to get around a storm cell....

How did it all play out? Did you see anyone get denied boarding?
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Old Nov 23, 13, 7:32 am
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It doesn't appear that anyone was denied boarding though I was not going to stick around to find out. The gate agent repeated this several times and made it clear that because this was for weather reasons.

The standby list on the mobile website suggests all 138 got on so it was very strange. They loaded a boatload of US mail on the plane but I doubt even that would make a difference. There would be tons of excess weight capacity on a short flight.

My guess is it was a rogue agent in the same vein as "the captain reports there are 3 electronic devices on in the cabin" that popped up every once in a while.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 8:16 am
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Originally Posted by PHL View Post
Makes zero sense. If they deny boarding to someone with bags that are within the allowable limits, then there's compensation due. Why would a GA bring that upon themselves where they'll need to start writing vouchers?
I call BS. The airline has no obligation to let anyone bring a bag on board (except for medical issues). Bags may be permitted if there's adequate space for FAA-compliant storage.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by 3Cforme View Post
I call BS. The airline has no obligation to let anyone bring a bag on board (except for medical issues). Bags may be permitted if there's adequate space for FAA-compliant storage.
They weren't restricting carrying bags on - she said that if the overheads fill up then no one with a larger carryon will be allowed to board. Therefore passengers should put bags under the seat so everyone would be able to board.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 9:01 am
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Other than the capacity of the fuel tanks which is a fixed number, there are two other limits on fuel load:

1 - One most of y'all know enough fuel is required to fly to the destination, make an approach. miss and fly to the alternate, plus another 45 minutes of reserve fuel. Less than this is a violation of the FARs.

2 - No more than needed to fly to and land at the destination with alternate and reserve fuel still on board. More than that and the plane can't land without circling to burn extra fuel and that extra fuel is part of the required alternate/reserve fuel required to be on board if you land at the destination.

While rare, it is possible on short segments that the FAR fuel minimum is too much to allow the plane to land at the destination because too much fuel remains making the weight higher than max landing weight. Note that this has nothing to do with the maximum fuel capacity - it could carry enough fuel to go around the world yet encounter the same problem. It's strictly a function of the two fuel requirements and the FAR required fuel being enough higher than destination fuel.

If this problem rears it's ugly head, the only solution is to reduce weight (take off passengers and/or baggage/cargo). Lowering takeoff weight lowers landing weight at the destination and solves the problem of being faced with too much fuel to land.

In a sense they were restricting carry-on bags. A carry-on is normally included in the passenger weight, but if it must go in the cargo bin it is counted just as another checked bag and the standard checked bag weight is added to the total weight.

Jim

Last edited by BoeingBoy; Nov 23, 13 at 9:12 am
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Old Nov 23, 13, 9:28 am
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Thanks Jim. Very interesting explanation. What's the weather that brings this problem up? It is wet in AZ today but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary. Something to do with traction?
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Old Nov 23, 13, 9:43 am
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No idea. There are minimum weather requirements for using an airport as an alternate - visibility and ceiling. There are also what might be called operational reasons - carriers generally don't use airports that they don't serve as alternates although they can if necessary. Without their own personnel, facilities, fuel vendors, etc it can be difficult to impossible to coordinate use of another carrier's and/or get fuel. And an alternate must meet the runway length requirements (which are affected by weight/precipitation) and the runway/taxiways/ramp must meet the load bearing requirements.

Jim
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Old Nov 23, 13, 11:54 am
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Even with Jim's great explanation, something about this case still smells fishy to me. I'd report that to US. Sounds to me like a rouge GA trying a scare tactic to help her close the flight on time, and if so she should be dealt with. If there's any truth to the weather/ weight restriction statement, CS should hopefully offer an explanation.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 1:39 pm
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Sorry chris4096, I misread your post as asking what the weather in PHX actually was that can cause the problem hence my "no idea". I think you were really asking what type of weather could cause the problem. The things I mentioned are more responsive to the question - basically anything that increases alternate/reserve fuel but not destination fuel. A flight can be dispatched to an airport that has bad weather but not list an airport as an alternate that has the same weather.

I'm with sjpmurph01 to a degree. Checked baggage is counted as 40-45 pounds IIRC versus the nearly 200 pounds used for each passenger (including carry-on weight). So using having to check a carry-on seems an odd way to decide who won't get on the flight. There is also "child weights" - children below an age that I don't remember are counted as a lower weight which I also don't remember. It isn't unusual for the dispatcher to ask for the number of children on board if weight is a problem. In those situations it isn't too unusual for the first question to the dispatcher to be "how many do you need?" A reasonable number is often followed the a message that there are exactly that many on board (after a pause to get the "count").

Since no one appears to have been denied boarding, the weight problem was obviously cure somehow - misconnects, no shows, child weights, something.

Jim
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Old Nov 23, 13, 2:07 pm
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Little off topic. BoeingBoy, do planes have built in scale to measure their current weight?
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Old Nov 23, 13, 2:07 pm
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Almost sounds like they had a bunch of "must ride" mail/cargo. That coupled with an alternate could have caused a W/B issue, but more than likely the crew told the ramp the numbers they were working with,who told ops, who told the gate,etc. Sometimes those things get changed the longer the story goes. Just be glad you werent on a CRJ-200.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 2:20 pm
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On a short-haul such as this, all it takes is a hefty tailwind and a low cruising altitude and it's easy to encounter a weight restriction.

Bottom line, not one pound more was going in the hold, so everything left upstairs either flies as carry-on or not at all (including it's master, the pax).

Unless the folks who called b.s. have some facts, I'd suggest they retract.

The GA "frightening" people doesn't make sense, because there would be no gate-checked luggage. Thus, if your bag doesn't fit the sizer, it (and you) ain't flying.

To me, it's just deserts. Most people who can afford an air ticket, can afford a tape measure. They know they've got an oversized bag and are just scamming. Good there's a risk.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 2:42 pm
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I've also worked flights were I've been told by central load planning that we can only allow XX number of gate checks due to weight & balance. However we never deny any pax boarding. We just simply state that we can only check xx number of bags at the gate and any after that will not be loaded on this flight and will have to go on a later flight and that to help us avoid that we ask that you place all small items under the seat. We also worked with our inflight so they know how many we can do as well, so they are being more active in re-arranging bin space and getting the small purses and laptop bags out of the bins.

These things are rare but they do happen, and when explained properly, everyone seems to cooperate and on the flights I've worked we've always come in well under the gate check limit.
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Old Nov 23, 13, 3:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
On a short-haul such as this, all it takes is a hefty tailwind and a low cruising altitude and it's easy to encounter a weight restriction.

Bottom line, not one pound more was going in the hold, so everything left upstairs either flies as carry-on or not at all (including it's master, the pax).

Unless the folks who called b.s. have some facts, I'd suggest they retract.

The GA "frightening" people doesn't make sense, because there would be no gate-checked luggage. Thus, if your bag doesn't fit the sizer, it (and you) ain't flying.

To me, it's just deserts. Most people who can afford an air ticket, can afford a tape measure. They know they've got an oversized bag and are just scamming. Good there's a risk.
Yes, big tailwinds today so ending up with extra fuel certainly makes sense.

The issue didn't seem to be the dimensions of the bags (ie will they fit in an empty bin) rather the capacity for all 138 pax with carryons (ie is there enough space left) so a tape measure wouldn't do you much good in zone 5. Even given the funky weather necessitating additional fuel I was surprised to see them loading mail while telling pax at the gate that "if the bins fill up they can fly standby later in the day so please utilize the space under your seat."

At the end of the day it doesn't much matter since it appears everyone got on. I'd just never heard of a large-ish mainline plane having weight issues on a short segment.
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