UPDATED to include comment from Airbus (see below).
US Airways' employee newsletter usually contains at least one or two juicy nuggets about the carrier that you won't find anywhere else. This week, the airline reveals that the locks on the overhead bins of recently-delivered Airbus narrowbodies do not latch well, leading to lots of door slamming by passengers. Upon landing, the bin latches vibrate and create noise that concerns customers.
For better or worse, US Airways is my hometown airline, and I fly the carrier regularly. On a recent trip, I saw first-hand that the latches were a problem. But in this instance, a passenger couldn't actually open the bin, and it held up the de-planing process by several precious minutes. The FAs, who came to the rescue, complained aloud that the latches have been a long-running problem.
So what is US Airways doing about it? As you'll see from the carrier's statement, the problem is not unique to US Airways. Indeed, it's a worldwide issue that Airbus is grappling with.
Says US Airways:
"We noticed this problem on new delivery single-aisle Airbus aircraft. We experienced a decrease in bin latch reliability and contacted Airbus to work through the details of modifying or creating a new latch design, as this is a problem with the fleet worldwide and is being managed by Airbus.Airbus admits some operators have reported in-service issues with A320 family aircraft overhead bin door latches. But the European airframer believes the problem stems from passengers' frequent over-loading of bins. It is probably no coincidence that the latch problem has surfaced at a time when more and more carriers are charging passengers for checked luggage, prompting passengers to carry bigger loads on board the aircraft. Interiors specialist FACC supplies the overhead bins for A320 family aircraft.
The first attempt by Airbus produced an unacceptable latch which was rejected by US [Airways]. We have evaluated the second redesign and are scheduled to receive a set of these newly designed bin latches next month.
These will be installed and field tested on one of our aircraft and if no problems develop, parts will be available to start retrofitting our fleet in the beginning of the first quarter 2011. The information about the noise being created from the bin latches is new information and will be evaluated during the trial test phase of this project to make sure this issue has been rectified as well."
"Some operators have reported in-service issues with A320-family aircraft overhead bin door latches. Airbus, together with the bin supplier, has investigated the reasons for the reported latch issues. Airbus believes that the main root cause is the deformation of the overhead bin due to overloading, beyond the aircraft specification. Airbus therefore recommends operators not to overload the overhead bins.(Picture above found here.)
Furthermore, Airbus has been in close contact with the affected operators and is already working on improvement scenarios. A latch modification will be tested for a 3-4 month period from end of July 2010. In parallel an overhead bin structural modification will be tested at the supplier. Based on the feedback from the in-service and structural tests, a design improvement is planned to be implemented in Q2 2011, for both retro-fit and line-fit embodiment."