Free the Hangers

I typed this from 10,000 feet, while on my way to the annual econ gabfest known as the ASSA meetings. I was lucky enough to score an upgrade to first class, and as I settled into my seat I was informed about the most astonishing cost-cutting measure: U.S. Airways has taken the coat hangers out of its planes.

Arriving uncrumpled used to be one of the few perks for those at the front of the plane, but now the racks behind seat 4B sit unemployed. It can’t be that these hangers had much value on the secondary market, and the number of flight attendants hasn’t changed, so I can only guess that the cost reductions come from the fuel savings that come from carrying a few less ounces. (How big could these be?)

But U.S. Airways beware: If I were an aspiring entrepreneur, I would be rushing a collapsible travel hanger onto the market; and if this occurs, passengers will simply be adding that extra weight onto their carry-on bags, undoing the airline’s cost savings. And that’s the difference between the simple accounting of cost-cutting and the economic approach, which takes account of how behavior responds to incentives.

In fact, I had a hanger in the bottom of my bag, and so I arrived in San Francisco, recognizable as the least-crumpled economist.


I'm a flight attendant for US Airways so maybe I can clarify some things.

1) We did not get rid of hangers. The FAA requires that coats that are hung on the balkhead (wall behind first-class) must be strapped in. Some have straps and some don't. To standardize things, the company decided to no longer hang coats on the balkhead. Some walls still have hangers and straps. It's up to the flight attendant if they want to use them. Many hangers are just moved out of sight. Many passengers just hang their own coats.

2) The aircraft that still have closets -- still have hangers and are being utilized for coats. In fact, we have added closets recently on all our new E-190s, although some older 190s don't have closets.

3) We still give out free pillows and blankets to first-class customers. Coach passengers still get free pillows and blankets, for now. Free pillows and blankets for coach will end soon. No word yet on an exact date.



If they had access to coat hangers, the terrorists would win.


I'm shocked no one suggested that the hangers were removed out of fear that a terrorist would convert one to a deadly weapon...


I might also add that it's pretty much industry standard now to not have closets or to hang coats on a balkhead. US is not the only airline. United got rid of closets years ago, way before US. Also, as flight attendants, we too miss the closets.


So… might this be a labor issue rather than a weight issue? Maybe it will lead to fewer attendants. That _would_ be a cost saving.

Nice try, but no. FAA madates 1 FA per 50 passengers (you being one of them) this is all for YOUR safety. You people just love to see OTHER people out of work. All US Airways (as well as the majority of other US carriers) flights are minimum staffed.

Like the other FA posted earlier. Alot of time the FAs remove them because you really can't hang anything other than a silk sheaf back there. It's a joke.


So, I've been wrong all these years referring to it as the bUlkhead?

Scott T.

I'm not sure where the person got this information. I work for USAirways and we still have hangers on the planes.


Freakonomics blog inaccurately generalizing anecdotal information and lambasting a company for it? UNBELIEVABLE! Come on, guys. This is just one in a number of posts recently that could easily have been figured out with some simple research.

Frequent Flyer

Fly Continental as your primary airline, and Southwest for your shorter trips and you will have a LOT less stress. These two airlines actually CARE about their customers. I have flown every US carrier over the past year while I tried to determine where my loyalty will go, and that is Continental and Southwest.

Don't buy your flights by price, buy your flights by level of service. This will ultimately change the way they treat us, when their bookings fall off a cliff...

1 - Continental/Southwest - the best in the US, hands down.
2 - Airtran/Jet Blue/Frontier - when you cant fly on Continental/Southwest
3 - Delta/Northwest
AND if you really don't care if you ever get where you're going, OR don't mind being stranded in airports, or have ANY expectations at all - then you can fly American, United and US Airways... AND US Airways is by far the worst.

Frederick Michael

What about the countless pounds of junk they carry on overseas flights so they can walk around saying, "Duty free!" while everyone is trying to sleep?

Morgan Durrant

Hello Everyone,
Morgan Durrant from US Airways corporate communications here. Just wanted to clarify that we are not removing coat hangers from aircraft. Coat hangers are provisioned at one per first class seat, which means that on your next US Airways flight you're more than likely to have a coat hanger. Occasionally coat hangers go missing when our airplanes are cleaned. We're addressing this issue with both employees and our vendors to make sure coat hangers are there on every flight. Thanks and happy new year!


I don't have any problem with paying for checked luggage if they did away with carry on luggage (except for a very small personal bag). I flew US Airways and ended up paying to check my roll on bag. I put my small personal bag that I took as a carry on in the overhead storage (I'm tall). Most everyone else on the plan tried to carry on their medium to large size roll on bags which ended up delaying the flight as the flight attendants tried to figure out where to put all those big bags. A flight attendant asked if I would put my small carry on bag under my seat and I (respectfully) declined and notes that I had paid to check my larger bag and felt like I was entiteld to the small space in the overhead. I was surprised when she agreed with me.

The fee for checked luggage (esp. a fee for a first bag) just serves to slow down the departure and deplaning and I doubt US Airways profits. If I can help it, I don't fly US Airways for this exact reason.


Gary Barker

We've invented a paper hanger for retailers, but found it is also great for travelers. It's lightweight and recyclable anywhere.