Airlines

Passenger sues airline after another flier drops a bag on her head from the overhead cabin

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An Australian woman says she has been left with a permanent dent on her forehead and other injuries after a suitcase fell out of a aircraft's overhead compartment and landed on her head.

Kalisfena Egorova from Sydney, is seeking more than $152,000 in damages from China Eastern Airlines after the painful incident that reportedly occurred on a flight from Beijing to Sydney-- with a stopover in Nanjing-- in March 2016.

On Friday, Egorova filed a formal complaint in Federal Court, arguing the incident was caused by the negligence of China Eastern Airlines. She says she suffered a concussion and sore neck immediately after the incident, which happened during boarding time at Beijing airport, and continues to suffer from persistent headaches and a permanent dent on her forehead.

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Recalling the incident, Egorova said she was getting settled in her aisle seat in economy when a passenger, who had opened the overhead compartment directly above her, lost his hold and dropped a heavy, wheeled suitcase on her head.

“The passenger was trying to put his luggage in,” she told news.com.au.

“The flight attendant was standing there and the passenger was pushing [the bag] and maybe there was no space. It was actually shocking for me [when the bag dropped]. It took me by surprise. It was very painful.”

Egorova, who was travelling alone, said the suitcase landed on her by the wheel and also struck her upper body. But she said the matter was made worse when it appeared no one was willing to help her as she cried out in pain. She also said none of the flight attendants appeared to speak English so were unable to offer proper assistance. 

“I was crying in pain, screaming ‘ice’ and all the passengers were just looking at me.”

Eventually, however, she rushed to the galley and was then given ice for her injury. 

In a statement to news.com.au, a spokeswoman for China Eastern Airlines (CEA) said cabin crew on the plane administered first aid to Egorova “for a minor injury” and recommended she be examined by a doctor, “but she declined and insisted to take the flight from Beijing to Nanjing."

The statement continued: “After [flight] MU727 landed at Nanjing International Airport, to ensure the passenger’s wellbeing, CEA cabin crew requested the local ground handling CEA staff to arrange an examination by the airport medical centre’s doctor. The injured passenger was accompanied by CEA staff and [the passenger who dropped the bag] during the whole examination, and medical staff cleared her of any serious concern.

“[Considering] Nanjing-Sydney flight time was a long-haul, 10-plus-hours flight, the doctor recommended the injured passenger to stay and have a follow-up at the hospital. She declined the recommendation and she decided to continue the flight back to Sydney.”

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The Shanghai-based carrier said it was working with Egorova’s lawyer.

According to her claim, since the incident Egorova has also experienced post-concussive syndrome, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, panic attacks, loss of income and will lose superannuation entitlements, among other symptoms. 

Egorova’s lawyer, aviation specialist Thomas Janson from Shine Lawyers, told news.com.au bags falling on passengers from above was not unusual.

“Unfortunately, these are not uncommon occurrences, however, what makes this case substantially different from others is the degree of injury that Kalisfena has suffered and the lack of any real response from China Eastern Airlines to assist her to get life back on track,” Janson said.

“This has had enormous repercussions on her health and her perception of her appearance.”

He said it was the airline’s responsibility to make sure passengers were placing their luggage in overhead compartments correctly.

“When passengers are embarking and boarding aboard an aircraft, the cabin crew of the aircraft have a responsibility to monitor and correct how passengers place their baggage into overhead baggage compartments,” he said.

“This why you often see cabin crew spread throughout an aircraft while passengers are boarding and who assist passengers to place their baggage in the overhead baggage compartments.”

Egorova said the experience left her afraid that a similar situation may happen in the future. 

This article originally appeared on news.com.au.