Some Airlines Starting To Get It, Installing Roomier Overhead Bins

After seeing countless passengers refusing to believe that their wheelie bag isn’t going to fit in closed bins, while others just will not listen to flight attendants’ pleas of “please don’t put your coat in the overhead bin,” some airlines are actually expanding the size of their overhead bins.

And, shockingly enough say the L.A. Times, they aren’t planning to stick passengers with a fee for the space. Well, so far, at least.

American Airlines has some new oversized bins on several of their Boeing 737-800s, which hit the friendly skies in May. They pivot down and out and can hold around 48 more bags per flight than the usual fare.

This April, United Airlines has plans to switch out bin doors on 152 of their planes with doors that curve out to allow for more bags to fit inside. Around 106 roll-on bags will now fit on the Airbus A320, instead of 64 bags previously.

Delta is also joining the roomy craze for its international flights flying long-haul routes on their Boeing 767-300ER planes, with a 23% space increase of 26 more bags.

The reason for this expansion? Seems the airlines are actually listening to passengers complaining over checked bag fees and the irritating boarding process. If passengers have a bad time shoving bags in bins or have to gate-check their luggage, they then feel negative about the entire flight.

“We want the boarding process to be so smooth that it is otherwise not memorable,” United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.

American Airlines echoed that sentiment.

“While we don’t release the exact figures, there is a revenue benefit to American to increase the overhead bin storage space,” said American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith. “American Airlines is committed to investing in its products and services to improve the travel experience for its customers.”

Overhead bins getting bigger on some airlines [Los Angeles Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Zydia says:

    I’m ok with them giving us knockout drugs like on the Fifth Element.

    • headhot says:

      I’m sure there would be a fee for that, and would you really want the operation experts that airlines are managing you consciousness? For god sakes, these are the same people that frequently lose children and kill pets.

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      They could just slip you a roofie in the security line. Kind of like date rape, though….

  2. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    “And, shockingly enough say the L.A. Times, they aren’t planning to stick passengers with a fee for the space. Well, so far, at least.”

    I would happily pay for space fi it guaranteed me space in the bin. I haven’t flown since airlines started adding bag fees, but when I do fly I absolutely cannot gate check my carry-on bag. I’m not really sure what I’d do if I were forced to.

    • bdgbill says:

      This has happened to me several times. I’m not checking my $2000 laptop under any circumstances. Tell the stewardess that you cannot check your bag and that you will get off the plane if a space cannot be found. Magically, space will be found. If you get off the plane, your checked bags have to be dug out of the hold before the plane can leave, causing a delay.

      Of course this will not work with a roller bag full of clothes but it has worked at least three times for me with my laptop bag.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        What kind of laptop bag doesn’t fit under the seat, though? I have a Targus laptop backpack that holds all kinds of cables and adapters and crap, and it fits just fine.

        • eturowski says:

          Some of the planes with personal AV monitors have a giant box of wires and circuits underneath the seats, which prevents you from sticking any sizable bag under the seat in front of you.

          • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

            Huh. Good to know, thanks, I’ll have to keep an eye out for that, especially on international flights.

  3. Beefaster says:

    stop charging bag fees then. instead of retrofitting all your planes

    • Jemish says:


      It seems redundant. Charge a fee for a service, then improve the opportunity for people not to pay the fee.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually if they simply enforced carry on rules the issue would largely resolve itself.

      Sure doing so will cause some hassles at the gate for a bit, but charge double the baggage fee for anyone made to gate check a bag because it’s larger then is allowed.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Only problem is that gate checking isn’t always just for that. I had to gate check because I ended up with a bulkhead seat, where there was no place to put my bag. It was of regulation size so it would be totally unfair to charge me a fee because other people hogged the overheads. I usually have a carryon full of clothes and a backpack which doesn’t leave my side ever and fits either in the bin or under the seat. It was the carryon that got checked.

        I don’t mind gate checking if I have to do it. Sometimes when I fly on a smaller aircraft they offer free gate checking of carryon bags as a choice. And when I was leaving from my home airport United Express made us ALL gate check without charging us anything.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Note I said “charge double the baggage fee for anyone made to gate check a bag because it’s larger then is allowed.”

          If they did this is shouldn’t effect those who end up needing to gate check their bags due to bulkhead seating or minimal overhead space and only effect those people who think that they should be able to carry a standup freezer onboard as long as they attach wheels and a handle to it.

          Also they need to look at purse/personal item size as well as often the personal item is almost as big as the bags. I”ve literally seen one family of 3 (2 adults and a child) fill two overhead bins to bursting with all their crap!

  4. SkokieGuy says:

    Wouldn’t it be more sensible to reduce or eliminate baggage fees than to retrofit the planes with bigger bins?

    Bottom line, weight is weight regardless of if its under the plane or in the passenger area. I would think that automated baggage handling can get a plane turned around faster than encouraging people to carry all their belongs with them onto the plane.

    Have a standard fare that includes one item of checked luggage. Allow people to opt out for a savings of X dollars. Viola! Anger over fees goes away and people who don’t need checked luggage don’t have to pay for it.

    • rpm773 says:

      I think you’re right on it.

      It’s convenient and desirable to bring your items on the plane with you, to say nothing of the fact that you avoid the checked baggage fee. So, rather than charge a fee for checked baggage, why not charge one for use of the overhead bin instead?

      Ignoring the details of how that would work (fee for each, one bag free, etc), that’s the way the model should go. It would get people on and off the plane more quickly, and have them paying for a service from which they actually benefit, as opposed to one (with checking luggage) they’re already trying to avoid.

  5. rmorin says:

    Why is there not an industry standard? I understand there are many models of planes, but why can’t there be a standard sized bag that takes into consideration the dimension of overhead bins (assuming the size of those can be standardized as well). Would it not streamline the whole process and make it more fair for consumers if everyone knew “you have X space to use”?

    I know airlines list their dimension limits, but different sized bags leaves a lot of extra space that could be consolidated with standard dimensions/fit into overhead bins to be used more efficiently benefitting passengers and the airlines.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I thought there WAS a standard carry-on size. They have it all over the airport. A little fram box you can put your luggage in to test if it fits the maximum size allowed.

      • Jemish says:

        Doesn’t help when you buy the bag though. If baggage retailers had that little frame or online retailers tested the bag within it, that would do the trick.

        • longfeltwant says:

          All of that style of roller-bag come with a tag which states whether it meets that standard. When I bought my roller-bag, I looked for one that was the maximum size which was sure to fit for every airline. Other bags were a bit bigger, but I didn’t need bigger and I didn’t want to risk ever having a problem. Or, you can just look up that standard size and find bags which fit it. It’s a well-known well-documented size.

          • rmorin says:

            But just because you know a bag will fit, does not mean the space is being optimized. How many times have you seen on a plane that there is a little space here and there in every overhead bin, but not enough to actually fit a whole bag in?

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        No, every airline sets their own limits, although many of them have very similar limits. The real problem is that hardly any of them enforce those limits. Airlines haven’t done the market research to differentiate between people who have to gate-check their appropriately-sized bag because so many of the people who boarded before them crammed their oversized bags in the bins and people who become irate at having to gate check their clearly oversized bag or remove their jacket from the bin. The former people are the ones who need to be accommodated, and could be done so by ignoring and cracking down on the latter.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Really? I flew just 2 weeks ago and they enforced the sizing restrictions on myself. My bag “looked” big but still fit in the box. The box IS in fact a standard box, I’ve seen it at various airports with different airlines.

          I think you need to check your facts. Enforcement might be varied, but that “box” used to check your bag is not.

        • Sarek says:

          Exactly! The airlines charge for checked bags, then are astonished that everyone brings in huge carry-ons. The decision to make passengers check these huge bags is totally arbitrary and made at the aircraft door. If they’d seriously enforce the size rule at check-in, then there would be space for all in the overhead bins. I’ve seen people bring on bags twice the size of the bag that I checked.

  6. vastrightwing says:

    Let me guess what will happen now: after 6 months the new bins won’t be big enough because instead of carry on size bags, full suit cases will be brought in to the cabin. FAIL!

    Airlines already have obvious size boxes before you board. This allows you to make sure your carry-ons fit in the bins. The problem is people don’t want to pay extra (I understand) for their luggage and will attempt to somehow squeeze a 20x20x12” hard carry-on in the bin. I use soft bags that can be squeezed in. No handles no wheels, and no rigid frames. Never any problems with that.

  7. humphrmi says:

    Coming soon, the “We did something that made sense” fee…

  8. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Of course they won’t charge for it. They’ll wait until passengers and the luggage industry get used to the larger sizes, THEN start charging extra for the oversized bins.

  9. Vox Republica says:

    It would seem, at least to me, more sensible that overhead space be meted out per seat: you know the volume ahead of time, and that little nook is yours to fill with whatever bags/coats/smuggled quail’s eggs you wish. Found out on the plane that you have too much stuff? Congratulations, you’ve now earned the right to pay an exorbitant Overflow Fee.

    If you can’t fit in a seat, you have to pay for an extra one. The same adage should apply to all your various doodads and bric-a-brac.

    • longfeltwant says:

      “If you can’t fit in a seat, you have to pay for an extra one.”

      When has this ever been a rule? None of the obese people who overflowed the armrest into my seat ever had to go buy an extra seat. If it’s a rule they should enforce it.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        When has this been a rule? OMG, this is very standard industry practice. Did you miss the Consuimerist articles of people being required to buy two seats due to their fatness?

    • j2.718ff says:

      It’d also be quite nice if you had space near your seat. On my last flight, I was in row 1, but by the time my group was called to board, there was zero overhead space until row 20. (Remember, row 1 doesn’t get any under-seat-space either, which made this doubly annoying.)

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I agree. The overhead space over row 1 should belong to row 1. This would solve so many problems. I swear I was the fourth person on a plane once and all of the bins were full.

  10. CubeRat says:

    I’m glad I’m short; I’m sure these bins will annoy those lucky taller people.

    Usually, being short is a disadvantage, but not when flying.

  11. longfeltwant says:

    It totally blows my mind that this is the solution they go with, instead of eliminating bag fees, which is the entire cause of the problem.

    Can we please get some big-government red-tape unfree-market regulation here?

    • George4478 says:

      I was a business traveler for years before the bag fees. The bag fees made it worse, but this problem existed long before bag fees.

      I’ve always felt it was the wheels-on-bags feature. Once those became popular in the 90’s, it became much easier to get a monster bag to the gate. Squishable businessman’s garment bags gave way to rolling suitcases.

    • shepd says:

      Red tape is probably what got everything into this situation. Airports are highly regulated and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were expensive for an airline to put baggage on a plane due to various regulations and taxes. However, if you carry it with you, then I assume it’s basically free for the airline.

  12. Cat says:


    This will only lead to more passenger fuckery trying to bring too much carry on luggage to avoid the checked baggage fees.

  13. bdgbill says:

    I’m a frequent flier and it has always driven me nuts that some people get enough overhead space to carry on an overstuffed roller bag and some people get nothing. This is all controlled by your random assignment to a boarding zone. This is also what causes the big crush of people desperate to get onto the plane.

    Each seat should come with a certain amount of overhead space assigned to it. The size of the space could be standardized so luggage could be made to fit.

    • Cat says:

      Or better yet, let people put a bag in that empty space in the cargo hold, “no charge”.

    • penuspenuspenus says:

      Amen! I’m 6’3 and like using the seat in front of me to slide my feet a little forward so I have a little more leg room. When I am told I can’t put my laptop backpack in the overhead bin because some jackass has a gigantic bag that needs to be up there I feel a little bit cheated since I don’t get to do that.

      Worst was flying business class on BA. I love the sliding bed seats but there is no “under the seat” storage, rather a tiny drawer that barely fits a laptop alone. Last time I flew it the guy who got there before me stuffed 3 bags in the overhead and I had to have my bag relocated to another section of the plane.

    • rpm773 says:

      This is why I started flying Southwest. At least with them you have some control over your boarding group, or you can buy your way into the A group. I used to shun them when they did the stupid cattle lines, but when they started the auto-checkin process I got on board.

      I few months ago I had to fly UAL (in which my ticket was for 4 different code-share air lines causing me to have to go through security again on my layover..another story), and was amazed that the boarding process is still a clusterfuck of stupidity

  14. kathygnome says:

    Wouldn’t allowing you to check bags without a charge be more efficient?

  15. exconsumer says:

    No, there’s no need for more overhead bin space. There is a whole section beneath the plane called the cargo area, or baggage area, that’s practically empty.

    Use that, and stop charging a fee for it. You clearly don’t need to charge a fee for it, or you’d need to charge a fee for the overhead bins.

    Criminal stupidity.

    • Jevia says:

      Yeah I wonder if the room being found to make these larger overhead storage bins comes from making the cargo area a bit smaller because no one’s using it anymore.

  16. SkokieGuy says:

    Related, but not related.

    Why are boarding groups so arbitrary? Wouldn’t it make sense that you board the plane from the rear rows first? Then people storing their bags would not hold up the line for everyone else trying to board.

    I would think that this would decrease boarding time and certainly reduce random passenger pissed-off-before-flight-takes-off syndrome.

    • eturowski says:

      They’re not arbitrary. At least on Delta, the airline uses priority boarding groups (usually premium boarding and zones 1 and 2) as an incentive for first class passengers, frequent fliers, and SkyMiles American Express cardholders to board early and (presumably) snag overhead bin space before the masses.

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      Interestingly enough, last year an astrophysicist did some research on it, and found that just letting everyone on board at once was quicker than the row-by-row method, even from back to front.

      Quote from study:
      “The simulations showed that the best way was to board every other row of window seats on one side of the plane, starting from the back, then do the mirror image on the other side. The remaining window seats on the first side would follow, again starting from the back; then their counterparts on the second side; followed by the same procedure with middle seats and lastly aisles.”


    • Geekybiker says:

      They aren’t. If you want an early group get a window seat near the back of the plane. Aisle seats near the front tend to have the highest group unless they have some priority boarding pass (FF or otherwise)

      • kimmie says:

        I don’t think that’s true. I always get a window seat, and even if I check in exactly 24 hrs ahead of time online, I’m almost always in the last or next to last boarding group on United. It blows.

  17. shepd says:

    Why no coats in overhead bins? They fit pretty well, and are soft and flexible, so they can usually be stuffed between the various luggages up there.

  18. Blueskylaw says:

    The theft of items out of checked bags is what makes me hesitant to do it. I can see more people checking their bags if the airlines could guarantee somehow that their bags would not be rifled through.

    • eturowski says:

      Yes… or that we could use real locks on our checked bags again (not the TSA-sanctioned ones to which every Tom, Dick, and Harry can obtain a master key).

  19. scoosdad says:

    Part of the problem is still the boarding process. If you’re sitting up front and board nearly last, by the time you get onto the plane the bins near the front are full of stuff dumped there by people further back in the plane who know there’s not going to be enough room back there.

    I usually look to see how an airline boards the plane if I can, and if it’s traditional back to front, I usually pick a seat near the back so there’s lots of empty space in the bins back there.

    Anyone know how Alaska Air boards the plane? I’m flying on them in July and still need to pick my seats.

    • j2.718ff says:

      Yes, this. I got stuck in the first row in a recent flight. Not only did I have no storage space under the seat in front of me, but the nearest overhead bin that could fit my very small backpack was in row 20.

  20. kimmie says:

    You know why I put my coat in the overhead bin? I only bring on board a bag that fits under the seat. I don’t want my coat on the floor getting dirty. Your roller takes up an entire overhead bin, I should be allowed to put just a coat up there. This is out of control.

  21. Carlee says:

    I wish the space in the overhead bin right above your seat was reserved for your row. I haven’t had too much problem finding overhead space – even when I flew Jet Blue last summer and my seat was assigned at the gate (I ended up getting extra leg room), I was able to put my roll-on in the bin above my row. Maybe it’s because Jet Blue allows for 1 checked bag for free, and since it was LAX to NY, maybe most people opted to take advantage of that?

    I usually prefer flying Southwest, where I can choose my seat (closer to the front) and likewise, board early on and not have to worry about overhead space. The one exception was my last trip, where I checked in online about 20 mins after the check-in window opened up and I got B-03 or something. When I got on board, there was 1 aisle seat in row 2 free which I gladly took, but I had to put my roll-on over in row 7. In hindsight, I should have just sat in row 7 since I would have to wait for rows 1-6 to get off anyway (after I made a mad dash to row 7 as soon as the flight landed).

    My biggest gripe is when people a) don’t put their roll-on cases or bags perpendicular to the bins (so you can fit more items in), and b) put coats and other small items in the bins first. If you are just carrying a coat and don’t want it on the floor, at least don’t lay it out so it takes up bin space – fold it up and jam it in the corner. Or something. I’ve seen flight attendants help arrange stuff in the overhead bin to make more room but some don’t. And I feel a bit awkward moving someone else’s stuff. Some people may not realize their roll-on cases will fit perpendicular – I sure didn’t, until (years ago) when a flight attendant moved my case and voila, it fits that way too!

  22. ripoffnation says:

    I feel the airlines are investing in extra overhead space, so that they can get a nice
    return on that investment, by eventually charging for carryon baggage by touting it
    as “not having to wait for your checked bags”. This path may someday even pave the way
    to layoff a few baggage handlers because passergers are “handling” their own bags.

  23. quirkyrachel says:

    Wait. Let me get this straight.
    Airlines start charging exorbitant fees to check bags.
    Customers push back by carrying on more bags, thereby overloading the cabin storage.
    Customers get crabby about the whole situation.
    Airlines are somehow surprised by this turn of events.
    Airlines expand the overhead compartments, probably spending money gained from bag-checking fees.