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Airlines install larger overhead bins

More travelers are bringing their luggage on board to avoid checked-bag fees, and competition for that limited storage space can be fierce.

By Karen Datko Mar 7, 2012 5:26PM

What's the worst part of being near the back of the line when you're boarding the plane? Good luck finding somewhere to stash your carry-on luggage.


And it hasn't gotten any easier as people haul bigger bags on board to avoid paying the nearly ubiquitous checked-bag fees.


With that in mind, it makes sense that airlines, which caused this chaos, are responding by enlarging overhead bins. "It's a chance to placate passengers who feel like they're thrown into a roller derby every time they board a plane," reported Associated Press airlines writer Joshua Freed


The AP says:

  • United is retrofitting its Airbus A320s with bin doors that curve out more, so wheeled bags can go in wheels first, rather than horizontally. (Hopefully the oblivious stranger you're forced to sit with picks up on this and doesn't hog the bin space.) That should make room for an extra 42 bags on the planes.
  • American Airlines is upgrading to new 737s with bigger bin space and replacing bin doors in older planes that will remain in the fleet.
  • Delta and US Airways have also installed bigger bins on some flights.
  • Boeing is changing its designs to better accommodate carry-on luggage.

(Post continues below.)

Some airlines are also cracking down on people who try to bring oversized bags on board, AP says. Fortunately, most U.S. airlines will check those bags at the gate at no cost -- but that's not necessarily the case if you're traveling abroad. For instance, EasyJet in Europe will charge a premium price if an over-limit bag must be checked at the gate.

So, U.S. airlines are trying to make things a little better for passengers (a long overdue impulse) by providing more storage space. Perhaps we can do our part to make the carry-on bag situation more palatable to our fellow passengers and harried flight attendants. For instance:

  • Limit your bag to the proper size. You can find the dimensions at the airline's website.
  • MSNBC's Overhead Bin blog reports  that luggage companies are making bags more foldable and compressible to fit into tight spaces.

The Sky Steward has some other suggestions for acceptable behavior regarding use of the overhead bin. Among them:

No trespassing. Bags should not be placed in overhead bins in the front of the plane when your seat assignment is in the rear, unless encouraged to do so by the crew who may be aware of space shortages.
Look but don't touch. Never move another person's luggage without requesting permission.
No you didn't! Do not move another person's luggage to make room for your own if doing so causes the person's bag to then block the overhead bin from closing. This may result in the other person's bag being removed. Inexcusable faux pas.

Road Warriorette also has some sage advice, including:

Don't make it your plan to gate-check. If you bring a normal-sized carry-on that you are happy to bring on the plane or gate-check, that is one thing. But please don't bring an oversized bag on the plane, expecting they will make you gate-check it. If you are bringing too much stuff, check your bag. If you don't want to pay the fee, bring less stuff. Don't slow everyone else down because you're trying to save $20.

Finally, some observations from flight attendant "TwinCitiesGal" on The Vacation Gals:

People don't follow the rules. Even though passengers are supposed to limit their carry-on bags to two per person, they don't. Look around the next time you fly and you'll see.
One bag up and one bag down. I've seen one person fill up an entire bin. It's not fair to your fellow passengers. Unless you're sitting at a bulkhead or first row, please place only one bag in the bin and the other under the seat in front of you.
Please don't break the bin. Please don't ever force a bag in a bin. Bins can crack as well as the bin door -- and guess what: If a bin is broken the plane can't fly. And that's a whole other debacle.

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