An interesting side discussion broke out last week in the context of a story I wrote about an American Airlines passenger purportedly booted from a flight for placing his bag in the “wrong” overhead bin. Just who does the overhead space above your seat belong to? I contend that within a cabin of service, overhead bins constitute shared space and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Overhead Bins = Shared Space, Not Your Space
There are generally not published rules which define who overhead bin space belongs to on an airplane, but I’ve always understood the “unspoken” rule to be:
- When boarding, you must utilize overhead bins within your cabin of service (i.e., if you are sitting in economy class, you cannot use first class overhead bins, just because there is space)
- Within a cabin, overhead bin space is shared and therefore you can use whatever space is open, even if it is not in the row above your seat
- We often hear announcements from flight attendants to that effect
- There is one exception: space over bulkhead rows should be left for those passengers, because they are not even allowed to have personal items at their feet (since there is no seat in front of them)
- Once boarding in a cabin is complete, that overhead bin space should be open to all passengers (i.e. once first class is fully boarded, if there is leftover bin space, economy class passengers should have access to it versus being forced to gate check a bag)
I was alarmed at how many people reasoned that the space over your row is exclusively yours. That’s absurd, considering 1.) how tight planes are packed and 2.) how lax carriers are in actually enforcing carry-on limits. One passenger can fill up an entire row with two bags and a coat. I do think that should be the goal…but if the overhead bin space over my row is full, I will use whatever row is available without hesitation, even if that comes at the expense of the passenger seated in that row who boards later.
No one who contends that the space above your row belongs to you can actually put forward any proof to back up that claim (beyond subjective claims of “it’s common courtesy” which hold no weight).
Even more alarmingly, some warned that they if they find a bag in “their” overhead bin (the bin above their seat), they will take it out and dump it in the aisle to make room for their bag. Candidly, it makes my blood boil to even think about that. While I’m not going to touch another passenger or his bag, I would certainly immediately involve a flight attendant if this occurred and would expect a flight attendant to tell the passenger that he cannot touch other peoples’ bags (and also remove his bag from the bin).
And that gets to the “why” concerning shared overhead bin space. Flight attendants already have enough on their plate during boarding: the last thing they need to be is the overhead bin police, with passengers squabbling over their “right” to use the space above their heads.
I’ve discussed this before in 2020 and 2022, yet the issue continues to come up and therefore merits discussion.
Finally, perhaps this problem will solve itself though the next generation of overhead bins. The new bins are larger and allow bags to be stacked vertically, allowing (in theory) everyone to store a rollaboard onboard. That would be a welcome instance of innovation solving a collective action problem.
I am firmly in the camp that the overhead space above your seat is not your own, but shared space within the cabin of service in which you are seated. I reject any ownership claims to the space above your head and also note that this aligns with the announcements we often hear when boarding.
The good news is that the next generation of overhead bins largely remove this problem since they are large enough for everyone to bring aboard a large carry-on item.
Depending on how our discussion goes, I have a video I may post that I took on a United flight in which a late-boarding passenger through a temper tantrum when the overhead space above her seat was fully occupied.
I laughed at the jackass in your other thread who said they would remove a bag if it was determined it wasn’t somebody in his row. Like he’s going to interrogate everybody to determine who’s bag is where? And then when somebody doesn’t answer pull it out and put his in? I’d report him as trying to steal my bag and he can deal with the cops. What an entitled POS. And I really hope I meet him on a flight sometime to watch his way of thinking play out. He will end up getting escorted off crying like the AA first class passenger.
I’m one of those jackasses and I complained in the context of this healthy looking guy who put his bag in the very front overhead bin of the the cabin and walked to the rear so he wouldn’t have to slow down his disembarkment. I’m only guessing as to his reason, of course. I (only) considered moving his bag to one of the bins on the other side of the aisle, up slightly, so he’d be slowed down leaving for the fun of it.
And yeah, if he’s so concerned about someone stealing his stuff, shouldn’t he put it in a bin close to him?
By filling up the forward bins, he inconveniences those in the front who then need to put their bags into the rear and walk against exit traffic.
In hindsight, I realize that in this case, the best approach would be to confront him and ask him why he felt a need to do such a thing and while I would be unlikely to get him to change his ways, I’d at least understand what happened more clearly. We are frightened of just having these discussions in public in a civil manner and either resort to calling the Sky Wardens or having a conflict.
That being said, if someone can’t find room in a bin close to them, of course use one nearby. No biggie.
As the person who posted that inital, though I’ve not looked at the comments from that post, I think you misunderstand the term “entitlement”. Also, reading comprehension appears to have failed you – one can only hope it’s temporary and you aren’t usually that stupid. To your point:
Like he’s going to interrogate everybody to determine who’s bag is where? And then when somebody doesn’t answer pull it out and put his in? I’d report him as trying to steal my bag and he can deal with the cops.
This is where your reading comprehension fails you, likely repeatedly. I clearly stated that I’d do that if it was blatantly obvious that the person wasn’t in my row, or near the row.
And then to this wonderful little tirade, you Internet Tough Guy, you…:
What an entitled POS. And I really hope I meet him on a flight sometime to watch his way of thinking play out. He will end up getting escorted off crying like the AA first class passenger.
Ah yes, and here’s your misunderstanding of entitlement. I simply refuse to be inconvenienced, and allow others to be inconvenienced because you are lazy and…*gasp* entitled. There’s no need for you, in row 30 to place your items above row 5. And not only would I do this, I have previously on a handful of ocassions. Easy peasy, actually. And what’re you gonna do? Run all the way up and demand it be put back? Suuuuure. As FAs constantly remind us, they’re “here for [our] safety.” And an unattended bag in the overhead is a security issue. They’ve been very accommodating.
I feel like most people are worried about overhead bin space because they fear that they might not be able to deplane quickly (i.e for a connection, meeting, etc) or the bag might get stolen. But in reality, it only makes a couple minutes’ difference and no one is going to steal your bag when there are many eyes watching in a tight space with a limited exit.
Personally, I’m the type of person who doesn’t get worried if my bag is not in an overhead bin above my seat. I usually fly such that I have plenty of time to unwind from a flight regardless if it’s for work or leisure, so I just wait to deplane last unless I have a tight connection. If that’s the case and my bag isn’t near me, I just politely say where my carry-on is and people are willing to get it to me.
I already spend ~3 hours a week in the airport, I don’t want to increase that by another 30 minutes. Also, when heading to work, all of the decent rental cars are gone if you aren’t one of the first 40 or so off the plane. (In my experience) Maybe I’m impatient. I would rather spend that 30 extra minutes at home, or at the hotel. Not cramped in a tube.
If no verbalized bin space issues, it fine for me to put both my backpack and shoulder/laptop bag in the overhead bin together? Both combined are still smaller than one full size carry on. Have seen some say that two items should never go overhead.
No. You claim they aren’t bigger, but they are if properly stored in the overhead bin. The problem is most people do this and that’s why overhead storage A) runs out, and B) causes people “hunting” for space. If your two bags can’t stay under the 9inch wide size, then one goes under the seat. Also, why carry two bags if they would fit in one?
Have never been a fan of roller-board carry ons. Often times I have a bag checked anyway, so it’s not like I can really fit everything in a carry on. My laptop/shoulder bag is way smaller then a regular carry on, hence why they can go in the bin together as if one bag, one in front of the other.
In my opinion, the reasonable thing to do in that case would be wait until everyone has boarded and then place your second bag up there if there is space. My opinion. The only time I think it is acceptable is when you are at the bulkhead where there is no “underseat” storage. That’s a design issue, IMO, for aircraft. It’s also one of the two main reasons I hate bulkheads. The other being lack of device holders.
Have you tried a cheap spinner? I don’t care for two wheelers due to the fact that they can’t easily be “drug” down the isle without hitting anything/everything. Even though I typically just pickup my stuff and carry it on at the end of the jetway.
Makes sense and yes they are nice but they aren’t convenient to getting things in and out during the flight if I need to grab food or my laptop or a charger quickly
So, while yes, you are correct. It would be nice if they would go to assigned overhead storage. There is no reason a 27+inch pitch seat would require shared overhead space when there would be enough room for the allowed 9 inch width carryon. If there is 30+ then you easily have room for 10inch wide carryons, which are more than allowed by the airlines. As I stated on Gary’s post, “9A” should get the first 3rd, B second third, and C final 3rd. BE pax are SOL and that can be where the crew store their stuff. This really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
I know that is not how it is now. It’s honestly the only reason I board early. Otherwise, I would wait for the cattle to get to their seats and board after the BE pax. But instead, due to this oversight, it causes slower boarding and more indirect issues, potential for conflict. There is no reason this *couldn’t* be fixed other than a lack of desire.
If rules were published, Rule#1 Do not touch other people’s stuff. Does anyone want their stuff moved?
Yeah sometimes it’s like what bed bugs are going to be crawling out of other pax things lol. Was on B6 out of JFK once in winter — NASTY gross
If I’m flying in economy, I generally will sit in the exit row because I expect the overhead in first few rows of Y to be full by the time I board, even if I’m in the first boarding group. I hate having to swim upstream for my bag.
@Hmm I always only have a small backpack for my carry-on, and I always store it in the overhead. I intentionally always check my suitcase, even if it meets the carry-on size limits, as being 6’5″ I don’t want anything taking up any foot space. My small backpack is just as entitled to overhead space as any other oversized carry0n is. It is also a joy to also embark on a 24 hour plus series of overseas flights with only the small backpack to lug around the multiple airport layovers required.
My other observation is that it is not usually the infrequent flyers making a stink about not fitting all their many carry-ons in the overhead–it is usually the OPM corporate drone types that have the huge feeling of entitlement.
Seems Matthew agrees if one bag, just saw this https://liveandletsfly.com/small-bags-overhead-bins
Can’t imagine flying at 6’5..it’s already tight at 5’10.
Not too fussed about this, I don’t think I have ever observed any arguments about that sort of thing on my flights, and I have only ever had to unexpectedly gate check something once or twice. However, I am intrigued by the ‘don’t touch other people’s stuff’ approach. I move other passengers’ stuff all the time! Are people saying that they are happy to put their bag six rows behind their seat just because the pax that boarded before them have made suboptimal use of the bin space?
@PM While displeased to find a ginormous puffer coat hogging up space, if I have not seen the offender, I will not squish and fold it properly. However I am not adverse to using my bag to squeeze it down and over. Repacking the bin is not my job. But I understand your point
If enough people disagree with you, maybe that says something, no?
Also, aren’t Christians who make it a point to tell everyone how they make it a point to pray at churches be the ones exercising “common courtesy” the most? 🙂
What in the hell does this have to do with what OP said?
I think it was supposed to be a main post and not a reply to PM
I feel like I’m first class or business class, that rule should apply.
I’d like to see the grown man that is going to tattle to a FA on someone that moved his bag…. #brokennose.
Is that a threat? I’d love to fly with you, see you try that, have you punch me, and then sue you to the poorhouse. Is it a date?
Why do you assume he isn’t already poor?
I always put my bag across from where I sit so I can keep an eye on it if the bin is opened during flight.
Oh that’s pretty clever! I’ll have to remember that next time.
This is what people claiming the bin above them is theirs fail to grasp… they may not even notice when a thief is rifling through their belongings.
You’re asking for a legal argument but dismissing courtesy as a reason for the bins to be somewhat attributable to the row. Most society functions well though on respect and courtesy. Is there a law that says I can’t cut in front of you in a line?
I think people generally use their own row to park their 348 carry ons and it highlights the fact that a passenger has carried too much onboard. Making it a free for all just encourages selfish behavior. I like to board late, especially with kids and usually have 1 bag to put in the overhead amongst five of us. Annoying to see it packed in as we get on the flight. Especially for long haul. Free for all just creates more problems. Everyone chaotically trying to board asap etc (gate lice blah blah).
I guess airlines could mandate using your own row or be more strict about carry on (I wish) but for the most part most people somewhat sticking to their own row is helpful.
Passengers with kids can always board early so if you’re always late that’s a personal choice. Yet you expect the bin space to be held for you regardless? Speaking of courtesy, where’s the courtesy in clogging the aisle with your late boarding party of five?
I don’t expect but I hope for at least some space. And I think two rows should be entitled to a bag slot (99% of the time it’s fine and if not the bag can go at the kids feet).
Lol re clogging the aisle. I’ve never delayed a plane walking down the aisle and taking the seat. Noting again that I have one bag only to stow.
I could board early with kids and or status but I’d rather be at the gate watching planes then sitting in a seat for longer than I have to unless it’s long haul biz. Actually my youngest is seven now so it’s leas of a problem. The aisle clogging comes from people taking 2-3-4 bags onboard with coats in winter.
Have you ever seen boarding in japan?
Considering how often backpacks and other personal items are shoved into bins, you shouldn’t expect enough space at your seat without at least jiggling some bags around and that’s even if you board on time. I know some here are averse to touching other passengers’ things, or having others touch them, but if there are gaps between items then I’m going to push them together to make room just as any FA would.
I’ve been to Japan several times and never took notice of any differences in boarding procedures because my goal whenever I fly is always the same which is to board early whenever possible. This is the simplest way to try and avoid drama with either passengers or FAs over bin space. I say try because even though the overhead bins should be an afterthought when flying, it’s clear there are plenty of entitled folks who simply cannot stand flying without keeping their bag inches from them.
I agree with all of that! Each to their own re boarding times.
I disagree, sort of. I do not believe the “shared space” above row 7 belongs to the guy in row 36 if there is plenty of space above row 36 and even 35. Row 7 passenger should not be subjected to wait until everyone deplanes to go back to row 36 to get those carry on because that was the only space left.
Of course if you are a late boarder you take what you can get.
Maybe the best argument to fly American I’ve found on here. Gain status, book Main Cabin Extra seats and a designated area above your seating area for your bags.
That said, many pASSengers ignore the signage in them stating they are for MCE customers.
So then the question becomes are you ok with reporting someone who places their bag in their areas and heads to the back?
I think an exception, if the FA confirms it, is that if there’s a BE or Main Cabin 3 pleb who put his/her bag on F or C+/Economy Comfort bins, then those bags should be removed, as it’s a perk of said cabins. Not that I would remove said bags if I even saw the pleb who put it in, but I would definitely either tell the FA about it or ask for compensation/voucher.
The bigger issue for me (and more easily visible) is the jackass who puts 3 items in the overhead bin (suitcase, personal item, thick-ass jacket).
I respectfully disagree with you. There’s no written rule as you mentioned, as there is also none that states that you can put your luggage wherever you want. If i pay for a seat in advance in say, row 8, I shouldn’t be obligated to put my luggage in bin 26, and then wait for the whole plane to deplane. It makes way more sense for airliens to enforce that your bin is yours.
If row 8 and 26 is the same cabin class, then you don’t have a case. If row 8 however is economy+ or higher, and was advertised to have “dedicated overhead bin space” then that’s something else and you probably can call the FA about it
Mostly agree with Matthew here, but it does depend on how early in the process you board. I almost never see this issue happening early in the boarding process. For one thing, those who tend to board early also tend to be able to reserve seats closer to the front of the plane. When boarding early in the process, except for one time when a family of like 12 (all with multiple carryons) boarded with a Global Plus member on a United flight and I happened to be sitting near them, I have never had an issue getting my bag within a row or two of mine. Even then, I didn’t have to go far. If I were boarding early and I saw someone boarding in front of me take overhead space above my seat and keep going to the back, I would definitely be frustrated.
On the other hand, if you board later (whether due to lower boarding group or tight connection or something) you can’t expect to have any overhead space, let alone overhead space in your row. We all know you run the risk of losing out on overhead space when you board later and in my mind its the height of entitlement for someone boarding later in the process to remove someone’s bag and replace it with their own. The only time I ever saw something like this happen was when someone boarded towards the end of the boarding process and proceeded to ask everyone in my row whether the bags in the bins were theirs and then proceeded to start taking out an unclaimed bag to replace it with their own. Thankfully, a flight attendant noticed him doing this and forced him to either put it in an open overhead bin 10 or so rows back or gate check it.
If there were rules, #2 . Large coats should be folded and compressed before storing in to bins. Place your carry on and utilized the voids for soft items. Or better yet sit upon them. This makes an excellent cushion.
How would you feel about someone who’s sitting near the back of the plane and puts their bag in a compartment near the front as they board before evening getting to their seat in order to not to have to carry the bag all the way down the aisle when boarding and deplaning, regardless of whether there is any space nearer their seat or not?
Dick move, or absolutely fair game?
IMO, dick move.
Dick move. Probably still allowed, but dick move. Would not be a bad move if his overhead bin space in the back was already full.
Ok, thank you.
With that caveat in mind then, I think I agree with you.
Try and find space in the bins by your row first. If these are full, you can use other bins, getting progressively further from your seat until you find space.
I’d say it’s ok to rearrange somebody else’s bag if this would make more space in the bin, but do not take out someone else’s bag or put it in a different bin without their permission.
As someone who generally travels with light carry on and boards promptly, I don’t think I’ve ever had an issue with any of this, though.
I’ve actually seen this done quote a few times. For some reason it’s common on Hawaiian interisland flights, which are short so I guess for some it doesn’t matter if you don’t have ready access to your bag. It is really annoying when you board to find bins over your empty row filled up, it often requires attendants to assist to find empty space, and it creates unnecessary gridlock of people having to backtrack up and down the aisle grabbing bags as others are trying to disembark. I understand where Matthew is coming from but it has to be within reason ie. put your bag in an available bin within a few rows of your seat, not just up the front.
One big reason why the bins get filled up quickly is that people don’t follow/respect the rules. Your second bag is supposed to be only a small one that fits easily under the seat in front of you. Cannot tell you how many second bags are backpacks/duffelbag that’s anEverest Sherpa would struggle with!!
I fear bigger bins will mean bigger bags.
Years ago there were templates on the X-ray machines. If you had a huge bag, it wouldn’t make it through.
It helped for a while but the TSA Jabronis put an end to that….
I’ve always taken the view that overhead space is like a parking spot on a busy city street with apartment blocks – sometimes you get to park right outside, sometimes further down the street. Bottom line, the street spaces outside your apartment entry are not reserved for residents of your building only, but all neighbors in the permit zone. Oh, and don’t even think about laying a finger on my bag … or car.