A business class passenger shares that they boarded late, and started shuffling bags around in the overhead bin above their seat in order to fit their carry on. An economy passenger two rows back asked them to “be careful with their bag.”
He pulled that passenger’s bag out “and placed it at his feet” and put his own up in the bin. The bin has a sign that marks what cabin it’s for.
- Cabin crew tried to find another place for the economy passenger’s bag
- They couldn’t, and that bag got checked.
The Passenger (understandably) and one of the ground personnel tried to have a shot at me for taking his bag out – said I shouldn’t have touched his bag.
My argument was I paid for the space according to my ticket. My bags were where they were meant to be.. his weren’t.
Wow. First, overhead bins are shared space. But airlines may designate a bin for passengers in a particular cabin, and everyone should follow those instructions. Second, I’m shocked that a passenger in coach who used the bin had their bag removed and taken out of the cabin.
Overhead Bins Fill Up For Two Reasons
Generally gate-checking bags isn’t much of a thing on Southwest Airlines. And it wasn’t much of a thing until 16 years ago when airlines started charging to check bags. When checked bags are free, people bring less on board.
And they used to be allowed to bring more bags on, overhead bins were smaller, and there was still enough room! Before 9/11 it was common for airlines to allow two full-sized carry on bags onboard and that didn’t even count your personal item.
Also, the TSA happened, and to speed up security checkpoints limits were placed on carry on bags. More bags carried on means more bags going through the checkpoint, and more work for screeners.
Airlines Are Designating Bins By Cabin
For years customers in economy have stowed their bags wherever they’ve been able to find space. And that’s been acceptable because there were no clear norms and no enforced rules over who overhead bin space belongs to.
Delta and now American label their bins with a respective cabin, and so do some foreign airlines, suggesting that only passengers in those seats should use those bins. That discourages some people from stuffing their belongings in the overhead as they walk by on their way to the rear of the aircraft, but it doesn’t work with everyone.
I’ve never seen a this rule enforced after a bag is placed in a bin and most passengers are seated.
Who Gets The Overhead Bin Space?
Here are (6) principles for carry on bags that I think are true.
- When everyone is on board, remaining space belongs to everyone. It would be stupid to require a passenger to gate check a bag because there’s no space left in ‘their section’ of the aircraft but open space up front.
If a passenger is entitled to use bin space in their ticketed cabin, and coach passengers should walk back to coach and hunt and peck there, surely this changes at some point during the boarding process. If you’re in the last minutes of boarding can’t you take any space at all?
- A boarding pass is a license to hunt. While everyone except Basic Economy passengers on United and on some (other) ultra low cost carriers are entitled to bring a carry on bag onto the plane, there’s generally not enough space for everyone to actually do that anymore.
And since there’s not enough room for everyone to have space above their seat, there’s no entitlement to the space directly above your seat.
- It’s not ok to use bin space above the bulkhead if you aren’t seated there. Those seats generally don’t have floor storage so passengers in those seats have to stow not just a carry on but also their personal item up there as well.
- Unwritten rules sadly aren’t enforceable. American Airlines says 87% of customers fly at most once a year. If there are unwritten rules, how are those customers supposed to know them? And if they aren’t required to follow unwritten rules, no one else can be either.
- There’s an information problem. Passengers boarding the plane don’t know what bin space has already been taken or what’s left. Closed bins might be a signal, or the bins might just be closed.
- Coach passengers taking first class bin space slows down deplaning. Each first class passenger that has to put their bags farther back in economy have to fight their way back into the cabin on landing to get their cabin baggage that delays deplaning a little. Deplaning speed suggests passengers should use space nearest to them, and taking space in front of your row means someone else has to move backwards on landing. Wouldn’t Kant say this is a categorical imperative?
- Be sure you aren’t last to board. If someone is going to have to gate check a bag you don’t want it to be you.
This tells me that no matter what signs airlines put on bins, there’s going to be some deviation and airlines aren’t asking flight attendants to enforce the signs. First class bins should be for first class passengers first but the end goal should be getting as many carry on bags on the plane as possible.
Ultimately this is a war of all against all, and you have to take care of yourself, the best way to do that is to race the boarding gate and get on as soon as your boarding group is called.
This Passenger Was A Jerk
It actually sounds like this premium cabin passenger was going to fit their bag in the bin by moving some items around. They were being a jerk tossing the other passenger’s bag down. And cabin crew let them get away with it. But the coach passenger, taking bin space not designated for their cabin, would have been far better off not speaking up.
(HT: Paul H)