Here’s How New Boeing Overhead Bins Will Make Boarding Faster and Flying Easier

Many flyers don’t remember that before 9/11 passengers could take two carry on bags onboard. Generally passengers had a free allowance of three bags — and those could be two carry ons and one checked bag, or one carry on and two checked bags.

This changed by government regulation. The TSA wanted fewer bags going through the checkpoint, which meant less screening work, and fewer delays given a fixed throughput at the checkpoint.

Continental Airlines actually pushed back: they had installed higher capacity overhead bins as a customer convenience. Passengers wanted to carry on bags, and they viewed this accommodation as a competitive advantage.

Of course that was before:

  • Airlines charged for checked bags, and everyone wanted to carry their bags on as a result.

  • Planes were so full, that overhead bins filled up even more still.

More carry ons, especially when they exceed the capacity of an aircraft, delay departures. Passengers board, look for space, and then gate check at the last minute. That’s costly to an airline and inconvenient for a customer.

On the other hand, it encourages passengers to try to board early, and to obtain early boarding privileges such as by obtaining the airline’s co-brand credit card.

Boeing has a new approach, that seems obvious, overhead bins with more storage space. Alaska Airlines is the first to get these new bins on their 737-900ERs and they’ll hold up to 174 standard carry-on bags (a 48% increase over the current 117 bag capacity).

It makes sense for Alaska to be a driver here, they continue to have the most generous carry on policy in the industry allowing 24-inch rollaboards in the aircraft.

Customers should choose an airline that lets them carry their bag, avoiding fees and getting them out of the airport more quickly, and reducing the risk of having to gate check.

(Video HT to World Airline News)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Finally someone remembers the Continental advantage for Carry-Ons.

    Even after it went to 1 + 1 personal they held out with a more generous 55 linear inch requirement (which led to a scuffle with shouldhaveliquidated UA and its sizers on the IAD security machines).

  2. The new airline bag-check in policy is one of the greater airline scams post 9/11. The airlines’ baggage policy deliberately make it impossible for everyone to get all their bags on board and then unfairly make individuals gate check them.

  3. @TheAJ: gate checking bags is free of charge, so it’s hardly a scam. Charging for checking bags is a bit of a scam however.

  4. To get the bags packed in like the photo will take management by the flight attendants. People do not naturally do that type of stowage.

  5. @augias

    Absolutely it is. The typical customer who has to gate-check a bag is usually one of the last to board, or probably someone who has zero benefits with that airline. So they wouldn’t have been able to check in a bag in the first place without paying. So they diligently reduce the number of items to fit it into a carry on bag only to find its going to be checked in anway.

    When I used to fly Delta into JFK’s terminal 2, I sometimes had to wait 45 minutes for my bag to come in. Airports seem to be better now, but if I was someone who expected the convenience of walking in and out of the airport quickly with my carry on bag, only to find myself waiting at baggage claim despite following ALL the rules, I would be pissed.

  6. The next step is to wait for the bag manufacturers to make wheels on the narrow side away from the side handle so that can be rolled into the narrow space.
    Otherwise it will cause problems in loading as it is not easy to push a heavy bag in sideways

  7. Well, if airlines didn’t charge to check a bag, then maybe all the inexperienced people would just check it and not try to fit two weeks worth of clothes in a standard rollaboard to save $25-35!

  8. I think the bins will be harder to close because more weight in each bin, How is that handled? Plane bins just were not designed for useage over the past 10+ years. Especially when they started to charge for bags. The nonsense is when they bring out that tiny metal frame and state all bags must fit in there. That was designed more than 30 yrs ago and few bags will fit that frame the way the airline states. They use the frame as a tactic when they know they will be full and wont have the bin space.. I try to keep things as small as possible. I did have a creep gate agent hassle me on a trip to the UK on AA in first. There was more than enough bin space in first for first passengers yet he started with the metal frame trick.

  9. @robertw OMG…that’s genius! I’ll bet the engineers never contemplated more weight when they designed the larger bins. 😉

  10. Lana,
    I can assure you that even when they are completely FREE and they didn’t have to pay for bags, people still tried to bring 2 weeks worth of clothing, 10 pair of shoes, 3 bags of other items, multiple bags purchased after security and a purse and a laptop and whatever else they can cram in the space! Look, I love my big luggage as much as the next girl but I am completely frustrated when I fly and see people being too lazy to just check a big bag (God forbid they have to wait 10 minutes for the luggage to be on the carousel at the airport) or too cheap to pay for one so they take up all of the space with bags that they know aren’t approved for the size.Today, the fees are not as outrageous as most people make out, but people just don’t want to pay the fees and even when you give them free baggage allowances they don’t check because they’re afraid they will lose the luggage or have to wait. It is just plain crazy.

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