If you've ever wondered if there's a way to guarantee overhead bin space on an airline flight, you're not alone. Stash your bags near your seat, and you are more likely to reach your destination with all your belongings. Why do airlines lose passenger luggage? According to CNN, clerical error and checked bags that are loaded onto the wrong aircraft are among the top reasons for lost luggage. Here are a few tips that can boost your odds of stashing your carry-on luggage in an overhead compartment.
Get to the Airport Early
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but the truth is, many travelers wait until the last minute to make their way to the airport. Then they wonder why all the overhead bins are filled with other passengers' items.
Unless an airline specifically offers reserved bin space, flight attendants typically allow any passenger to stow their carry-on bags in any overhead bin. As a rule, only first-class ticket holders may use the overhead compartments in the forward part of the aircraft, but for everyone else, it can be a bit of a free-for-all.
Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to check-in so you are rushing to your gate. Being tardy is a surefire way to miss out on overhead bin space.
Use a Pre-Boarding Pass
The sooner you are aboard an aircraft, the better your chances of stowing your biggest carry-on bag in an overhead compartment. A pre-boarding pass can help.
Not every airline says you have to be disabled in order to board early. Several airlines allow families with small children to board before other passengers. Hawaiian Airlines, for example, allows passengers with kids under the age of two to board before elite members and first-class passengers. American Airlines has a similar policy in place, but the maximum age of the child is left to the discretion of the gate agent, explains TripSavvy magazine.
Other air carriers that offer early boarding for families with small children include:
- Alaska Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin America
Advice From a Flight Attendant
Conde Nast Traveler interviewed long-time flight attendant Bebe McGarry, and asked her how to best ensure storage space in an overhead bin. Noting that boarding is "the most stressful" part of her day, the experienced stewardess recommended that passengers pay close attention to the two-bag carry-on policy. Measure your luggage before leaving home to ensure one item will fit in a bin, and the other under your seat.
When loading a rolling suitcase into the overhead, do so perpendicular to the plane, wheels or handle facing the bin door. If you wish to stow a coat, place it atop your bag to save space for another passenger to use. If you see that overhead bins near your assigned seat are filling up quickly, be proactive and look for an empty bin closer to the front of the aircraft.
If all the above fails to procure bin space, be extra nice to your flight attendant. They are, after all, masters at manipulating bag space, explains McGarry.
Advice From Another Flight Attendant
Flight Attendant Beth Blair explained in The Travel Gals magazine that airline crew members might have wings, but they don't have magic wands that allow them to stash every bag brought aboard an aircraft. In fact, notes Blair, if every passenger brought as many bags as their ticket allows, overhead bin space would be even rarer than it is now. The seasoned stewardess asks passengers to remember that not all overhead bins are the same size.
Generally speaking, the larger the aircraft, the larger the overhead bins, but you should check with your particular airline before choosing which luggage to bring on your next vacation. Blair explained that luggage measuring 21″ high by 13″ wide and less than 9″ deep will fit in most overhead aircraft bins.
Use the Bag Filter From Google Flights
The next time you search for airfares, use Google Flights. In addition to ordering your search by flight price, departure and arrival times, and class of seat, this handy app now lets you filter by what type and how many pieces of luggage you intend to bring along. Typically, explains Google, bags are classified by air carriers as checked bags, carry-on pieces, and personal items.
Use Google Flights as you would any other travel search engine. Then, turn on the bags filter. Doing so will update prices while letting you know if overhead bin space is included in the ticket cost, or if you'll have to pay a little (or a lot) extra to reserve overhead compartment space.
Be Selective When Choosing an Airline
Not every airline ticket entitles you to stow a bag in available overhead compartment space. Some tickets, such as United Basic Economy, restrict passengers from bringing more than one personal item into the aircraft cabin, and that one item may not be stowed in an overhead bin. If you bring an item that won't fit under the seat in front of you, you will have to check it at the gate.
Passengers and gate-check agents may not like it so much, but United Airlines flight attendants laud the new Basic Economy fares as a great way to reduce the number of passengers clamoring for the same overhead bin space, explains Live and Let's Fly magazine.
Not every airline offers reserved overhead bin space yet, but Ireland's Aer Lingus is about to show the travel world how it's done. In September 2019, the Irish air carrier will debut a new AerSpace program that offers select first and second-row seating options, as well as reserved bin space to stash carry-on luggage.