Man Claims Overhead Bin Baggage Rights

January 29, 2010

in Luggage Stories

I was on a Delta MD-80 that was fully booked going from Cincinnati to Atlanta. Everyone was seated and we were waiting to leave the gate when a last minute traveler boarded with a very large carry on suitcase. All the passengers watched in silence as this man opened the overheads looking for a place to stow his luggage but all were full. He go to my row and opened the overhead across from me and took out a large bag. “Who owns this bag?” he asked.

“That’s mine,” answered the man sitting in the window seat in front of me.

“Please hold this,” said the late arrival and he handed the man in front of me his bag.

The late arrival then placed his bag in the overhead and closed it.

“What are you doing?” asked the man in front of me now quite irate.

“Your bag can fit under your seat,” explained the late arrival. “My bag cannot. The overheads and meant for larger items so my bag has rights to the overhead and yours goes under your seat! You got a problem with it?”

I and I am sure others thought we were going to see a fist fight but the man in front of me just sighed and stored his bag.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob January 29, 2010 at 1:50 am

That guy was a reak jerk, but on the other hand I have a slight issue with overhead baggage bins myself. My family and I traveled from Toronto to LA over this past Christmas and we were not late boarding the aircraft, maybe middle boarding. We are a family of six and had six seats across the aircraft in the same row. When I got to our seats, I opened the bins on each side of our row (seats a through f) and the bins were all full. By this time the aircraft was half full, but I thought that was strange. I did not make a scene or say anything, but it did peeve me.


meme January 29, 2010 at 5:59 am

Carryon luggage is a real problem for me. I realize airlines are gouging travelers with fees, but too many people get by with bringing luggage that is obviously larger that "your bag must fit here" boxes. I hate getting bopped in the back,head and arm when people are getting settled, and I'm only 5 ft tall. The airlines should enforce the size limit and instead of charging for checked luggage, charge for any carry on bigger than a laptop or comparable. The man who had his bag handed to him showed admirable restaint and Mr. Big Shot was an ass.


Bdawg January 29, 2010 at 6:23 am

I disagree with the original poster. The guy may have been rude and that was unacceptable but the flight attendants' instructions are always clear – if your carry on can fit under your seat, that's where it goes. The overhead bins are for larger bags. Obviously, this man's bag fit in the overhead and the other's guy's bag fit under his seat.

I get annoyed when I get on the plane and open the overhead bin to find it full of small shopping bags, purses and laptop bags that clearly fit under the seat but people casually toss them into the overhead for no reason. I will ask people around me in a polite manner if they can possibly fit it under their seat and they usually will (though I may get some eye rolling and sighing b/c they are now SO put out). Another pet peeve – if the bag fits into the overhead wheels first, put it in wheels first, not sideways. I frequently spend a few minutes rearranging people's bags b/c they can't put them in the correct way that maximizes space for everyone.

I really don't see why you wouldn't put a bag under your seat if it fits there and you have the room. Quit being a bin hog.


Harmie January 29, 2010 at 7:58 am

I agree with you. However, it was just the manner of how it was handled. Politeness and good manners are a rarity these days. That makes me a very sad panda.


Jim January 29, 2010 at 9:18 am

I'm 6' tall… I need the room under the seat in front of me for my legs…planes are small. I check my luggage specifically, so that I can use the overhead bin for my laptop, coat, etc…

Just because you bring a large bag on the plane…does not mean that you have a right to encroach in the space that should be designated for me.

Maybe airlines should assign specific space to specific seats…and, if your stuff doesn't fit in your assigned bin space…check the darn luggage….and, quit inconveniencing everyone else because you are too cheap to check your luggage.

Simply put….you are being the bin hog…by wanting to use more than your space.


bbc February 1, 2010 at 7:56 am

I can almost always fins space for my carry-on bag. Just re-arrange the sideways bags to go in wheels-first, and presto, plenty of room for my bag! The only thing that get me is when the FA's claim that the overheads are full (of sideways bags) and want me to gate-check mine. They sometimes get in quite a tizzy when I want to look in the "full" bins to rearrange a couple of bags…


D.V. January 29, 2010 at 8:09 am

Well, I suppose that is why it's called "Carry on".

Sounds like THAT guy sure did!


Jim January 29, 2010 at 9:14 am

I agree with the poster…why do people insist on carrying on such large bags…and multiple bags? What a hassle to everyone involved. It takes longer for us to load and unload the plane, while these bozos try to stuff their oversized luggage into the overhead bin…with no concern for others. I am really perplexed at those who can not lift or carry their own bag, that expect everyone else around to accomodate them, and lift their bag into the bin on their behalf.

Come on…you are already paying several hundred bucks for for the flight…pay the little extra and check the darn bag…and, if you are frequent flier, you can usually check your luggage free….I always check my luggage…and, I have never had one lost…(knock on wood)…and, the longest I have ever waited for my bag at the carousel, was 45 minutes….usually it is much faster. But, it is worth the wait, not to have to try to fight for space on the airplane, and inconvenience those around me.

Finally, I am 6' tall….I do not like anything under the seat in front of me. So, I will put my small bag in the overhead bin…deal with it. There is little room on an airplane anyway….and I like to use the few inches under the seat for my legs….thank you very much. My space…I will use as I see fit…you can do the same with yours.

And, to Bdawg….I paid for my ticket too. And, as such I should be alloted the same amount of space in that bin as you! Because I check my luggage…I should be allowed to use the space in the overhead bin for my coat, my laptop, or anything else I darn well please. If your luggage doesn't fit in your allotment of space…that's your problem.


John February 1, 2010 at 7:40 am

I would dearly love to be able to ditch my carry-on bags (plural), but it probably isn't going to happen in my lifetime. The big rolling bag (22x14x9) contains my CPAP and mask and my asthma nebulizer and medications. The under-the-seat backpack contains my notebook computer and Nikon D80 camera. I am not stupid enough to trust the baggage handlers with two thousand dollars of camera and computer and related gear, and I am not crazy enough to trust them with my medical supplies, especially considering that the guaranteed result of them losing my medical supplies is a sleepless night, and the fairly-likely result is an emergency hospitalization for acute asthma.


Jim February 1, 2010 at 8:22 am


I would think that an exception should be made for those with medical equipment, etc… It is quite understandable that you would have extra to carry on.

Likewise, I understand your concern of checking anything of value. When I travel, if at all possible, I do not take anything valuable with me….even clothes. And, when I absolutely have to take valuables…(brand suit for an important meeting, or camera for vacation…I will wear the suit, or carry it on with my laptop….but, make sure that I minimize all other carry on items…for the convenience of others…and, for myself.


Larry Couch February 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

I travel internationally and have a carry-on, my computer, and a CPAP. To the best of my knowledge, CPAPs go on as "free" carry-ons. As medical equipment, they do NOT count against your carry-on allowances. I know it can be a little more hassle (with an extra bag), but I always carry my CPAP in the case that it came with, which is quite small. That way when on a small commuter plane, I carry my CPAP and my computer on and my carry-on gets a pink tag.


Tony January 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

Who the hell does that guy think he is?

I'm actually quite surprised that didn't turn into a fist fight. Had that been me, and that a-hole removed my bag like that, my first thought would have been to knock him in the jaw. In reality, probably not worth the jail time. Last thing I need is to have federal assault charges filed against me, especially over something as stupid as bin space.

Here's my take on this: First man (or woman) who boards that plane gets dibs on the overhead bin space, no matter what size the bags are (within reason). Obviously if you have a large bag, the flight attendants will probably require you to check it. I'm referring to backpacks and smaller suitcases (for the bins). As far as stowing items under the seats, I have mixed feelings on that. If you are carrying a laptop bag or a purse, it might not be such a bad idea to tuck those under (just as a common courtesy and more importantly, safety).

What that self serving a-hole did was downright rude and inconsiderate, period. What ever happened to having courtesy for other people?


Demotage January 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

You are not entitled to overhead bin space. You bring your baggage on board, you take your chances. Get there early if you want space. If there is no space you either check your bag or you ASK someone for their kindness. You don't just take someones bag out if the bin. I certainly would have had a problem with what this man did.

What DOES big me us when people at the back of the plane put their stuff in the bin at the front if the plane. This leaves no space for other people because they can't get their stuff in the back of the plane.

Rule of thumb: take what you need within reason, but do it in a way that minimizes inconvenience to others.


Tony January 30, 2010 at 3:29 am

Well said Demotage. I'm with ya one the back passengers stowing items in bins located at the front of the plane. Very inconsiderate. Seems to be a huge problem on Continental and Southwest (although, I'm sure it happens on the other airlines too). Nowadays when I fly, I don't jack around with the overhead bins. My laptop bag is the only thing that comes on board because it can easily be stowed under the seat. Everything else gets checked.


HUNGRY DINGO February 1, 2010 at 8:14 am

I've had the experience on Continental many times where the passengers in the back just toss their stuff in the first empty overhead bin they find. And the F/A's attitudes differ dramatically. I usually sit in the exit row on the 757's or first row on the 737's flying LA to Newark and vice-versa. When my overhead space was already full, one F/A said, "Here, let me find some room up front" and on another flight one F/A said, "Well, you'll have to just go down the row until you find some open space". I wanted to ask if the open space between her ears was available. It really pisses me off since there isn't any under-seat stowage for the first exit row on 757's or first rows in coach on the 737's. That overhead space should be saved for those seats. Period.


Darryl January 30, 2010 at 4:29 am

If Airlines enforced the carry on rules everything would be so much easier. But none will because they don't want to lose customers. One Airline that used to was Qantas, flying from LA to Australia. They had an attendant near the door and if your carry on was to large it just got put down a chute to be stowed in the cargo compartment. I used to enjoy seeing those selfish people trundling down the air bridge with a huge suitcase, only to be relieved of it at the airplane door.


Robert Freeman February 1, 2010 at 6:10 am

Airlines do not enforce their own policies with regard to baggage. That's the problem. Every carry on bag must be able to fit underneath the seat. If that were to be enforced, the guy would have had plenty of space for his bag up above and a tense situation would have been averted.

Comfort in economy class does not exist. Traveling is torture. Storing a bag underneath the seat in front of you, when there is just no room between seats in any direction, should be banned. Enforcing carry-on policy is a good place to start.


Kim February 1, 2010 at 6:46 am

Airlines should let people who don't have bags in bins disembark FIRST. If I have my purse/laptop under the seat in front of me and can get up and out in 1 minute I shouldn't have to wait for 72 people ahead of me to fuss with trying to get their bags down. Let the people who travel light on planes and check their bags get off FIRST – perhaps it could be our rewards for not being bin hogs!


Jim February 1, 2010 at 8:15 am

I love it. I agree wholeheartedly. Why should we have to wait for those less considerate.


Mark February 1, 2010 at 7:31 am

I actually had someone try to remove my bag from a bin like this. I told him to put it back, or I'd make darn sure neither one of us made the flight. He put it back.


Melissa February 1, 2010 at 8:56 am

TSA is actually enforcing the bag size and limit now. When I flew out of Boston in Dec. they were checking at security. It was the same out of Chicago.


Jay February 1, 2010 at 9:40 am

This is obviously a touchy subject for everyone, and everyone seems to have an opinion. As a flight attendant, overall what I see is a lack of real consideration for each other as human beings, lack of ability to conserve space and not fill up an entire bin (as they usually extend several feet ahead of and behind your row) and lack of flexibility in stowing bags. I also have gotten to the point where I refuse to be a referee overseeing the luggage space disputes. As for the poster that said it was so nice for one flight attendant to say "let me find a space for you"–I am required to stand in a specific area of the aircraft for security reasons which would require the response "there is additional space in another section of the aircraft"and after 10 years of flying I refuse to lift one more overstuffed bag that weighs as much as a small Toyota into the overhead for anyone. A person's body and back can take just so much abuse.


EJE February 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

Jay; I could not agree more. I have been a flight attendant for more than 25 yrs., and am now in the process of recovering from a spinal fusion. Years of wear and tear can take it's toll.

However, when someone get's on at the last minute and starts yanking bags out of the bin, that's where I draw the line. Bin space is first come first served. No bin space is reserved for a certain area. I try very hard to keep the bags situation under control as eveyone is boarding; ie turning bags to make more room and keeping bins open that DO have room. But full is full and if you get on last and there's no room, then you get to check your bag, simple as that. There is no additional charge for gate checking. If there is a confrontation after that, then somebody gets to spend a little more time in the airport to contemplate their dilema.


Bdawg February 2, 2010 at 7:27 am

Geez, Jim. Take a pill. I am not saying that I am "owed" bin space but it would be nice if people would realize that they are not the only people on the plane and therefore maybe you shouldn't necessarily do "as you darn well please" and could be a little more courteous about the use of overhead bin space. Thanks for being a jerk, though.

If my bag fits under the seat, I put it there even if it is somewhat uncomfortable for me and I have to put my feet on it. Also, I think we can all agree that there are many, many reasons why people do not check bags that has nothing to do with selfishness or cheapness. Perhaps if bags didn't get lost, items were not stolen from bags, bags were not ripped or destroyed, we didn't have to wait 45 minutes at baggage claim and the airlines actually cared about our things, people would be more likely to check.

I do agree with all posters that it would be easier if the airline enforced the limits on bag size and number of bags.


Zei April 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I work for an airline. This is probably a red alert to all of you that I will try to defend airlines and policies, but I feel that we can all do with more information on the subject of overhead bin spaces.

Our aircraft can hold up to about 170 people or thereabouts. Configuration is, three people on each side of the aisle. Overhead bins extend about three rows, give or take. So if you think about it, 9 people should be sharing one overhead bin. But those bins can really fit only up to 5 bags (if those bags fit in the bag sizers most airlines have, and are properly positioned). So if every single person brought a carry on bag, even if those bags are the proper size and are placed correctly, there would be a serious shortage of bin space.

Sometimes your bag is just not gonna fit, even if everyone followed the rules.

As for airlines enforcing the rules — we do. TSA demands that we do, and has set up fines for noncompliance. I have personally carried the sizer down to the aircraft door and made passengers stick their bags in. But of course people get upset that we make them check bags that don't fit, and we always hear "But it fit the last time." Or, "TSA let me through with it" or "I don't want to lose my bag".

Now, if you get on last and your bag just doesn't fit — then sorry. That's the risk you take if you board late.


Kiddy April 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I can only say that I agree. 🙂


IH8SELFISHPPL May 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

To those 6 foot f*ckheads who claim they're oh so tall and need their precious leg room: EFF YOU!!! I don't care if you checked your bag. It's also not a function of cost, as I have the status to check bags for FREE idiots. So a tiny laptop bag will cramp your royal style. Gimme a break, losers. AND, then you all stand up in flight to rummage thru ur crap even tho the plane is not at 10K feet. Even if it is at 30K, I don't want ur a$$ or package in my face as u dig around. u can easily drape those long legs over ur crap, like I do. It's selfish ppl like u that eff things up. I effing saw Yao Ming on an RJ!! You wanna talk about being cramped?? Stop being such selfish little brats and man the hell up.


Bee May 26, 2012 at 11:33 pm

When airlines started charging for checked bags it became the wild west in the economy section, and no airline that I have been on has been willing to use common sense to quell the madness. It is so simple: there should be a designated space for every passenger in the overhead compartment. People use their own compartment only, stow small totes and purses under the seats, and check bags that are over certain standard dimensions. It is SO simple, but airlines refuse to do this. Why should I have to push and shove my way through to the front of the line at the boarding gate to ensure that the overhead space over my freaking seat is empty? Why do I have to be lectured by snotty flight attendants that I have to check my bag and not the d-bag who puts his suitcase in my space? His should be checked, not mine.


sexygal April 8, 2014 at 5:58 am

Honestly, ppl, just STAND UP for yourselves; if you don't LIKE something, just leave or change it!!! QUIT complaining and DO something abt it!!!


Iloveflying February 16, 2016 at 10:19 am



Joe January 23, 2020 at 8:33 am

I think the overhead bin space should be assigned to your seat number then it would be fair In a world where manners seem to have taken a backseat this is the only way to do it. Also the airline should be much stricter in size and quantity of overhead luggage. Oh and when flying have some decorum and shower before boarding a plane or if you have a cold and are hacking all over everyone state the f home


John January 24, 2020 at 7:39 am

Wouldn't work to well with me. I'm 6'3" with size 15 feet. Whenever I fly, I check my suitcase and put my laptop and CPAP in the overhead because I cannot fit them under the seat with my feet. I would have had no problem removing that guy's bag and leaving it in the aisle to put my bag back where it was. Of course, for some reason, no one seems to want to confront me about anything – I think it's because they're scared of my beard.


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