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Once, I boarded a plane, went to my designated seat and tried to put my bag in the overhead bin. However, it was full, and other adjacent overhead bins were full too. Because I had a seat next to the emergency exit, which I paid for, I had to hand over my bag to someone else in order to take off.

Do I have any rights over the overhead bin above my seat? Could I ask the flight attendant to remove some of the bags to make room for me?

I cannot imagine that the bins were full because there was not enough space. I think this happened because some people were ignorant enough to bring more bags than is allowed inside the airplane instead of sending them to cargo. If this is the case why doesn't the airline enforce the bag limit inside the airplane?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – RoflcoptrException Oct 23 '16 at 17:45
  • Under what circumstances are there no accommodations for carry-ons at your feet, in an exit row? I've only seen this for bulkhead seats. Was this exit row seat also a bulkhead seat? I believe that this info would add value to the discussion. – CCTO Jun 20 at 16:19
70

You have no right to the bin above your seat. For those exit rows where you cannot put anything beneath the seat in front of you, flight attendants will generally try to help find some space somewhere for at least your small personal item, but any passenger may be required to check their bags rather than put them in the overhead bin.

It is entirely possible that the airline didn't enforce the bag limit, but the overhead bins can easily fill up even when the limit is strictly enforced. If every passenger, or even most passengers, brings a regulation sized carry-on on a full flight, it is obvious that many of the bags will not fit in the bins and will have to be checked.

In some cases, overhead bins may be marked as reserved for first class or premium economy passengers (or safety equipment, or pillows and blankets). Even in such cases, cabin crew may fill these bins with other bags in an attempt to accommodate as many passengers as possible, and a late-boarding passenger may be caught out with no space.

It is hard to imagine that they are likely to remove and check someone's bag so you may have that space. Overhead bin space is typically first-come first served, and at some point, they will declare the bins full and start checking bags (sometimes even before the bins are actually full). Note that if your bag must be checked, you should ensure you remove any essential items (medication, passports, keys, etc...) and any valuables, along with any hazardous material that cannot be checked, namely spare (uninstalled) lithium batteries including external power packs.

Boarding as early as possible (which, on some airlines, could require frequent flyer status or paying an extra fee) will help secure you overhead bin space.

  • 24
    I have seen instances where small bags, purses, etc.. were removed from overhead bins and people were asked to put them under their seat instead, to make room for larger bags. I've never seen a large bag removed from the bin (except where it was so large the door couldn't be closed), though I don't doubt it has happened somewhere. – Zach Lipton Jun 11 '16 at 19:41
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    I don't know how anybody manage to fit a bag under the seat. I have enough trouble getting my legs to fit even with no bags around. – kasperd Jun 11 '16 at 19:50
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    @kasperd many people bring backpack-sized carry-ons and these would fit under the seat - but then there's really no room left for me to put my feet. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 12 '16 at 15:59
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    @Martin It's happened to me. Apparently backpacks aren't allowed in the overhead bins on Sun Country Air. They took my large backpack and made me shove under the seat in front of me for some godawful reason. That was very uncomfortable – Azor Ahai Jun 12 '16 at 16:30
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    Ouch, that sounds ridiculous. I would definitely complain to the airline if that happened to me. – Martin Argerami Jun 12 '16 at 17:39
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Typically, the bins really are full because there is not enough space to fit everything if the plane is completely full and everybody uses their allowance to the fullest. Also, some overhead bins contain material for the safety procedure demonstration, etc. so you can't count on enough space being available right above your seat (and I have never heard of a number of anything that could be used to tie a bin to a passenger or a seat).

It can vary a bit but in my experience airlines do enforce their rules regarding cabin luggage. But they simply allow too much to guarantee that everything will fit comfortably in the overhead bins in a full plane. Airlines do this because they know that:

  • Some people will not use the allowance
  • Many flights won't be completely full
  • There is always the possibility to put some things away at the last minute

It happens somewhat frequently (especially with low-cost airlines) that I hear a call for volunteers to “gate-check“ their bags shortly before boarding because the staff knows that a given flight is full and problems are likely. That also means that the worse case is not having to use an overhead bin that's somewhat removed from your seat but having to part with your bag for the whole duration of the flight.

You can certainly ask a flight attendant for help but what they usually do is go looking/ask colleague for a free space, sometimes rearrange bags to make some room or, in the worse case, offer to put your bag in the cargo hold. I don't think they would simply remove a bag to find a space that's more convenient for you (and, while you might not care about it, that would mean another bag to place somewhere so it's not solving any problem as far as the whole plane and its crew is concerned).

13

Do I have any right about the overhead bin above my sit? Could I ask the flight attendant to remove some of the bags to make room for me?

No, you do not. The overhead bins are not guaranteed to anyone. The flight attendant will try to accommodate you by placing your bags in any space overhead; or subject to there being no space, they may place them in another class (for example, they may place it in business class bins) or have it ground-checked.

In short, they will try to accommodate you but you are not entitled to any space overhead.

As mentioned by others, the only way to ensure that you get space above your seat is to board early, either by being first in line, or by paying for the privilege (by virtue of your frequent flier status) or some airlines may offer this as a pay option.

Further, even if you are the first one on board - the overhead bin may contain safety equipment (for example, it may have the props used for the in-flight safety demonstration), it may contain blankets/pillows (on some airlines, these bins are specifically marked) I have also seen an oxygen tank in there once; or you may find the bin above your seat is actually smaller than the other bins. This happens sometimes if you are in an exit row or seated above/behind a bulkhead.

In all these scenarios the staff will try to accommodate you - but please understand that your ticket does not entitle you (in any class of travel) to overhead bin space.

2

Don't have much to say that hasn't already been said. I've been on some airlines where the bin above row 1 is reserved for passengers in row 1 and has a sign to say so. I've never been in an airline where the seat above the exit row has been so marked.

Not all airlines restrict you storing items under the seat in front if you're in the exit row. Airlines in the US have no such rule and you can store your bags under the seat in front on the other side of the emergency exit.

Some people prefer to store their bags in the bin opposite to their seat, especially since there have been many reports of in-flight theft from overhead bins. If you store it in the bin opposite you can see anyone opening the bin and whether they're interfering with your bag.

If I'm in an exit row, bulkhead or row 1 I always attempt to board as early as possible to forestall this problem.

-1

I don't think you have right to use the overhead bin.

The airlines have restrictions on dimensions of carry-on baggage and the checked ones. Whether they apply them stricly is up to them.

Once I was asked right before entering the plane to let my hand baggage be transported as checked one. They put random code on it and I've almost lost it - there was wrong name and wrong final destination.

As a prevention, I suggest to ensure that your baggage fits in checked baggage allowance and use as small hand baggage as possible.

-3

Don't be that guy.

Yes, some things about travel you are entitled to as a matter of right: entry into your own country, rebooking if your flight is canceled, compensation if your luggage is lost. About those things, you can (politely) insist.

Everything else -- including this -- it's go along to get along. Gee, we are all overwhelmed with sorrow for you that you will be separated from your souvenir t-shirts for a few hours, but look at the situation: in exchange for a day's pay, you are riding in an aluminum dart, flying 10 kilometers above the Earth at nearly the speed of sound -- something that everyone born more than 100 years ago would have thought impossible. You can visit any city, any country, you want in safety and comparative comfort.

And all you have to do is not be a total tool to the people around you. Be courteous, absorb minor inconveniences and unintended slights with a smile. Do that, and literally the world is yours.

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    I think this is good advice in the broad general sense that you should try to go with the flow and not be the one creating a scene, but somewhat mean-spirited advice when applied to the specific individual who came here to ask a question. It's not unreasonable to want to put your bag in the overhead and it can be disappointing or annoying when you are forced to check your bag and the OP is not a "total tool" for asking us about it. – Zach Lipton Jun 12 '16 at 0:17
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    Also, this advice could apply to literally everything. If someone said "I paid for first class but they made me share an economy seat with a fat man who smelled funny and they also charged my credit card an extra $500 and made fun of my religion when I complained," would the correct advice be to relax and go with the flow because you still got to jet through the sky and explore the world? A contrived example to be sure, but flying is a commercial transaction, and it's ok to complain or be upset about something, even if the answer is just "this is the way things work." – Zach Lipton Jun 12 '16 at 0:21
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    Sarcasm on SE sites - suggest you take your own advice and don't be that guy... – Lamar Latrell Jun 12 '16 at 5:57
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    This answer is snobbish. Who says the OP was carrying "souvenir T-shirts" rather than their work laptop? Why would you not want that close to you, where you can keep an eye on anyone around it? What about that £80 bottle of Moet Ice that you just bought at the duty free? Going on about how lucky the OP should feel about the privilege of human flight is completely unhelpful. A big fat -1 from me. – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 12 '16 at 16:20
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    To paraphrase your own advice, don't be a jerk. You have no idea what's in the bag that the asker wanted in the overheads. For example, my carry-on typically contains camera gear that's liable to get damaged and/or stolen if placed in the hold. And my souvenir T-shirts are already checked, thank you very much. – David Richerby Jun 13 '16 at 9:00

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