On airplanes, they tell you to put your bags either in the overhead or under the seat in front of you. Considering that the front row doesn't have a seat in front of them, and the back seats don't have anything under them, would it not be more efficient to have people put their backs underneath their own seats?

Please don't give me an answer about legroom. We all know airlines don't care about our legroom.

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    IBy "at your feet" you mean in the space between your seat and the one in front? In an exit row, that would block people's access to the exit! On any other row, it would shoot forwards in a sudden deceleration (such as a crash), potentially injuring your legs and bouncing around into the aisle. It would also obstruct the exit of the other people in your row, unless you were in the window seat. Mar 29, 2017 at 7:38
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    They want you to inconvenience yourself, not the person behind you. Mar 29, 2017 at 11:22
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    Except is 100% about leg room. Sorry.
    – DTRT
    Mar 29, 2017 at 12:24

7 Answers 7


I can think of two reasons. One, sadly, you have disallowed, which is the legroom answer. But what if the answer actually is about legroom? Since I don't have enough room for my knees, I have to straighten my legs, which requires me to put my feet under the seat in front of me. It seems to me that if passengers were supposed to put bags under their own seat, people would be fighting over that space more than they already are.

The other reason is safety. That space has a bar to keep the things in there from sliding forward in a crash. This serves as a barrier between the space and the occupant of the seat above. If the bar were at the back of the seat instead of the front, it would allow things to fly into the aisle between the rows, injuring passengers' feet or impeding their egress.

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    @O.R.Mapper: True, but that's a conflict between yourself (your legs) and yourself (your bag) that you can work out yourself, based on what's more important to you. Otherwise, it'd be a conflict between yourself (your legs) and the person in front of you (his/her luggage), leading to tension between passengers and, thus, more work for the cabin crew, who will have to intervene and help resolve conflicts.
    – Heinzi
    Mar 29, 2017 at 6:29
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    @O.R.Mapper Sudden deceleration is more of a problem than sudden acceleration. In a sudden deceleration in the proposed system, all under-seat baggage would shoot forwards. Even if none of it bounces into the aisle, it still has the potential to injure people's legs and obstruct the floor that they need to stand on to escape. Mar 29, 2017 at 7:31
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    I'm willing to put money on the primary reason (>90%) being safety. In the event of an emergency landing, it keeps the rows clear for a speedy evacuation.
    – Tristan
    Mar 29, 2017 at 14:33
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    @anaximander no, the bar does not prevent you from putting your feet -- or a bag -- under the seat in front of you. Also, the idea that bags aren't allowed under the seat because it would interfere with the collapse of the seat is not correct: remember that passengers are instructed to put bags under the seat. The question is about why the specified seat is the one in front rather than the passenger's own seat; that's rather different from a prohibition against putting things under seats altogether.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 15:58
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    It is very annoying that you have to put to bag under the seat in front of you, where it takes away your own legroom. I could bring so much more luggage to the cabin, if I only could use someone else's legroom.... Mar 30, 2017 at 13:56

The gymnastics required to put your bag behind your feet in such a small space would be very interesting. Bending forward and sliding it in, sure that works. But pushing it back when you can't see and your legs are in the way? Most people are not good at bending into pretzels in 31" of space.

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    +1 "Most people are not good at bending into pretzels in 31" of space" :D
    – AKS
    Mar 29, 2017 at 5:12
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    I am confident that the ability to bend into pretzel shape versus available room is a constant when above the 27'' mark. AKA Anyone that can bend into a pretzel can do it in a 27'' space, and more room doesn't matter. And a 27'' box is proven to fit 3 Mar 29, 2017 at 12:53

Inconveniencing yourself never creates an argument. Inconveniencing others, does however. If you were to put your bag under your seat, you would be affecting the comfort of the passenger behind you. That passenger may not even have brought a bag on board, but now finds their comfort dependent on the whims of the passenger in front of them.

I think it's easy to see what the result of this is: complaints, arguments, fights, passengers being thrown off the flight. This does nobody any good.

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    "but now finds their comfort dependent on the whims of the passenger in front of them" - they do, anyway, thanks to reclineable seats. Mar 29, 2017 at 6:17
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    @O.R.Mapper Good point. CX have/had some economy seats that slide forward instead of reclining backward resulting in you leaning back but effectively reducing your legroom.
    – Berwyn
    Mar 29, 2017 at 6:21
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    That sounds like a great design (if you want to lean back, do so at your own expense of legroom, not by inconveniencing the person behind you); unfortunately, it does not seem to be widespread yet on planes/trains/buses. Mar 29, 2017 at 6:23
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    @O.R.Mapper Giving the passenger in front of me the right to use the space where my feet go would magnify that hugely. Mar 29, 2017 at 7:34
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    @Calchas: My experience is the reclining the back also turns the seat into a slide. Unless there's also a system to tilt the bottom cushion upwards (which I've never encountered), each way of reclining just ends up with supporting a lot of my weight by transverse friction between buttocks and cushion, rather than compression -- a rather uncomfortable way to spend hours cramped up in. Mar 29, 2017 at 11:55

The Life Vest

Putting your bag underneath your seat could be an obstacle if you had to grab the life vest in case that there were troubles on the flight.

http://main.victorofrank.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/140730105130-airbus-a350-14-horizontal-large-gallery.jpgenter image description here

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    So it's better to create problems for the person in front of you? There's a bag under a seat either way. Mar 29, 2017 at 11:20
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    Welcome to the site, and +1 for bringing up another important factor in the issue of under-seat space. Still, I rather suspect that if the other arrangement were common that would simply preclude the illustrated design for stowing life vests. This design isn't universal, after all.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 13:07
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    @SGR There's no significant difference in life jackets between US and UK airlines, except that essentially all planes in the UK need to carry them because the UK has few internal flights and is surrounded by water, whereas many planes in the US won't travel over large bodies of water so don't need to carry life jackets. However, most planes don't use the stowage shown in this photo, and it's not clear that the "normal" kind would prevent you stowing your bag under your own seat. Mar 30, 2017 at 15:30
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    @Dave Newton But you luggage bag would not hinder the person in front of you to get to the life vest. It is also stopped moving further by the gray bar.
    – roel
    Mar 31, 2017 at 13:59
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    @roel This depends entirely on the airplane in question; I've never flown on a plane that has a dangling life vest like this. Mar 31, 2017 at 14:54

In the event of a crash anything on the floor will slide forward. Having a bar at the front edge of your seat prevents bags from coming to rest against the seat in front and allows a clear space to evacuate your row.

  • Correct. That's it right there. Really, any extraordinary situation, such as going in the weeds or an RTO. Here's two at once. youtube.com/watch?v=b26NcJCLZl4 Mar 31, 2017 at 0:33
  • @Harper Or even just hard braking in a normal landing due to a heavy plane and/or short runway and/or warm, humid air and/or ATC asks them to expedite vacating the runway for traffic.
    – reirab
    Mar 31, 2017 at 21:52

If you are traveling in flight for longer journey then you will feel difficulty at your base in stretching your legs properly as the bags are already beneath everyone's seat..safety is also the main reason behind this..if you put your bag below your seat then there is probable chance of stealing your bag with someone else and you will not even get any idea about this..

  • Especially passengers who board toward the end of the boarding phase have to put some of their belongings into overhead bins that can be many rows away from their seat. Stealing doesn't seem to be a concern in that situation; it seems unlikely the airline would truly care about passengers clandestinely folding themselves down to reach for another passenger's bag in front of them without anyone noticing. Mar 29, 2017 at 6:20
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    People stealing each other's bags isn't a safety issue, and I don't see how having your bag under your own seat, rather than the one in front would make it more liable to theft. Mar 29, 2017 at 7:34
  • @DavidRicherby the question wasn't limited to reasons of safety. The space under one's own seat is more out of the line of sight, so it would be easier not to notice someone messing with your bag if it's under your rear end than if it's in front of your toes.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 13:10
  • @O.R.Mapper while I never worry about theft of or from my carry-on bags, I can also imagine that (in some countries and on some airlines where I have not flown) this might be more of a concern.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2017 at 13:12
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    @phoog The answer says, "safety is also the main reason behind this..if you put your bag below your seat then there is probable chance of stealing [...]". I interpreted that as being a claim that theft is a safety issue, and was rebutting that in my comment. Maybe that wasn't what the answerer meant. Mar 29, 2017 at 13:46

I think it's simply a lesser of two evils situation. If the space is under the seat in front of you, you have the option to use it as storage or leg room. If it's under your seat, there would be a bar at the back of every seat to prevent the bag from sliding into the passenger behind you. With a bar at the back of every seat, no one gets any extra leg room. I guess you could put your feet under your own seat in that case, but that doesn't sound very comfortable to me. The current arrangement gives people the opportunity for a little leg room in the place that is most comfortable for most people.

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