We’ve all seen them and some of us may even be guilty of it: packing the overhead bin incorrectly. At best, the flight attendants have to rearrange everyone’s bags. At worst, they fall out and hit someone in the head or your bag has to be checked. It’s important to know the right way to put your luggage in the overhead bin.
1. Wrong Direction
“When approaching the bin, know that the luggage wheels will always go in first. Some of the newer aircraft bins will have a picture inside of how your luggage should be placed in the bin. In the newer bins, you will place your luggage wheels first, on their side, just like a book on a bookshelf,” Lara Ketterman, a flight attendant for more than 38 years, explained.
“But not all bins are designed this way. Below is a photo of an older 777-200 and the bags should be placed on wheels first, on its longer side, with the handle facing out so the passenger can safely grab it and lower it to the floor when exiting the aircraft. You can see that a passenger placed their bag on its side like a book, but this bin cannot close with the bag sticking out. The bag should be placed in the bin like the red and gray roller board that is closest in the photo. This will be wonderful in the winter season as passengers can then place their large winter coats on top of them. Yes, the passenger left it for me to figure out how to close the bin. I had to move their bag to another open bin to close that first bin,” Ketterman said.
“Things change a little when you fly on a smaller, regional plane,” Kentrell Charles, retired flight attendant warns. “Typically, you have to check your bag. These overhead bins are only large enough for a carry-on bag, briefcase, backpack, or small to medium-sized item. The correct way to put these in the overhead bin is to turn them sideways so the door will close. The bins are not as deep on these planes. You will need to work with your bag to ensure the door will close.”
2. Wrong Size Luggage
“Each plane has different size bins and each airline is different,” Nancy Lee shares. She has worked for the airlines for more than 40 years as a flight attendant. “When passengers buy a bag that says it will fit most airline overhead bins, they don’t realize that it doesn’t mean it will fit in all bins, especially if you put things in exterior pockets or if you unzip an extender.
“Sometimes passengers think that if they can put a large, bulky bag up in the bin, then everything is fine. But if the bin won’t close, then we’re going to check that bag,” Lee says. “Checking bags at the last minute can cause you and the airline a delay in getting you to your destination. This is a “lose-lose situation.”
3. Wrong Items
Heather Earl has seen many wrong items packed in the overhead bin, like an extra large water bottle. “You should be considerate of your fellow passengers when putting items in the overhead bin,” stressed Earl, a 20-year flight attendant veteran.
“Some passengers think if it worked once, it will work again,” Lee said. “Thinking that just because you brought a guitar on your last flight, you can bring it on this one. I once flew to Nashville. Almost everyone was a musician and felt their instrument was important because it was their livelihood. When the bin is full, that’s it. Those odd-shaped items also take up a lot of room. If it’s full, two other people will have to have their bags checked so you can bring in your guitar.”
“Special items don’t necessarily get priority treatment. We frequently are asked to put wedding dresses and various odd things in the first-class closet. We really try to accommodate requests like that, but like the musical instruments, if it’s full, the answer may be no. Things to consider: You may not be the only bride flying to Hawaii, our closet is for first-class customers who don’t want their expensive things smashed, and that small closet gets very tight during winter when it’s full of coats, which could mean a wrinkled dress,” Lee explained.
“If you are the first person on the plane, remember that the overhead bin isn’t all for you. Don’t put everything you own up there, even if you have long legs,” Lee said. “Put one bag up there, and stow any second smaller item you have under the seat in front of you. I frequently remind parents that their child has extremely short legs. The space under the seat in front of them is a great place for the diaper bag, the laptop, your purse, the food bag, and stuff that you were going to use anyway during the flight.”
“When closing bins before pushback, I feel like I’m playing the old video game Tetris! Picking up the smaller bags and inserting them into the smaller open spaces so I can put the larger roller boards inside. I hate to check someone’s bag because of the anxiety passengers get. I find that when moving bags around to fit in other bins, the sitting passengers are my best eyes! They can spot empty spaces and help me move pieces around. If someone has a large, heavy bag and they tell me they cannot lift it, I find a big, strong person and offer them a free drink to help. That always works,” Lara laughed.