This is Brilliant

Ben Brooks about a new policy for using the overhead bins in United’s fleet:

United has a new ticket fare, where no luggage is included in the price (except what fits at your feet). If you want overhead bin space, or to check, you pay. I actually love this, though I would much rather checked luggage be free and overhead charged for everyone.

If you have been on a flight recently (say last 3-4 years) then you likely know how big of a shit show it is when you board a plane. There’s so many people with bags that are clearly too large to carry on, or people with clearly too many bags. Tons of gate checking — in all I think people not following rules, add tremendously to the overall boarding time.

This is a brilliant idea, if you want my opinion. Here’s why: until recently, I used to wait in line to board the aircraft as early as possible in order to catch a space in the overhead bins for my stuff.

No longer. I’ve stopped putting my moderately sized Synapse 25 into the overhead bin after flight attendants (I kid you not) started to yank it out again to make space for the luggage of people who obviously don’t care about rules1.

And, yes, Ben is right: it usually takes an unnecessary amount of time for people to walk around the aircraft, desperately seeking for a vacant spot overhead.

I’ve witnessed (extreme) cases where this dance was going on for at least ten minutes until everyone got a place for their stuff2. Sure, ten minutes are not that much but ten minutes can make you miss your connection flight for no other reason than the selfishness of other people.

Personally, I’d be curious to see how the luggage situation develops if (more) airlines started to charge for carry-on luggage that is too big for putting it under the seat in front of you.

On the bright side, not even wanting a spot in the overhead bin makes a big difference for me: boarding is suddenly so much more relaxed.

  1. Come on! For at least the last five years, the carriers that I usually fly leave totally no room for interpretation regarding the number and size of allowed carry-on luggage. 
  2. After all, there are only so many bins and luggage must be stowed for departure.