United Adding Bigger Overhead Bins to Avoid Stowage Wars

An overhead bin on a United Airlines Bombardier CRJ-550 airplane at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Oct. 17, 2019.

United Airlines on Friday said it is installing larger overhead bins to its fleet planes, an effort to end the anxiety-provoking and time-consuming game of musical chairs that often ends with travelers having to check their luggage at the gate.

Passengers often battle for some of the most precious real estate on a plane as they opt to carry on their bags to avoid paying checked luggage fees.

“This is my Mona Lisa,” Toby Enqvist, United’s chief customer officer, said at a company event as he showed a photo of six suitcases neatly stacked in the new bins. By the middle of the next decade, United expects to add the bins to about 80% of its fleet.

American Airlines is also taking delivery of more than 60 new Airbus planes with overhead bins that have 40% more storage space than older models and has added bigger overhead bins to more than 70 Boeing 737-800s.

Delta Air Lines earlier this month started selling a $59-a-year subscription that in addition to eight drink vouchers includes earlier boarding, allowing travelers to claim overhead bin space before lower-paying travelers.

United’s bare-bones basic economy fares have the strictest baggage policy of any U.S. airline: Travelers can’t bring a full-size carry-on bag on board. The airline doesn’t have any immediate plans to change that, Enqvist said.

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