Everything is crammed into the small space of an airplane cabin. However, traveling becomes a lot less stressful when there is enough room. Consider the use of overhead storage bins.
New single-aisle planes from Boeing and Airbus have much larger overhead bins, allowing all passengers to store a roll-aboard bag on its side without squeezing in.
When Alaska Airlines introduced the bins on its Boeing 737 aircraft six years ago, it was a big hit with both passengers and airlines.
Customers are 5 percentage points more satisfied with American Airlines’ Boeing 737s equipped with “Space Bins” than with the conventional smaller bins, which have big bins on two-thirds of their single-aisle planes and will get to 75 percent probably in April.
According to Alison Taylor, American Airlines’ chief customer officer, surveys show that customers are 8 percentage points more satisfied with Airbus XL bins on the A321 than they are without them.
As Ms. Taylor points out, “people are a little nervous about getting your luggage in.”
“Large bins make it easier to load and unload luggage because they are larger. As it turns out, everything worked out even better than we expected.”
Gate-checking bags right before departure, according to airlines, causes fewer delays.
As well as the passengers themselves, flight attendants and gate agents benefit from not having to lug bags to the front of planes and tag them at the last minute.
Sixty-six percent of Alaska’s Boeing aircraft are equipped with Space Bins. As new shipments come online, that number will rise.
Senior vice president of marketing and guest experience Sangita Woerner says, “This was a tangible improvement for our guests.”
“It was a game-changer when we launched it because it made boarding more seamless and relieved the stress on both passengers and airline employees like gate agents and flight attendants.”
Improvements in air travel can be hard to come by. Passengers adore having access to quick Wi-Fi while on the road. Additionally, there is more room in the back and legs.
Even though having enough overhead bin space for all passengers seems standard, it’s actually quite uncommon.
Overhead bin space is so highly sought after that people will fly with a particular airline solely for early boarding privileges, which don’t entitle them to anything other than the use of available bin space.
Some passengers will pay a premium to board the plane early in order to avoid checking a bag. When a passenger’s carry-on bag is checked, he or she must make the agonizing walk back to the front of the crowded plane.
For a long time, airlines misled ticket holders by promising the moon. Everyone is permitted to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item, such as a purse or backpack.
However, even if everyone brought their full quota, there would still be insufficient bin space.
Airlines packed more seats into their planes, which reduced legroom and squeezed passengers’ heads closer together due to thin webbing in seatbacks instead of thick foam.
With the Boeing 737-800, American Airlines increased the capacity from 148 to 160 and now 172 seats. Because the bins didn’t expand in size, more passengers had to share available space in the overhead compartment.
Alaska Airlines compelled Boeing to develop larger baggage compartments, and as a result, the airline has observed fewer delays and less stress for passengers who don’t have to check as many bags.
When most airlines began charging passengers to check bags in 2008, passengers reacted by packing up their free carry-ons to the point of overburdening themselves.
Boeing was tasked by Alaska with finding a solution. To make more bin space, Boeing engineers rerouted wiring and pipes in the ceiling.
Image Source: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
To compensate for the reduced headroom, the taller Space Bins sit 2 inches lower and pivot away from the aisle as they are raised to the ceiling.
Boeing claims that a standard 60-inch bin can hold four bags that are laid flat. Six can be carried sideways in the 60-inch Space Bin.
Boeing claims that it’s 737-800 and 737 MAX 8 aircraft, both of which are the same size, can carry 118 bags in standard configuration.
To accommodate the 172 passengers flying on American, the 737 MAX 8 is equipped with Space Bins, which allow it to carry 178 bags.
As of right now, Alaska Airlines operates 79 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft with a total of 178 seats. Space Bins increased the number of bags that could fit in the aircraft’s overhead bins from 134 to 199.
According to Boeing, the larger bins are standard equipment on about half of all MAX deliveries.
It’s an option for airlines, though not everyone prefers it. Airline carriers are avoiding bringing pack rats into the cabin by sticking with standard bins.
United Airlines has agreed to participate. Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321neo orders were announced in June, and the airline made it clear that all would be delivered with large baggage compartments.
Aircraft with one aisle referred to as “narrow-bodies” in the industry, have a lot less storage space. Bin space is typically abundant on wide-body jets with two aisles.
Flyers had to undergo some training to become proficient in this area. When loading large bins, look for stickers instructing passengers to place wheels first and turn the bags so they are loaded on their sides rather than laying them flat.
This is common practice. For international flights to the Americas, the flight attendants at American make announcements in Spanish about the overhead bins during boarding.
U.S. Airways claims that its high proportion of narrow-body aircraft equipped with large baggage compartments has helped it gain corporate accounts or move to preferred status, or the first choice, at companies instead of simply participating in a corporate travel discount program as one of a number of airlines.
For two of the four large corporate customers she recently visited, the travel directors cited the availability of large bins as a reason for continuing to use American, according to Ms. Taylor.
As a result of having 66 percent of her fleet equipped with big bins, she says, “We know for a fact that in the last two months, we went from not being preferred to be preferred at a nice corporate account.”
The importance of this to travelers cannot be overstated.
- Alaska Airlines: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
- Overhead Bin: Carlo Allegri/Reuters