The Overhead Bin Revolution: You Might Soon Pay to Reserve a Bin

Apr 3, 2019

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With increasing and restrictive checked-baggage fees, passengers are doing everything they can (although there are ways to avoid them)  to take as much cabin baggage onboard as possible. But space on an aircraft, especially a narrow-body, means that there simply isn’t overhead bin space for each passenger. Ryanair, for example, can fit more than 180 seats on its 737 aircraft but guarantees space only for 90 cabin bags.

So for most passengers and their cabin bags, it’s first come, first served. This makes holding elite status in order to use priority boarding all the more important. For those without elite benefits, it can mean arriving at the airport earlier in order to queue long before their flight starts boarding. Unless you are one of the first passengers onboard it can be tough to find space in the overhead luggage bins. Ideally you want your bag immediately above your seat, so you don’t have to swim against the stream of deplaning passengers to go retrieve it.

Two overhead bin manufacturers are using technology to assist passengers in finding and securing that precious overhead space. They showcased these innovations at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week.

Colored Lighting Shows Available Bin Space

Passengers waste time opening bins that are already closed to see if there is any space. (Hint: cabin crew will usually close overhead bins as they observe they are full, to more quickly indicate to passengers which bins are full and shouldn’t be used.) But even for bins that remain open, the narrow aisles make it difficult to see into them to determine if there is space and if it is worth battling the other passengers blocking the aisle to try and reach them.

Enter the simple but clever Airspace lighting concept from Airbus. A strip of lights under the bin shows green where space is completely available, yellow where the space is part occupied, and amber/red where the space is completely full.

Airbus new overhead cabin design at AIX Hamburg
Airbus new overhead cabin design at AIX Hamburg (Photo courtesy of Airbus)

Book the Bin Space Above Your Seat in Advance

Some airlines have attempted to reserve space in certain bins for passengers in certain classes. Virgin Australia for example has small signs inside the bins above extra-space Economy X seats, to attempt to reserve them for passengers in those seats, but if this is not policed by crew the small signs can be easy to miss.

So Diehl Aviation has proposed technology to allow passengers to book specific bin space in advance, anywhere on the plane — though presumably most passengers would only be willing to pay for space immediately around their seat. Small screens at the base of the overhead bin can show the seat numbers of passengers who have reserved that bin space.

Diehl Aviation New Overhead Cabin Design (Source: Ben Smithson / The Points Guy)
Diehl Aviation New Overhead Cabin Design (Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy)

Diehl is confident that if passengers (of low-cost airlines, especially) are willing to pay extra to take their cabin bags on board, they may be willing to also pay an additional fee to ensure their bag will have its own reserved space directly above their seat.

While no airlines have yet installed this new technology, Diehl says that airlines could offer this during the booking process, in the same way they offer checked-luggage options, or as an upsell during the check-in or boarding process.

Featured Image courtesy of Airbus

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