The Bulkhead Experience

If you fly with any regularity, you know that when you sit at the front of the cabin in the bulkhead, there is no place to put your bags. You can have your stuff during the flight, but it needs to go up in the overhead bins for takeoff and landing. In my experience, there has typically been a space saved in the overhead bins for the passengers sitting in the bulkhead. Yesterday, however, was a different story.

Now that I’m pretty far along in my pregnancy, I feel less capable of lifting, so I have stopped sitting in the emergency row. I miss the space though. Yesterday, I was super stoked to have a seat in the bulkhead because I got all the nice room without the responsibility. But there was no opportunity for me to throw my purse in the overhead bin, as people boarded the plane with no gap. The flight attendant said, “Ma’am, your bag will have to go up.” I said, “Oh I know, is there a spot right up there?” And she said, “No, the only room left is all the way in the back.” I think she could tell that I was not super happy about that, so she added, “That’s one of the problems with sitting in the bulkhead—your stuff always ends up in the back.”

Now, maybe my experience has been unique, but whenever I’ve sat up front there has always been space set aside. Is that rare? Have I just been extremely lucky? Yesterday, it took a little shuffling, but I was able to find just enough space in the bin one row back, so it wasn’t a problem. But it could have been. It just seemed so weird to me—the person in front has to wait until everyone has gotten off the plane before they can get their stuff because the only room left is all the way in the back?

Readers, what has your experience been? Has it varied by airline?


  1. If I have to fly Alaska then I always will try to get the bulkhead seats since they let you board before most of the plane, and I have no status on that airline. Overall, I haven’t had any trouble stowing my bags in the bins.

    The problem I see most while sitting further back is that people at the bulkhead wait to put their small bags up until the plane has almost fully boarded and all the bins have filled up. If they had placed all their stuff up right when they got to their row they would’ve been fine.

  2. If I am in a bulkhead seat I try to board early if at all possible. The Times I don’t my bag typically ends up a ways back.

    A purse should not be a problem in most cases though, I would think.

  3. I have never seen space set aside. But what annoys me is the FAs routinely put their stuff behind the last row of F. Why they can’t offer to let you put your purse there (and that IS the seat in front of you) seems silly. I know there’s a wall between Coach and First, but there is space to fit a purse there.

  4. I generally haven’t seen flight attendants reserve overhead space for bulkhead passengers. A lot of them don’t even prevent coach passengers from poaching space in the F bins. Your best best is to board early and put your bag up there right away. I take my laptop and reading out and put the bag up.

    There is great variability among flight attendants as to whether they will help you find or make space. Some are great about that – they take initiative and find bags that can be consolidated or turned to make room. Others don’t care and make it your problem. I haven’t seen any consistent patterns among U.S. airlines, it seems to depend on the individual FA.

  5. Have never had to put my stuff any where but above my seat when I have a bulk head seat.

    Maybe I just get lucky, but then again, I typically board early.

  6. I always avoid the bulkhead for just that reason – the biggest stressor for me in the flying experience is the lack of overhead space for my bags. But I think the flight attendant was pretty rude with you, especially if you are visibly pregnant so going to the back of the plane to stow and then retrieve your bag is just a little more difficult. Or maybe she thought you’d be making enough toilet trips that it would be OK – LOL!

  7. This is more a result of full planes and baggage fees. Most passengers are trying to save on those fees and take as much luggage into the cabin as possible. This of course fills the bin quickly and if you are getting to your seat late, things can be full. And passengers are getting more and more inconsiderate and rude. I’ve seen people stuff their bags into any open area when they enter the plane. The might sit in the middle, but, hey, here’s a space in the front, so I use it, even though I might find space closer to my seat. Or, I have two bags (one large “carry on” and one oversized “personal item”), neither fits under the seat, so I stuff it in the bins.

  8. I thought it was common courtesy to leave the frontmost spot in the bin open for the bulkhead flyers. I guess not.

  9. I hate bulkhead seats for this reason as well. I’ve never seen the overhead space reserved for the people sitting there.

  10. This happened to me today & I was not happy. Last time I flew a bulkhead seat, the FA had reserved overhead space which was amazing. Not so this time, I trudged halfway back and finally some gentleman felt bad for me & took his book bag out so I could stow my purse/book bag. I’ll probably be avoiding these seats in the future as a result.

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