Travel Etiquette Tip: Put your suitcase above your seat!

I know I have talked about this a lot (including during my pet peeves rant recently) but I’ve seen it happen so often lately that I want to give it its own post. Yes, we are all stressed about finding room for our suitcases. But by purposefully putting your bag far away from your seat, i.e. you’re in row 30 and you put it above row 8, you are creating problems for the whole plane.

A guy I work with was flying home last week. He was in Group 4, and he thought he had a pretty good chance of finding a place for his bag. Right before he was about to board, the dreaded announcement came: no more room in the overhead bins, and everyone yet to board has to check their bag. Bummer, but it happens, and at least he didn’t have to pay the fee. When he got on board, he saw that, indeed, the bins were full and closed…. for the first half of the plane. But once he got past the exit rows there was empty bin after empty bin. So frustrating!!

So please, friends, put your bag as close to your own seat as possible. If it turns out there’s no room, then you can worry about putting it somewhere else.

(Oh! And while I’m at it…..if your bag will fit in long-ways, don’t put it sideways. Thanks!)

Readers, what have your experiences been? Ever been told to check and then seen empty bins?


  1. I once saw an older lady in biz class get so upset about people filling up the overhead lockers long before they got to her seat that she lost it and yelled at a pax. He ignored her and so she promptly pulled hia bag down and put it on the skyway to be checked.

    When we landed 9 hours later I saw him freaking about his bag. I have no idea if she ever gave him the tag.

  2. I have been told to gate-check a bag that fits under the seat in front of me. So annoying.

  3. If I’m coming on later in boarding and it looks sketchy, my bag is going anywhere there is room. If that’s above row 8 and I’m in row 30, so be it. If the person in row 8 boards behind me, this becomes their problem. Airlines could fix this boarding back-to-front – some do – so people would know things behind them are full. All too often “we’re full” is code for “we need to shave time off the loading process, so we’ll lie.”

  4. If they made this a rule and had one of the crew enforcing it when people boarded it would also solve the gate lice problem. People wouldn’t be so desperate to board early if they knew the bin above them was reserved for them.

  5. I have noticed that some folks put their bag upfront so that as they come through the cabin from the back they can grab and go. Nice for them, miserable for those of sitting in those seats. I have also boarded late, been in a row up front and found all the overhead space taken by my seat. I then have to place my bag somewhere in back and swim upstream to get back to my seat. This is reversed when deplaning, waiting for everyone to get off so that I can retrieve my bag. Now why can’t folks place their bags over their seat?

  6. The only comment I’d add to this is that often the bins above the first couple of rows are often full of cabin crew bags, safety equipment and magazines. So if I’m in Row 1, my bag ends up above Row 3 or 4 and that ripples down through the plane.

  7. Shouldn’t the flight attendants check or double check to make sure there are NO empty overhead bins when they state “no more space in overhead bins” ?!? In this case, I think the blame goes to the airline cabin crew moreso than the passengers boarding earlier.

  8. I recently had to run to a connection & was told I had to check my suitcase. I had another connection to another carrier, arriving very late at night so I was a bit annoyed, but complied. When I boarded there was plenty of room and the flight attendant actually sent me back out to the jetway to get my bag if it had not yet been taken down (unfortunately it was). Instead of just relying on flight attendants to tell them when bins are full, the agents now use a formula that assumes that once a certain number of passengers have boarded all overhead bin space will be full. Sometimes the formula is right, sometimes it fills up earlier and other times it leaves bins open.

  9. I’m in a different situation. I almost always check my suitcase and I carry on a small backpack. I’m also tall and have long legs so I prefer to put my backpack in the overhar bin above my seat. Every nice n awhile I’ve heard the announcement to please put smaller bags under the seat in front of you as the bins are filling up. I refuse to do so unless in first or business because of the leg room. I feel I would be punished because so many people wouldn’t check the luggage. I see in the future where airlines may start limiting the size of carry on bags to smaller bags. Partly to increase revenue from checked bags and also to assist in the boarding process. I’m surprised southwest doesn’t already do this.

  10. I’m with Mike Reed- get off your soapbox and get real. I’m not going to drag my bag down to row 30 when I see my chances are dwindling to have a spot at all. The consequence is that folks may have to wait an additional 5 minutes for the intervening rows to deplane.

    In your example, the flight crew jumped the gun- Their mistake. That may have nothing at all to do with where people put their bags, since the front half of economy are usually entitled to board in the early groups.

  11. Mike Reed and TravelTx pretty much proved one of life’s constants – people are a-holes. I’m sure I’ve also seen how use two spaces when they park. Hey, it’s someone else’s problem.

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