Etiquette when your bag is behind you

As an elite flier with American I am usually lucky enough to board early. This means my bag is rarely in an overhead bin behind my seat. 11-18-14-1However, on my trip last week even though I boarded early the overhead bins were already full. I sat in row 8 but had to put my bag back over row 17. To make this even more stressful I had a super tight connection! What’s a girl to do?

I write often that one of my biggest travel pet peeves is when people put their bags in overhead bins far in front of their own seats. Whether that was the case on my flight or if there were just a ton of elites that boarded before me, it didn’t matter. I still had to swim upstream to get my bag and then sprint across DFW to make my flight. So what are the best ways to get your bag when it’s behind you?

Hang tight. If you don’t have a tight connection, the simplest (and most polite) thing to do is to wait in your seat until the plane has somewhat emptied before making your way back to your bag. This isn’t the most time-saving technique, but it is the least hassle.

Gradual move to the back. If you are pressed for time, you can do what I did and move backwards row by row. I waited for the row behind me to empty, then went to that row. Waited for the one behind that to empty, then moved to that row. I was very lucky—several people recognized that I was trying to make a short connection and moved for me. Eventually one very kind gentleman grabbed my bag for me, passed it up the aisle, and I was on my way. (Surprise: It really helps to be very thankful to people who let you pass, rather than irritated that you’re having to make all of this effort.)

Talk to the flight attendants. If you’re very concerned about your connection time, let the flight attendants know. There may be a place they can stash your bag prior to landing, or another way they can help you.

Here are a few ways you can make things easier for passengers having to swim upstream for their bag:

Don’t act put out. Don’t roll your eyes, mutter under your breath, or huff out a sigh as someone tries to get to the back to get their bag. It’s not their fault, honestly. Whatever combination of factors that combine to have airliners loaded down with carry-ons is not the direct responsibility of a lone passenger.

Let them pass if you’re able. Even with the kind people letting me scoot past them I was still the last person to board my connecting flight. If they hadn’t been so accommodating I would likely have missed it altogether! It added less than thirty seconds to their on-board time but saved me a huge potential headache.

Put your bag over your seat. If it’s at all available to you, please, please put your bag over or near your seat and not far in front. The fastest boarding and deplaning process is the one where everyone’s bag is located near their seat!

Readers, what do you think is the most polite way to swim upstream to get your bag?

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  1. I think the best tip is the last one. The biggest issue is that some people put their bag in the first available overhead bin rather than waiting to get to their seat. I’ve seen people put bags in row 8, then head to sit in row 30. Not cool.

    The other part of it is that some people will sneak their 2nd bag into the overhead, resulting in less available space for everyone else.

  2. Have you ever sat in your seat to stake out the person in the back who put their bag up front? I’ve been tempted to, but knew it would be rude/aggressive.

    I would like to brainstorm an acceptable way to bring it to the offending party’s attention. This would be a long-term solution to the problem.

  3. I was on a flight yesterday when the woman who had her bag behind her yell at everyone to move out of the way because her bag was in back as if we inconviencing her. Where would we go?

  4. If someone puts their bag in my bin, I take their bag out, hand it to the flight attendant. I paid for seat 7B, so bin 7B is mine. No arguing or hassles. You want to make a big deal about putting Your stuff in My space? I’ll knock your teeth out for you.

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