American Airlines Crew Reserves Overhead Bin By Writing On It With A Sharpie

One of the scarcest resources on a plane is overhead bin space. Before 9/11 it was common for airlines to allow two full-sized carry on bags onboard and that didn’t even count your personal item. Planes weren’t as full, and airlines didn’t charge for checked bags, so most customers didn’t do that and it was generally possible to find space in the overhead bins.

Now that planes are booked full, TSA wants to limit how many items go through their security checkpoints, and airlines charge extra to check bags, people may only bring a single full-sized carry on but more people are doing it filling up those bins.

Though several airlines have put in larger overhead bins, there’s still not enough space, and one of the biggest frustrations passengers express in social media is being forced to gate check their bags. The rush for bin space can be a war of all against all, but that includes passengers versus crew too.

Crew board first and, with airlines reducing closet space (or removing closets altogether) they’re taking up bin space themselves. Sometimes though they want it all to themselves as appears to have been the case a week ago on American Airlines flight 164 from San Francisco to New York JFK.

Cabin crew took a sharpie on wrote “Crew” on an overhead bin in the last row of the Airbus A321T aircraft, back by the rear galley of the aircraft.

At least they didn’t take bin space above a bulkhead row, where passengers have no under seat storage area and must put all of their belongings above their seat. Using a marker, though, to create their own rules and signage is both a poor way to treat the aircraft interior, and a poor image to display to customers.

Whether or not it comes off easily, American Airlines will be redoing the interiors of these aircraft once they take delivery of new Airbus A321XLRs. That’s because these premium three-cabin planes that have been flying between New York JFK and both San Francisco and Los Angeles will be converted into standard (densified) A321s, while those routes will see new planes with a flat business suite, premium economy, and coach cabin with less legroom instead.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. So the crew on AA164 were the ones that wrote that? I don’t know how many times I’ve boarded a flight and someone has written on the outside of my oven or inside of my closet with a Sharpie. Could have been 59 flights earlier because it certainly wasn’t me. Not a good look at all and I get irritated when I see it. I’ve never witnessed someone actually doing it therefore I’ve never been able to call anyone out on it.

  2. So the crew come before the paying customers??? Welcome to Going for GREAAT. not.

  3. As a cultural expression to help give all American Airlines aircraft that downtown urban graffiti hometown look and be consistent with existing graffiti, such as “crew” luggage storage, should passengers take the initiative to write “Main Cabin Extra” or “First Class” on the unlabeled overhead bin space above their seat? Next, adding hip-hop boarding music, rapping PA announcements, and flight attendant breakdancing during the flight should enhance passenger delight when flying on American Airlines.

  4. I’m ok with crew using the last row bins. I get really frustrated when the fill 1-2 bins in FC or the PE cabins.

    I think all crew bags should be below. Give them priority offload if needed.

    Better yet enforce the current rules.

  5. @Doug, actually crew bags below is a great suggestion. Unfortunately we have items, like you, that we need on a 14 hour flight. Also, for the domestic crews with crew bags below, good luck getting your crew to arrive on time for your connecting flight. It would be a nightmare.

  6. @Flyer1 Here’s my suggestion, put crew bags below in the same place they place strollers, wheelchairs and other large items they have to retrieve.

    I come from the world where “leaders eat last.” AA employees should not be using limited overhead space before paying passengers. It’s made even worse when they let non-revs board first and take up even more overhead space. There are times when I’ve been the first to board and two overhead bins in F are occupied with crew bags. Have also seen where FA’s can’t be bothered to be pre-departure service in F but are more than happy to hand out liter bottles of water and snacks to non-revs as they board.

    I understand wanting to take care of your colleagues, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the customer. Very bad optics.

  7. Check in of bags should be free

    Carry on should cost money or given based on status

  8. I flew first last week. I was #8 to board and all the first class bins were full. I had to store my carry on back in the first row of coach. I hated to do that, but who are these people bringing too much luggage on board? One bag per person should have left plenty of space in first, but it wasn’t. I really do wish airlines would crack down on carry on bags.

  9. On narrowbody flights, crew should be required to gate-check their bags. They’re the first ones on and the last ones off the plane, so this shouldn’t be a hassle.

  10. @Flyer1

    Your responses sum up exactly the “problem”. It is all about you the crew. The paying customers (who pay your salary btw) have to put up with the inconvenience so you can have convenience. Bad optics from any customer service perspective IMO.

    The @Doug and @SOBE ER DOC’s suggestions seem reasonable, crew stuff should go below with the strollers. They get 1st off and left at the jet bridge door. If you are a crew working the back, odds are your bag will be at the jet bridge well before you even get down the aisle.

  11. Has anyone considered the obvious facts that flight attendants rightly or wrongly would already stow their crap in whichever overhead bin they’d like before the first passenger boards to begin with, and # 2 numerous overhead bins on our 321s (at another airline) are placarded “crew use only” which contain portable oxygen bottles and other such emergency equipment and this could just be the prescribed temporary marking when such placard is missing? Much more plausible than a rogue FA manic marker’ing an overhead bin…. Just as dramatic and uniformed as people dramatizing maintenance “duct taping” wings together when the truth is far from that…… the simplest and most likely explanation is a crude temporary replacement for a placard. Does any AA FA on here care to dig in their FAM and inform us if row 22 overhead bin contains emergency equip? That is the question you SHOULD b asking Gary!

  12. You all are preaching to the choir here. We would LOVE for our bags to be gate checked. It would be so nice not to have to drag our bags on board and heft them into overheads and squeeze them into closets. Would it be ok with you all if I brought a small bag with my required company items, maybe a toothbrush onboard for my 14 hour flight and a lipstick to freshen up? It’s the domestic crews that will be have the hardest time which will translate into more delayed connections for our customers. Those ramp guys don’t move as fast as we like getting strollers up. I can almost visualize how fast they’ll move getting a crew up of pilot and F/A bags for a 777 of say 14 suitcases and carryon bags.

  13. Update- At my airline the equivalent overhead bin as AAs A321T (the very last bin before the aft galley) would indeed contain Seatbelt extensions, a Halon Extinguisher and Portable Breathing Equip (firehood) and therefore is placarded “for crew use only”…. This is more than likely a crude temporary replacement for a missing placard…. Move along folks! When Gary presents you with something that doesn’t seem quite right, and is absurd at first glance (as with most media) realize there’s probably something more to it than is being presented!

  14. And would also contain the onboard aisle wheelchair….. those two last overhead bins (which correspond to rom 22 on an AA 321T (look it up on seatguru) is chock full of emergency/ passenger svc equipment and is just missing a placard….. simplest less outlandish explanation is usually the correct one people!

  15. charging for carry-on luggage (not personal items) would both speed lines through TSA but also reduce boarding times …

    there is little logic for charging for luggage in the hold but some rational to charge a customer for the time savings of using the carry on bins.

  16. As a former f/a (retired) carry on bags are never going away. I fought along with others to get the sizer boxes and eventually the agents quit using them. Then, 22″ became 24-36 ” duffel bags. But one thing I have noticed lately, is on the inside of the overhead bins, there are placards that say, crew only, or F/C paxs. Then at the coach bulkhead it says bulkhead paxs bags only or for extra space paxs bags. In other areas, there are also stickers about bags in the overhead and if they are reserved for extra space paxs.

    Another issue is paxs who place their smaller bags in the overhead and not under the seat. Following some simple directions can really help in the long run. And for those riding in cabins that have the new oversized bins it is important that pax place their suitcases on their narrow side so more bags can be stowed.

    As for crew bags, they go with the crew, no matter what. Some crews change airplanes 4 or 5 times a day and waiting for bags to be brought up would only add additional confusion on the loading bridge during boarding and deplaning. Now there are international carriers whose f/as carry larger bags and are gone for 7-10 days at a time……my understanding is a tote bag with their necessities can go in the cabin, their suitcases do go in a crew compartment below..

  17. I am crew. I genuinely love the aspect of checking my bag to the final city of the day. Unfortunately though, at certain stations, like DFW, it is unreasonable to expect the bag to be brought up in an acceptable amount of time. Not to mention, some stations have shuttle pick up far away from the respective bag claim. It is more understandable on international (where I do check my duty bag) in opposition to domestic.

    As for, “crew bags come before paying customers?”. Yes. This is our office, our workspace and therefore the stowage of our “office/duty supplies” do in fact take precedence.

    Any crew who does, by any accounts “vandalize” with a marker, direct on any interior surface should honestly be reprimanded. If we want to label something for a specific flight, then we should use tape and then marker, and ensure that it is all removed for the next crew, so that they have a clean workspace.

    But please note, this probably stems from the dumbasses who choose to open closed bins, even if there is a “no stowage” placard.

  18. I came for the frequent flyer news and stayed for the casual racism/classism/ignorance Ken A spouts out. No idea what rap music, breakdancing or “urban” graffiti has to do with crew taking overhead space for themselves, but kudos to Ken A for interjecting lots of old white man “get off my lawn kids” vibes to this site. (FWIW, rap music is now played in elevators and mall food courts now, and rap musicians like Snoop Dogg hang out with suburban classiness icons like Martha Stewart these days.)

  19. Here’s how to fix US airlines:

    – Cancel all non-rev benefits immediately. No free travel parties in first class for you and your imbecile friends.

    – Base pay exclusively on customer reviews. Here’s why: there’s zero shortage of FAs; 100s lining up for every vacant position. Base pay 10,000 USD per year, maxxing out at 100,000 per year for the ones with highest customer ratings. Lowest 10% get fired every year, no appeals.

    – Open America’s skies to foreign carriers.

    You have no skills. You have no customer service inclinations. And worst of all; you’re biting the hand that feeds you.

    Consider yourselves on notice, stewardesses.

  20. People, you sure bitch a lot, all you are untitled to is a seat and any empty space, overhead and under the seat in front of you, and by the way , those crew bags in frost class , are not flight attendants bags, they are Pilots bags, or do you want pilots to Check there bags now ? Wired people I swear

  21. As a frequent traveler, one thing that bugs the heck out of me is seeing a crew member board with 3 or 4 or 5 bags in some cases, ironically right after there is an announcement that the FAA limits everyone to 2 items of acceptable luggage.

    My most recent flight had an FA boarding with a purse over her shoulder, a roller bag with a backpack on it, along with a laptop bag and another oversized pocketbook (overnight?) bag on the stack.

    The boarding agent told me to consolidate my bag of snacks into my backpack or small laptop roller bag. (Which I planned on anyway)

    If the overhead bins are supposed to be for your larger items, why do the crew get to put all of the bags in the overhead?

  22. @Sara Smith
    Thank goodness you’re not in the business. Do you realize the majority of ground people do what they do and put up with your bull$hit day in and day out because of those flight benefits? Do you realize it’s harder than ever to even get on a flight nowadays because airlines give away first class to status holders who buy basic economy tickets and get free upgrades nowadays? Did I fail to mention all the people who are now able to just jump on standby for an earlier flight with no fees as it was prior to COVID? How about the cheapo basic economy fliers who buy the cheapest ticket and show up early to get on a flight that should have cost more money (for free)! These airlines are giving everything away except for the initial ticket price, a bag check and premium seat choice! Still yet, passengers demand more and more all the while carrying on overstuffed bags that don’t even fit in the sizers and weigh more than 50lbs because the bag is stuffed to the max! Did I fail to mention the extra personal items on top of the carry on bag and then when agents enforce policy, the majority act like self entitled abusive heathens and abuse you with ridicule and demeaning verbiage! Yea honey, take away the flight benefits and see how many airline workers walk away from an industry that needs to get back to pre-covid policies and procedures. The traveling public is back to normal and the airlines need to go back to normal policy and procedure as well! If you could only imagine walking a day in our shoes, you’d go home to fist full of Xanax washed down with a bottle of booze. Instead of taking airline employees for granted, how about showing some respect because without us, you wouldn’t be getting on a plane, nor would you have to make a stop at the claim in what more than likely is a small airport where your bag is at the carousel before you even make it to the claim area! So yea, go ahead and lay on the ground and beat your fists and feet on the floor like a little two year old who doesn’t get their way because that’s really what it comes down to! Do please, sit down and STFU because the world doesn’t revolve around YOU! Capiche!?

  23. Karen… Excuse me, I mean… Sara Smith– Girl, if you dislike airline crew so much why don’t you do us all a favor and hop on a Greyhound to your next destination?

    There’s also hundreds of other passengers lining up to take your seat on any given flight. You’re not special.

    You get the energy you receive, sweetheart. Ain’t nobody your f’n servant. Girl, bye.

  24. Sara Smith,

    Just because you are to ugly to be a flight attendant doesn’t mean that you should launch your invective against those who made the cut.

    Insofar as foreign airlines, look up ‘cabotage’. Until then, shut your piehole. Even Saudia doesn’t hire fatties that they cannot hide in a Burka.

    You have zero chance.

  25. So end of the day, another click-bait article from Gary trying to make an issue out of a mechanic replacing a missing placard with sharpie.

    Remmever folks, Gary puts NO EFFORT into verifying his posts (and sometimes even wilfully ignores that they are fake, see saran wrap passenger), DO NOT BELIEVE everything you see here.

  26. Sara, girl, A+ in your creative writing class! I hope that made you feel better to get it all off your chest. Have a fantastic day! I, on the other hand, have been put on notice by you so I’ll have to really watch my p’s and q’s today. Oh that’s right, I’m on a beautiful layover and not on duty. Well tomorrow then. Ciao, from this Senior Stewardess.

  27. Omg people, you buy a cheap ticket, and you think you can bring all your bags onto the airplane, because you don’t want to go to baggage on arrival! Flight crew don’t just fly one flight, they may stay And fly back all day or connect to another terminal with 10min max and most of the time I see them running, just so they can get you people on time, and by the way flight attendants do not put there bags in first class, it’s the pilots , because pilots and flight attendants don’t have the same schedule, flight attendants may stay, but pilots may have to run to catch another flight, I say you guys are close minded ! Very SAD

  28. If you have Rubbing ALCOHOL WIPES (pure) take a few and rub off the inked letters. Although a shade of the inked letters might still be visible.I haven’t tried that. (without them watching you, of course).

  29. Make “Passengers” labels at home and stick them on over the word Crew as you board.

  30. @Reality Check: No one is getting upgrades on Basic Economy tickets. That’s one of the differentiators airlines use to get their frequent travelers to still pay regular economy prices while also trying to be competitive with LCCs.

  31. Row 22 overhead bins on said aircraft type are crew only, BECAUSE IT CONTAINS EMERGENCY EQUIP and is therefore designated crew use only BY THE FAA. The sharpie approach is a crude and unique approach of applying an MEL/NEF for a placard folks. The crew don’t need a sign to reserve space for them cause the get on and steal whatever and however much space they need because the get on in front of you. Gary come on man, stop producing BS stories and try to get people spun up over nothing.

  32. Bags need to fit in that bag measure thing. People are bringing overstuffed bags and even larger backpacks so they can avoid the bag charge. Also crew needs to stand the bags on edge and help short people. If you can’t lift your carry on then it’s too big. When you buy a ticket just add the cost of a bag to the budget. Maybe crew shouldn’t be hired if they can’t reach the bin. And you young big people help us older folks. Don’t just stand there like a doofus watching people struggle it will speed things up. Don’t worry you won’t hurt yourself

  33. Time to chill and accept the fact that luggage issues are not new. Accept the fact that they’ll continue to persist. 97 years ago when Lindbergh landed in Paris the first thing the French people told him was, “We lost your luggage.”

  34. Two things, I have always wondered why crew are allowed 3 or 4 bags that they have to find space for?

    I was on a flight where a non-working airline employee boarded with 1st class, then put her oversized bag in a Main Cabin Extra bin and closed the door. So her stuff was more important than anyone else’s. She then yelled at a passenger that the bin was full when he tried to open it. You could see from the next bin that only one bag was in the closed bin. So passengers had to gate check their bags because of this employee.

  35. @Chris Raehl
    Sorry, bud. Unless you’re in the industry tending to the auto upgrade list you’re dead wrong. Perhaps you should speak on what you know to be fact rather than making asinine assumptions from a public viewpoint.

  36. Why I no longer fly UA transPacific. I was flying UA business class, with a small shoulder bag, smaller than the typical wheeled carryon. My overhead compartment was filled with huge black bags, and all nearby overheads were filled with other business-class passenger bags. I asked around for help from crew, but got no response. At six foot three, I was forced to share my coffin-space with my small carryon containing my laptop and prescriptions (never to be checked.) I may as well have been in the back row of cattle class. Upon being the last business class passenger to disembark, I saw the short heavy-set flight attendant scuttle over and take her huge bags out of the overhead bin above my assigned seat. All this misery for a business class ticket? Never again will I fly UA transPacific. Never again will I give them my hard-earned leisure ticket money and, once they got my money, they treat themselves like royalty and trash me like yesterday’s newspaper

  37. writing on company property, as they have done, is terms for discipline and up to termination. I’ve never seen that sort stuff on the passenger cabin. I’ve seen it in the galleys and on galley carriers, to make it easier to post where items are stored…. but with an “easy erase” marker that comes right off when wiped with a damp paper towel.

  38. All these experts in aviation commenting or even you Gary Leff, who are so obsessed with American Airlines and crew, should work for the FAA or the airlines and help make rules and regulations regarding crew luggage stowage. Put your foot where your mouth is!

  39. @Dave: I apologize to Dave for his belief that my comment was ignorant and gave off an old white man “get off my lawn kids” vibe. Hopefully, when passengers visit the DFW airport dog relief area, they will never experience a “get off my AstroTurf vibe.”

    As Dave points out, “Rap music is now played in elevators and mall food courts now, and rap musicians like Snoop Dogg hang out with suburban classiness icons like Martha Stewart these days.” I wonder why I never hear Snoop Dogg boarding music on American Airlines. After all, Snoop Dogg won the American Music Awards in 1995 as a favorite rap/hip-hop artist. Then, in 2002 he won the Adult Video News, Best Setting Title of the Year for “Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle,” and in 2004 for his title, Snoop Dogg’s Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp.”

    In contrast and comparison, as a Hawaiian cultural expression, I immediately feel the Aloha Spirit when I hear Hawaiian Airlines’ boarding music when I board their aircraft. Hear it here:

    Also, in sharing the Aloha Spirit, and for your viewing pleasure, here is the Hawaiian Airlines bilingual safety briefing.

    I agree with Flyboy, who wrote: “Any crew who does, by any accounts “vandalize” with a marker, direct on any interior surface should honestly be reprimanded. If we want to label something for a specific flight, then we should use tape and then marker, and ensure that it is all removed for the next crew, so that they have a clean workspace.” Writing directly on the aircraft interior with a marker gave me the impression of urban graffiti seen frequently on the exterior of train cars. Tony N offered an excellent suggestion for attempting to remove aircraft graffiti.

  40. By the way, “vandalism” is a. Apparently permissible racist slam against passengers of Scandinavian heritage. Also, erasable marker hardly qualifies as criminal damage to property.

    Finally, when will our benevolent US government permit a domestic 5th freedom flight by QR or even NH?

  41. One “deadheading” crew member’s bags can take up an entire section of an overhead bin. I flew with 2 deadheading crews (more than 10 CM) on a flight once – the overhead bins for the first 5 rows in economy were completely full – I walked up to FC stored my bag there and took my seat in the 2nd row in economy. Because of my status, I’m included in pre-boarding.

  42. While passengers are limited to one carry on and one personal item ? What’s with the Crew always having a rope tie holding 4 carry ons onto another all tied together ? I never get that .

  43. Sooo, I have to add a sharpie to my carryon to cancel out the crew.


    I’d be more forgiving if I hadnt, on several occasions, found my FC overhead full of crew crap.

  44. At Chris says:
    May 29, 2023 at 10:23 pm
    As a frequent traveler, one thing that bugs the heck out of me is seeing a crew member board with 3 or 4 or 5 bags in some cases, ironically right after there is an announcement that the FAA limits everyone to 2 items of acceptable luggage.

    My most recent flight had an FA boarding with a purse over her shoulder, a roller bag with a backpack on it, along with a laptop bag and another oversized pocketbook (overnight?) bag on the stack.

    The boarding agent told me to consolidate my bag of snacks into my backpack or small laptop roller bag. (Which I planned on anyway)

    If the overhead bins are supposed to be for your larger items, why do the crew get to put all of the bags in the overhead?

    You are full of Sh*t, every Crew member, Pilot or flight attendants, each are giving one role aboard bag , and a small bag the gose on top of the rolle aboard bag. Do stop the nonsense and lies

  45. I see many comments from people who have absolutely no clue as to why the crew must have their personal belongings on board with them. They are required to carry certain items and must have them at hand. There is also a matter of remaining on schedule. In addition there is a safety requirement that prohibits crew bags from being outside of the owner’s control. It isn’t just for them.
    I’ll bet some of those complaining would be the first ones to scream if they heard their flight was delayed because the crew had to wait for their own bags.
    Me first now, right?

  46. People, as you wait at the gate , and you see crew coming , pilots and flight attendants,! Say the truth, have you ever seen them with more than a rolle a board bag and a small bag on top of it ??? Tell the truth people , enough with the lies about crew members , and you know what , it’s you passengers that bring tons of bags and expecting flight crew to find place for it, you even refuse to use the space under the seat in front of you , for your own selfishness! SAD SAD SAD , you Americans think you’re entitled to everything, while Europeans And Asians Know better! SAD SAD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *