Business Passenger Removes Economy Bag from Overhead Bin: The Poors Can’t Use My Space!

A business class passenger shares that they boarded late, and started shuffling bags around in the overhead bin above their seat in order to fit their carry on. An economy passenger two rows back asked them to “be careful with their bag.”

He pulled that passenger’s bag out “and placed it at his feet” and put his own up in the bin. The bin has a sign that marks what cabin it’s for.

  • Cabin crew tried to find another place for the economy passenger’s bag
  • They couldn’t, and that bag got checked.

The Passenger (understandably) and one of the ground personnel tried to have a shot at me for taking his bag out – said I shouldn’t have touched his bag.

My argument was I paid for the space according to my ticket. My bags were where they were meant to be.. his weren’t.

Wow. First, overhead bins are shared space. But airlines may designate a bin for passengers in a particular cabin, and everyone should follow those instructions. Second, I’m shocked that a passenger in coach who used the bin had their bag removed and taken out of the cabin.

Overhead Bins Fill Up For Two Reasons

Generally gate-checking bags isn’t much of a thing on Southwest Airlines. And it wasn’t much of a thing until 16 years ago when airlines started charging to check bags. When checked bags are free, people bring less on board.

And they used to be allowed to bring more bags on, overhead bins were smaller, and there was still enough room! 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.

Also, the TSA happened, and to speed up security checkpoints limits were placed on carry on bags. More bags carried on means more bags going through the checkpoint, and more work for screeners.

Airlines Are Designating Bins By Cabin

For years customers in economy have stowed their bags wherever they’ve been able to find space. And that’s been acceptable because there were no clear norms and no enforced rules over who overhead bin space belongs to.

Delta and now American label their bins with a respective cabin, and so do some foreign airlines, suggesting that only passengers in those seats should use those bins. That discourages some people from stuffing their belongings in the overhead as they walk by on their way to the rear of the aircraft, but it doesn’t work with everyone.

I’ve never seen a this rule enforced after a bag is placed in a bin and most passengers are seated.

Who Gets The Overhead Bin Space?

Here are (6) principles for carry on bags that I think are true.

  • When everyone is on board, remaining space belongs to everyone. It would be stupid to require a passenger to gate check a bag because there’s no space left in ‘their section’ of the aircraft but open space up front.

    If a passenger is entitled to use bin space in their ticketed cabin, and coach passengers should walk back to coach and hunt and peck there, surely this changes at some point during the boarding process. If you’re in the last minutes of boarding can’t you take any space at all?

  • A boarding pass is a license to hunt. While everyone except Basic Economy passengers on United and on some (other) ultra low cost carriers are entitled to bring a carry on bag onto the plane, there’s generally not enough space for everyone to actually do that anymore.

    And since there’s not enough room for everyone to have space above their seat, there’s no entitlement to the space directly above your seat.

  • It’s not ok to use bin space above the bulkhead if you aren’t seated there. Those seats generally don’t have floor storage so passengers in those seats have to stow not just a carry on but also their personal item up there as well.

  • Unwritten rules sadly aren’t enforceable. American Airlines says 87% of customers fly at most once a year. If there are unwritten rules, how are those customers supposed to know them? And if they aren’t required to follow unwritten rules, no one else can be either.

  • There’s an information problem. Passengers boarding the plane don’t know what bin space has already been taken or what’s left. Closed bins might be a signal, or the bins might just be closed.

  • Coach passengers taking first class bin space slows down deplaning. Each first class passenger that has to put their bags farther back in economy have to fight their way back into the cabin on landing to get their cabin baggage that delays deplaning a little. Deplaning speed suggests passengers should use space nearest to them, and taking space in front of your row means someone else has to move backwards on landing. Wouldn’t Kant say this is a categorical imperative?

  • Be sure you aren’t last to board. If someone is going to have to gate check a bag you don’t want it to be you.

This tells me that no matter what signs airlines put on bins, there’s going to be some deviation and airlines aren’t asking flight attendants to enforce the signs. First class bins should be for first class passengers first but the end goal should be getting as many carry on bags on the plane as possible.

Ultimately this is a war of all against all, and you have to take care of yourself, the best way to do that is to race the boarding gate and get on as soon as your boarding group is called.

This Passenger Was A Jerk

It actually sounds like this premium cabin passenger was going to fit their bag in the bin by moving some items around. They were being a jerk tossing the other passenger’s bag down. And cabin crew let them get away with it. But the coach passenger, taking bin space not designated for their cabin, would have been far better off not speaking up.

(HT: Paul H)

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. Maybe he should have removed one of the MULTIPLE non-rev pilots or flight attendants bags who are assigned seats in the back but FILL UP the F/J overheads with their 3 bags each.

  2. So this dummie headed for coach stows his bag where it doesn’t belong. Then, just to PROVE that he’s an idiot, tells the first class guy to be careful with it. There’s a reason we spend money and/or miles on seats up front. People who want the same perks can spend the same amount. I would have done exactly the same thing. The reason this boorish behaviour is becoming more common is that nobody wants to stand up for themselves, they’d rather get run over. They’re afraid of what people will think of them. Stand up for your rights. Be polite about it, don’t back down.

  3. I think the crew should have reserved a space for the late first class passenger’s bags, AA does this typically since there is an attendant serving pre flight drinks etc. I’ve seen them stop someone heading to coach stashing their bags up front…a first class passenger deserves a space for their bags and should never have to check them if they are appropriately sized etc. However, I can agree that in this case the solution would be to valet check the first class passenger’s bag or at their discretion the coach passenger’s bag…valet check is far better and offered to first class passengers in such cases …it happened to me when late on a connection…this way I didn’t have to go to baggage claim…the whole point of using a carry on bag.

  4. the pax was not a jerk

    commercial air travel is personal combat, everyone against everyone, pax vs. pax vs. employees vs. tsa

    it’s everyone against everyone, everyone for themselves

    you can’t board first class “late” because of this situation

    that crew could have screwed the guy in first

    i love your final comment: “make sure you’re not last to board”

  5. I agree that FC bins should be held for FC until all listed FC pac are seated. Crew bags should not be stowed in FC or Comf+ (listening Delta?). Especially above any bulkhead.

    I’ve watched “early boarders” use space at the front to avoid carrying their bags to the back.

    Secondly, stop every 50# back pack and oversized suitcase out of the cabin.

    I generally travel with about 10k of computer equipment that cannot be checked.

    On one flight the agent said I would have to check my rolling briefcase. After getting a supervisor involved and the choice was put me in another flight or get my bag in the cabin, the bag went in the cabin.

    Reserved bins for the seats under them and enforce the signage.

  6. I am almost always a coach class passenger but I have no sympathy for the coach class passenger that stuffed his carry-on in a place that was specifically for passengers that weren’t coach class. I’m glad that his carry-on was checked.

  7. The irony is that most likely the late boarder was some poor schmuck living a sad existence flying around domestically, who makes 30k a year in sales, flying around doing his corporate bossman’s bidding.
    But you give him a shiny elite card, call him special, and now he is king of the world!
    He’s probably Marriott elite too, with 100+ bedbug Sheratons to his name every year.

  8. Overhead bend space should be reserved for whoever is in that seat. After their stuff is put up, then anything left over is free spare filling.

  9. As someone who pays for F I expect there to be room for my roll aboard. I always am aware when someone in Y puts their bag in F. I have told the FA which bags did not belong in F when other F pax arrived late. Saying “make sure you’re not last to board” is a moronic thing to say. There are a lot of reasons people show up late to board they shouldn’t be punished for it. God forbid you’re the one that’s late one day because there’s traffic and the Clear TSA line was 20 minutes long.

  10. Maybe there is a better way to say it than he did, but no issues with the action. First, people SUCK at loading bags. The first people on the plane don’t care about others, and then stuff smaller items, coats, hats, that should be under the seat so they can have more leg room. They also put bags flat on the bins instead of on their side to fit more bags, as it clearly shows on the sketches in the bins. Second, I’ve been in first class and personally seen people just straight up walking in, dumping their bags on the first class bins, and continue walking toward the back. For all I know this person did just that. So, if you’re seated in coach and get your bag thrown out of first class and get it checked, no sympathy for you.

  11. I mostly fly coach, unless it is a red eye. I’m very supportive of what this business class passenger did. He might have had a tight connection and didn’t have the luxury of boarding early. And regardless, he paid/used miles for business class, so he deserves the bin space over his seat – especially when it is even marked accordingly!

  12. I’ve watched crew remove Y passengers bags from the F area to make room for later boarding F passengers. This is how I think it should be – that crew make this move, not passengers.

    It’s bold to remove another passenger’s bag. I’ve seen that too – where one passenger pulls out the bag of another and puts his up. And dares the other passenger to do something about it. Crew also got involved in that one. The captain actually had to come out (Lufthansa). It was special.

  13. @Chris,
    I’ve wondered as well about the huge carryon, the at-least-the-limit personal item, plus a good sized third bag that cabin crew all seem to carry. Like their job is so much more important than anyone else’s? And I’ve seen them use overhead space that will be needed for the bulkhead pax.(granted they generally move their stuff). And are pilots still carrying a huge case of Jepp charts? Surely all that is digital by now?
    I think the first class guy within his rights to claim the space although you’d think the crew could have found one more spot. Like move a personal item out of the overhead to where it belongs.

  14. Do you know how much more domestic business class is than coach? It’s usually double. I don’t care what time the business PAX boarded, he is entitled to overhead bin space in his cabin. Same goes for upgraded business glass. It is not the business class passenger’s job to find space for economy carry ons. It’s the economy passenger, and next the airline. Economy class passenger is just plain in the wrong.

  15. Sorry, Gary. You are 100% wrong here.

    Biz passenger put a stop to the nonsense and reinforced the rules (when flight attendants wouldn’t).

    It’s time to stop coddling people. Nice to see an adult stepping up in this instance and drawing a line. Teachable moment for the guy in coach.

  16. I don’t blame him and applaud him. There’s a reason we pay more to sit up front and cabin-marked bins are NOT shared space. After pushback, maybe, but not before.

  17. Why do so many articles and the ensuing comments always seem to be judging people???

    Can we get some articles which just state what happened? I believe the comment section will become far less toxic if the articles are more informative and less judging/blaming…

  18. As far as I’m concerned, Business Class Guy should have thrown the bag out the door. If the overhead space is marked for Business, Economy passengers shouldn’t be using them. End of story.

  19. The dude in coach was stupid in outing himself like that. He was a lazy and rude guy who stuck his bag in a place where it clearly didn’t belong. Now, the business class guy moving the bags around was kind of a jerk too – but he was correct. And the crew should have been assisting him.

  20. Good for him! Yes overhead bin space is shared and that is why someone in coach can’t complain about “their space” being full if they board later. However, bins marked for first (or main cabin extra/Comfort+) should be used by those passengers. They either paid a premium for that seat or got it due to the business they give the airline. Sadly most FAs don’t police the space but I have had a few tell someone to take their bag down when they tried to put it in first and then walk back to coach.

  21. First off & shared space. If you look at the picture, the label 11FED & assuming 12FED further back are the only 6 passengers that are assigned that “shared” space.

    Reminds me of my Hawaiian Air flight last year HNLOGG. We had checked our bags and only had small carryons – I had a very small beach tote, my companion had 2: a fully filled tote, and a large purse. We had paid for their comfort seats in row 5. We boarded in the first group, behind the elites, small children, and pax w/ disabilities. There was only one family 5 ahead of us, I’ll get back to them later.

    I placed my extremely small carryon under the seat in front of me, my companion placed her purse also under the seat in front of her – the places we are allocated. Her stuffed tote went in the overhead above row 5.

    As the flight was close to finishing up boarding – a flight attendant requested my companion put her fully stuffed beach tote under her seat. Because her purse was there, both of them would not fit under the seat. The flight attendant forceably stated, the larger roller bags need to be placed in the overheard with a higher priority than totes. She did not know we were traveling together. She pointed down towards my feet. I spoke up, I’m not placing a stranger’s bag in my area. I paid more for this seat, and I also paid to check my bag. Why should I be inconvenienced for someone else roller bag. Specifically because we were on the left side and roller bags are to be placed on the right side overheads.

    Going back to the family of 5 – each of them had a roller bag, and a backpack of equal size – not of a personal item size. This family of 5 stored 10 items into the overhead. Where was the FA – that wanted to place the tote, when those passengers boarded. Had she done this – 5 other people would not have to check their roller bag, just this family that had taken 10 overhead spaces.

    We took a long 1hr+ mechanical delay and I eventually needed to use the toilet, as I walked back up the aisle, I verified the family of 5 had indeed not used the under seat storage option. Their big floppy beach hats were down there.

    No, it’s not my job to police carryons at Hawaiian – I said nothing. I spent 30+ years, trying to explain this to customers when I was a gate agent at another company. I do not need the headache. I will stand up for myself. My companion’s tote remained in the overhead!

    Another observation… if you fly the return OGGHNL flight, the off duty employees on standby are given their boarding passes early and will board with the elites – the overhead compartments will be filled with Krispy Kreme boxes.

  22. @Gary: “Second, I’m shocked that a passenger in coach who used the bin had their bag removed and taken out of the cabin.”


    What if it was a seat?

  23. Hello Moe

    Of course, you are correct, but that misses the point.

    The goal of a blog is to create clicks, which was apparently successful.

  24. Gary leaves out some details from the Reddit post:

    – Biz guy put 2 items in the overhead
    – It was a non US flight on a non US airline
    – Not directly pertinent but he says the airline policy is 2 bags plus a third for frequent flier status. What airline is that?
    – Crew tried to fit the coach bag somewhere but no luck.
    – Yet biz guy claims at the beginning he thought he could fit it all in the overhead

    Odd the biz guy didn’t put one bag under his seat though maybe it was a hard shell seat with no stowage.

  25. If the passenger’s bag in business would have fit with the existing bag, amazed that the FA did not place it there and end the situation, both bags in cabin, no delay to gate check one bag. Simple

  26. Guess I’ll be one of the jerks.

    I fly exclusively FC/BC and expect to have some bin space. If you want to store your stuff in FC/BC,then PAY for it unless everyone in those areas are seated and there’s additional room.

    Exactly how are we supposed to make room when the bin is crowded and we can’t touch someone else’s luggage? Not like the FAs want to do it.

  27. “The Poors Can’t Use My Space!”
    Uh no Gary. It has nothing to do with that. In fact I don’t care what they do, what I know is I paid for F/J and I expect my bin space to be there, or at worst be a ‘fight’ with others in the same cabin. That and the bigger seat are the ONLY reason to fly in F/J … it sure ain’t for the Michelin meal or the white-glove service.

  28. Everybody “expecting” bin space to be there isn’t up to speed on the realities of commercial air travel in 2024 and has neglected the Contract of Carriage which states overhead space is never guaranteed.

    I see this particular flight occurred in another country and American social norms might not apply, so I won’t judge pro hac vice.

  29. Flew IAD to LGA this morning on United Express/Republic in 2A. (side note: Republic seems to have replaced Mesa on this route) I boarded with group 3 because I was a few minutes behind schedule. No overhead space. the F flight attendant pointed out some space in mid cabin and held passengers at the door so i could get to mid cabin. Upon depaning some shlub from the back had a larger rollaboard and a giant backpack in the F overheads. Neither would have fit under a seat. There would have been space for all F passengers had he not take the room for two.

    Certainly did not ruin my day but I did pay for F and was delayed deplaning as a result. He should not have been permitted to board with two large bags. i think the F F/A may have seen what happened and did not challenge him which is why she was so helpful in finding me space in back.

  30. The J passenger is my new hero. Entitled brats that think the rules don’t apply to them are the real jerks.

  31. problem is most people can’t read anymore…everything is just a guideline…
    your comments on Southwest airlines,. while they say 2 free checked bags theres lots and lots of people including me that don’t trust checking a bag.. I always do carry on. If you can carry it on you have to much stuff!

  32. Fully agree that if ticketed in First, I should have the overhead bin space too, why should I give this up to someone else who did not pay for that space? I believe that FA’s should only fill up the space above the different classes until all passengers have boarded.
    The pax in Y who shouted out to the F pax deserved it in my opinion, he/she could have kept their mouth shut.


  33. Flew one of the new 737-9 Max to SFO today in United. Noticed that the overhead bins for First and Economy + were labelled as reserved for first pax/Economy + pax.

    So apparently United is rolling it out on new planes
    /cabin refresh.

  34. We don’t know if FC pax was late boarding bc he/her connecting inbound was late? I concur that when one pays for FC, one should get bins above FC seat – especially if the bin is marked.

  35. I pay for first/business, mainly to not have to put up with all of the drama in coach. I pay a lot for those seats, even though I would probably get upgraded due to having top status on the big three, I will pay more to assure I’m up front…. I won’t fly Southwest anymore when possible for the same reason. If I’m paying for the space then my bag gets priority. If you want to put your bag in business/ first then buy a ticket there,

  36. exactly as Jimmy ‘Say’ said!

    No Gary, the F pax wasn’t a jerk. There’s an even more professional tip for this case which I learned on a flight, where the last arriving F pax found the overhead bins full, and took one bag over his assigned seat, asked everyone in F if it belong to any of us, and as nobody claimed it, he proceeded to gate check to whichever destination (that wasn’t the direct routing of the US domestic flight where this happened).

    Even in this case, he wasn’t a jerk.

  37. The Economy passenger must have “boarded late” too, if the only place left to put his bag was up front. Or, more likely, he boarded on time but chose not to bring his bag into the cabin he was assigned, because it made HIS life easier to stow it up front.

    People pay double to sit up front because they want (or need) the perks and conveniences that come with that. And we’re not all rich. We just know that the privileges of biz/first don’t come cheap, so we build the extra cost into our budget. Those bins belong to the passengers who paid a premium to not worry about overhead space.

    If your seat is in Economy, so is your bag… UNLESS Economy is full and there is free, unneeded space up front and the crew makes the decision. And while I’m on the subject, they all need to do a better job of making sure no one even makes it past the gate with more or bigger items than allowed, and don’t put more than one in the overhead bin. It’s their job, not mine, to enforce THEIR rules.

  38. @M. Casey
    I hear you.
    Same reason why I stopped carrying a light back pack on a short trips and forced myself to bring a Full size carry on which is easily half empty.
    Even as 1k, boarding early, FA will tell me 90% of time to put backpack under seat in front, just because it fits while that’s the only item I have.
    Okay then !!

  39. Another unhinged opinion piece by Gary Leff. It’s so sad what nonsense is published on this blog in recent month.

    How can a bin be reserved for Business if any Economy bag already placed in the bin won’t be removed? Then it’s just another first come first serve space.

  40. I more often than not see people stuff their carry on in FC overheads so they don’t have to hunt open space or just so they can grab their bag (s) on the way out.

  41. The passenger who paid his $ for the better seat shouldn’t be rudely reminded by the passenger who took the space that wasn’t his to take, to be careful. Nope. He was lucky the luggage didn’t end up thrown at him.

  42. I pay for business class and that gives me the privilege of sharing that overhead space with my fellow business class passengers. So you expect my bagged to be checked while the other passenger’s bag stays in the overhead space ? BTW, I travel both Economy and Business so I am not being classist here.

  43. Ditto to what jsn55 and others said here:
    I fly first/business maybe a third of the time.
    When I’m in economy, I accept the fact that I paid less, either in cash, or points/miles. And I don’t stow my luggage in a higher class area.
    So when I AM able to book first or business – most recently for well more than a thousand dollars, not miles- I want to know that part of the deal is that I don’t have to worry about people ahead of me hogging the overhead bin.
    Why is it such a big deal for people to accept that you get what you pay for, and you’re not entitled to what you didn’t pay for?
    My most recent ticket to Central America came with lounge access. The economy ticket I flew on the year before didn’t. That’s how it works.

  44. I hate people who stuff bags in overhead that aren’t reasonably adjacent to their seats. The only exception is if there is no space because somebody already took it but still you should be within a couple of rows.

    If you are flying close enough to F to see your bag then typically you are preferred boarding and have no reason to be using the F bins – those are a last resort not a first one. So yes the Y passenger was an idiot unless he was a late boarder himself. That said if flying F I would never remove somebody’s bag. I’d ask the FA to find space and normally they are happy to do so for F. So the F passenger was an ass, too.

  45. This is the correct response:

    CHRIS says:
    January 30, 2024 at 9:17 am
    Maybe he should have removed one of the MULTIPLE non-rev pilots or flight attendants bags who are assigned seats in the back but FILL UP the F/J overheads with their 3 bags each.

  46. @CHRIS +1

    Unlike Gary I’ve seen this rule enforced repeatedly. Should there be exceptions? You bet: when all passengers in business or first have been seated and there’s still overhead space available, let the passengers who didn’t pay for the right to that space use it as well.

Comments are closed.