Written for TheDesignAir by Adam Ralston | Reported last year and finally seen in the wild, Boeing showcased their new Space Bins, boasting storage space for up to six roll-aboard bags, two more than the current bins in the Boeing Sky Interior afford. All in, Boeing claim the new Space Bins will provide room for an additional 62 bags in their 737-900ER, 56 bags on the 737-800, and 40 bags on the company’s 737-700.
On display this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, the bins appear to have greater interior height, allowing for more bags to be placed on their side, thus freeing up space for the additional two bags per bin. Additionally, the bins lower into the cabin about 3 inches further than current bins and maintain a lower bin lip to provide greater viewing accessibility to passengers.
Despite the increased dimensions and greater capacity, the bins don’t appear to have any adverse impact to the passenger. Initial impressions are that additional intrusion into passenger space is minimal when the bins are open. Further, Boeing state the Space Bins are as easy to close as the current generation of overhead bins even without a closure assistance mechanism.
In the US, Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines have already ordered the Space Bins, with Alaska being the launch customer. Other carriers can join the action later as the Space Bins will be available for retrofit on existing Next-Generation 737s in the skies today.
This will be welcomed news for those budget-conscious travelers who balk at the need to pay for checked baggage, as is customary on most domestic US carriers. It may also prove helpful to those more seasoned travelers prioritizing efficiency ahead of convenience and taking the bin-space-versus-gate-check gamble. To the frequent fliers with elite status this will likely be a largely transparent improvement, save maybe the added advantage to survey the bin’s contents with greater ease.
Airlines could potentially see benefits in quicker turnaround times at the gate as fewer bags will needed to be unloaded from the belly. A less readily-quantifiable benefit would be an increase in customer satisfaction. The disadvantage, though, is the resulting decrease in profits from checked bags that seem to comprise a large portion of airlines’ bottom lines these days. It’ll be interesting to see if the cost of retrofit outweighs the savings in quick turnarounds or improved customer satisfaction scores – which the recent US Airline Quality Rating shows as having overall declined in 2014.
Reactions to the new Space Bins by would-be passengers appear favorable. And we agree. We fear, however, that these larger bins may do little to actually alleviate bin crowding as passengers have been conditioned to cram more and more items into carry-ons to avoid paying fees. To truly see the benefits being touted, travelers need to bring appropriately-sized carry-ons packed to the same modest extent as those roll-aboards sampled by Boeing during the demonstration – a “standard” carry-on bag measuring 9”x14”x22”. Otherwise, we feel this may be a sort of carte blanche for passengers to stuff even more into hand baggage, simply perpetuating the problem if not abated by airline staff enforcing carry-on size restrictions.
The product is certainly sound and we applaud Boeing for their innovation, and for their dedication to the needs of the fliers. We look forward to seeing these on a flight in the near future.