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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.

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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.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

3 replies on “Boeing Poised to Ease Carry-On Congestion

  1. I think constantly increasing the size of the hatracks on aircraft means that we’re missing the main point…the over head lockers were only ever designed for ‘hand luggage’, and by that I don’t mean trolley bags that are the largest size IATA approve for cabin bags…I remember when I started flying many years ago on the DC9, each pax could bring one carry on bag weight max 5kg, in addition a smaller handbag or briefcase was also allowed. It’s only since the appearance of the low cost carriers that airlines have started charging for checked baggage whilst simultaneously allowing them to bring much larger, heavier bags in the cabin. When I was cabin crew for easyJet, virtually all our full flights were a nightmare for handbaggage as EZY’s rules were 1 x max size IATA trolley bag with NO weight limit at all – they said the passenger must be able to lift the bag into the hatracks themselves though. It doesn’t require a mathematician to work out that 180 pax with 180 max size trolley bags is a number that will never fit in the (already very large) hatracks of the A320…sadly EZY were so desperate to be Europe’s preferred short haul airline, they sometimes over promised and under delivered. If only ALL carriers stopped charging for 1 piece of checked baggage per pax, the need to bring half of their holiday packing into the cabin with them would be removed!! It was interesting to look at the edges of the hatracks when the locker doors were open (even on aircraft 3 weeks old)….already the plastic base of the lockers was sagging from the constant excess weight kept in them…the bins are placarded with their load limit but no one ever takes any notice of them! I always remember the awful injuries sustained on the British Midland 737-400 that crashed short of EMA on the bank of the M1…a lot of those were caused by the overhead lockers collapsing and causing some serious injuries.

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