Tips for passengers with carry on luggage

I am what you would call a frequent flier – I log a modest 200,000 miles a year in a pressurized metal tube zooming from one end of this planet to the other. For those who don’t fly often, this article will help you deal with the borderline traumatic process of getting on a commercial aircraft with 200 of your least favorite strangers with carry-on luggage.  By no means do I consider myself an expert – just observant.

Antique luggage

This may sound strange, but old luggage is your worst enemy – It’s old, heavy and probably not sized correctly. Newer luggage is designed to properly fit in the overhead bin and maximize storage for socks, shoes and selfie sticks.  Today’s maximum size allowance for carry on luggage is universal across all airlines at 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches.  Hand-me-down luggage may have different dimensions and may not fit as expected.  You don’t have to spend a lot on luggage – retail and online stores have carry-on luggage starting at $20.

The bin hog

Most aircraft will allow standard size hand luggage to fit wheels or handle first. Don’t place the bag longways – it’s a waste of precious bin space.  If you have to place it sideways, you’re either on a smaller aircraft (MD-80/90) or that bag doesn’t conform to the maximum size guidelines.  The etiquette for overhead bins is simple, be neat, organized and don’t waste precious space.

Oddly shaped things

I’ve seen every conceivable item placed in an overhead bins – musical instruments, cases of liquor, paintings, guitars and TVs… If you put something oddly shaped in the over head bin, try and close the bin. If it latches – you’re good to go. Don’t be surprised if you get strange looks from flight attendants or fellow passengers trying to move your stuff around if you take up too much room.


Nope. Also not overhead bin worthy. Simple logic: Unless you’re headlining a show, leave your damn guitar at home, hippie.  They don’t fit anywhere inside the cabin and should be checked to the final destination.

Bin open or closed?

When a bin is completely full it is customary for the person who filled up the bin to close it. This signifies that there is no more room available. Please don’t be “that passenger” who has to open all the closed bins looking for space – EVEN IF the only open bins are way farther back than your assigned seat (more on that in a moment)

Swimming up stream

You’re not guaranteed a bin directly over your seat. If you’re the unlucky passenger who is sitting 10’ish rows ahead of your overhead luggage this one is VERY IMPORTANT. No, you are not entitled to rush back to your bag or ask people to move out of your way. When passengers disembark, move to another empty row and wait for a break in the line to swim upstream to your luggage (think of this as a real-life version of frogger).

Itty-bitty aircraft

Do your homework. Smaller regional jets have extremely limited bin space, which means you will probably be forced to gate check your bag. There’s no way around this. If you have valuable/breakable stuff, make sure it fits in a bag you can slide under your seat.

Luggage Tetris

It’s never ever OK to move someone else’s luggage. Be respectful of other luggage as if it was yours. If you want to place something on top of another passenger’s bag ask first.

Be ready

When exiting the aircraft, be ready when it’s your row’s turn. There is nothing more frustrating to the people behind you to watch your disorganization delay them. Remember, people have connecting flights and you don’t want to be the reason they miss it (nor would you want to miss a connecting flight due to someone else).

What other tips do you have for passengers?

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