These new overhead aircraft bins could be an inflight game-changer

Oct 9, 2023, 12:27 PM

The new “Airspace L Bins,” produced by Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH, a subsidiary of ST Engineering ...

The new “Airspace L Bins,” produced by Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH, a subsidiary of ST Engineering and Airbus, promise to create 60% more cabin luggage space. Mandatory Credit: Michael Bahlo (Bockfilm GmbH)/Courtesy Airbus

(Bockfilm GmbH)

(CNN) — In today’s not-so-golden era of domestic air travel, checking a suitcase for free is a luxury afforded to few. And those who do check their bags often find themselves stressing out the whole journey, wondering if their luggage is actually going to arrive at their destination with them.

As a result, more travelers than ever are opting to cram their belongings into a carry-on bag – many of them bulky, with wheels.

The result? A boarding free-for-all, as nervous flyers hover around the gate hoping to be among the first to get on the plane – all to secure a tiny piece of overhead real estate near their seat.

Unfortunately, the older versions of those highly coveted bins were not designed with your average carry-on roller suitcase in mind. They must be laid down flat, leaving a small space above them that is of little use, while taking up a good chunk of bin space.

Enter French aircraft maker Airbus and its new “Airspace L Bins,” designed to be retrofitted in three to five days.

First revealed in May, these specially shaped overhead compartments, promise to create 60% more cabin luggage space than traditional systems. How? Simply by allowing travelers to load their carry-on roller bags vertically instead of having to lay them flat. (See the above pic.)

The bins hold bags that are 61 centimeters (height) x 38 centimeters (width) x 25 centimeters (depth).

Made of ultra-lightweight composite products, the retrofit re-uses many parts of the original bin including the sidewall, ceiling and lighting to cut down on waste, says Airbus.

Flight attendants will likely approve of the new compartments too, knowing they can complete boarding procedures while hearing far fewer complaints from flyers about how they don’t have a place to stash their bags.

One airline has already signed up. From early 2025, German flag carrier Lufthansa plans to begin retrofitting 38 A320 aircraft with the new Airspace L Bins, which are produced by Germany-based Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW), a subsidiary of ST Engineering and Airbus.

“We know from talking with airline customers that bigger bins are a clear need to enhance the passenger experience,” said Airbus head of commercial services for Europe, Charbel Youzkatli, in a statement.

The complicated world of baggage

Luggage has long been a contentious and complicated issue in the aviation world, and, bigger bins or not, that doesn’t appear set to change.

Not everyone brings carry-on luggage just to dodge added checked baggage fees – many airlines charge extra if you want to bring a suitcase on the plane, too. As noted, some travelers just love the convenience of not having to wait for their suitcase at the carousel upon arrival.

It’s also a political issue. Just this week, European Union lawmakers reportedly voted to support a resolution that calls for airlines to stop charging passengers for “reasonable” sized carry-on luggage.

But baggage fees are undeniably a huge money maker for airlines. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US airlines earned more than $6.7 billion in baggage fee revenue in 2022.

Some airlines justify the fees by pointing to the environmental impact – lighter aircraft are more fuel-efficient, so deterring people from bringing a lot of added weight with them is a good thing.

And supporters of fare “unbundling” say it all works out – those who want to pay for extras like checked bags can, the rest of us can enjoy cheaper fares.

In the end though, regardless of traveler preferences, most would agree that if better-designed bins can speed up the time we spend getting on and off the plane, we’re all for them.

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These new overhead aircraft bins could be an inflight game-changer