overhead bins

What are your rights regarding the Overhead Bin?

At msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin blog, I’ve been tracking down answers to a big question each week. This week: What to do about Overhead Bin hogs.

We’ve all seen them on airplanes: Fellow passengers who put their stuff in an overhead bin toward the front of the plane before sneaking off to an assigned seat way in the back.

When that happens, some passengers seated up front end up having to store their bags in the rear of the plane.

“Do I have any recourse about what is in the overhead bin over my head?” writes Barbara, a nurse from Elizabeth City, N.C.

“I’ve ended up with my bag being placed all the way in the back and it delays my deplaning ’til the very end. I actually once missed my connection because I had to wait so long to get my carry on.”

“This is a huge flight attendant pet peeve,” said Sara Keagle, a flight attendant who writes the The Flying Pinto blog. “Most flight attendants I know close the first few rows of overhead bins at the start of boarding because of this issue.”

Keagle says that when she and other flight attendants are on duty as the aisle flight attendants, they’ll try to police the situation. But Heather Poole, a flight attendant who writes the Galley Gossip column for Gadling.com, noted that passengers can’t always rely on bin space being saved. “Because we are usually staffed with FAA minimum crew, there aren’t enough of us on board to direct passengers to other bins.”

Bottom line: It can be irritating, but the overhead bins are first come, first serve. “You don’t have any recourse or right to the bin above your seat,” said Poole, who pointed out that one way to get first dibs on the overhead bins is to pay the extra fee most airlines now charge to passengers who wish to board early.

And bin hogs, beware. Overhead Bin has heard from flight attendants who make note of bin abusers − and then quietly gate-check those bags right before departure.