Bin Reel Fun Flying American Airlines

Unfortunately, I do not have the video evidence to share the bin reel fun on American Airlines during yesterday’s flight from Chicago to San Francisco. I didn’t turn on my camera to videotape the five minute overhead bin reloading scene until the last 17 seconds of the departure delay.

Perhaps I should buy a new videocamera and hit the airways and airwaves in 2012 with my new blog “Bin Reel Fun Flying“.

We are the 99% of Flyers

I felt this week like I am truly one of the 99% of infrequent flyers who suffer in steerage while the 1% enjoy the great benefits of modern travel as members of the frequently flying elite.

This year has been my lowest flight miles since 1996. I have flown over one million butt-in-seat miles in the past 15 years, yet this year I have flown less than 10,000 miles. I have traveled more miles in 2011 in my car.

Arriving early to the airport used to mean making your flight, but now it seems the real AAdvantage of boarding earlier means avoiding the fight – for bin space.

Check-in Upsell for American Airlines Group 1 Boarding

American Airlines self-serve kiosk check in showed me I was currently in Boarding Group 2. There was an upsell offer on the screen to pay $9 and enter the ranks of Boarding Group 1.

“Be among the first to board during general boarding and have earlier access to overhead bin space.”

I passed on joining the ranks of Boarding Group 1.

I checked my roller suitcase and my computer bag easily fit under the seat on my outbound flight to Chicago. My outbound flight last Sunday was the first time where I had a broken seat tray. There was some inconvenience in not having a tray for a 4.5 hour flight. Accommodating seatmates allowed me to occupy some of their tray space. We flying citizens of the 99% have to stick together and help each other out.

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

Another first time experience for this million mile butt-in-seat flyer occurred after the American Airlines plane was fully loaded, and I mean fully loaded with no empty seats on the 737. The flight attendant came through the aisle just before takeoff and there were three bins stuffed with luggage that she was incapable of latching the bin doors. She gave a few bags a nudge and the bins still did not latch. She then made an announcement to the passengers that the flight would not take off until all the overhead bins were latched.

And ended the passenger announcement with the warning she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) move passengers’ bags!

A few volunteers in the aisle seats unfastened their seatbelts and for the next five minutes I watched puzzle challenge competition as suitcases were pushed, prodded, pulled out into the aisle, rearranged and reversed in at least three bins around my seat. This was an audience participation challenge with suggestions from still seatbelted viewers in the middle and window seats as to what the best arrangement of suitcases might be for the troublesome overhead bin latches.

The scene would have made an entertaining YouTube video, but I only filmed the last 17 seconds and it isn’t particularly interesting without the preceding five minutes of American Airlines bin reel fun.

Anyone looking for a travel blog niche should consider a “Bin Reel” video channel. These checked bag fees have certainly created more opportunity for overhead bin drama; primarily in the portion of the plane occupied by the 99%.

Most of us 99% are just trying to reduce the cost of airline travel by freely occupying the shared overhead bin space around us. Of course, there is little profit in that kind of consumer attitude.



About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. One lesson here, once you put your bag up in the bin, always check the the door is still able to close. As your observations show, even if you’re a group 1 boarder, once the plane is full, if your bag prevents the bin from closing, there won’t be space left at that point to reposition it.

    By habit, I always double check that the bin door closes, even when I’ve flown with a particular bag on a particular aircraft many times before.

    Were they able to get the bags re-arranged, or did some have to be gate checked?

  2. Also, always keep an eye on your bag until the bins are closed. I have seen more than one case of a member of the 99% shifting/turning someone else’s bag to make room for his/her own, and suddenly the perfectly fitting bag is now an obstacle preventing closure of the bin and subject to last-minute gate-checking.

  3. Being a Minnesotan, I felt it a rite of passage to finally try Sun Country, being the only non-regional Minnesota airline after the demise of Northwest, and had a trip coming up to Washington, D.C. Wouldn’t you know that on the airline that offered $550 r/t “first” class, the dates I had to travel were the only ones sold out in about a month? One feature of Sun Country is that the gate agents announce for “Families with small children, the elderly, and anyone else who might need a little more time boarding” before calling for the rest to board the 737. I was attending a conference of high school and college students, so the flight was 80% attendees wearing conference shirts/gear, and about 20% business travelers. I was literally the last to board, being stuck behind the first officer in the gift shop line (no lie) and took my row 5 seat as the purser closed the door. The economy FAs were still trying to load 4′ by 3′ display boards, easels, and 3-4 carryon bags per person 15 minutes after pushback time. The worst part was that the group rate almost everyone was on guaranteed 2 free checked bags, but there weren’t even enough bags to fill half the carousel when we got to MSP. Offering no priority boarding, security and (from reports of others) shilling upgrades during the safety message have almost guaranteed this was my last time trying “YOUR Hometown Airline.”

  4. My feeling is the airlines did it backwards and should have instituted the fee to bring your bag on the plane. The bins would be available for items like umbrellas and computers and coats.

    The $25 or $30 fee to check a bag encourages frugal travelers to bring anything on board they can possibly fit and ultimately delays the entire boarding process.

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