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Bigger is better: Airlines expanding overhead bins in response to common complaint

Several major airlines and airplane manufacturer Boeing are making overhead bins that are larger and deeper to accommodate more bags.
/ Source: TODAY

For all the passengers who have rolled their eyes at the inevitable announcement that there's not enough room in the overhead bin for everyone's carry-on luggage, several airlines are ready to do something about it.

Alaska Airlines is modifying its airplanes to have bigger and wider bins, sacrificing some head room in order to ensure there is enough space for all the carry-on luggage. TODAY's Tom Costello got a look at a Boeing 737-900 used by Alaska Airlines that is adding 50 percent more bin space, fitting six bags where four once fit.

With two million people flying every day in the United States and airlines often charging $25 per checked bag, the roomier bins also could mean more savings for passengers, who spent $3.5 billion last year on fees to check their bags.

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"Well, we've taken this bin, and made it larger, ensuring each passenger will have room for a bag, and we've created 50 percent more bag space,'' Brent Walton, Boeing's interiors manager, told Costello on TODAY Friday. "We've lowered the bins by about two inches, which gives easier access and visibility for passengers to load and unload their bags. It also provides passengers easier reach to the lights."

On a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the new bins will now be able to hold 60 more standard-sized bags, going from 118 bags to 178. Alaska Airlines is expecting to have the new bins installed on half of its fleet within two years, with the first planes with the bigger bins expected to be in service on Saturday.

"Customers told us that they have a lot of anxiety, whether or not they can fit their bag on that plane,'' an Alaska Airlines representative told Costello. "So by providing so much more bin space, it alleviates that anxiety for them."

At least seven other airlines are also retrofitting their planes with the bigger bins, according to Costello. However, more space doesn't mean passengers can now lug bigger bags onboard to avoid paying checking fees. The same size limitations will remain in place.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.