Airline Etiquette : Bags Go Under The Seat In FRONT Of You

When boarding a flight, any commercial airline flight, from any airport in the world, you hear the same message … “Please place your carry on item under the seat in front of you. For those seated in the bulkhead, please place your bags in the overhead bin for take off and landing.”

There is a reason your bags must be stowed under the seat in front of you, especially in the bulk head, not jammed under the seat your sitting in. Well actually there are two reasons … 1) The bag must go under the seat in front of you for safety reasons. Should something happen during take off and landing your bag would become a flying projectile … 2) The bag must go under the seat in front of you, not under the seat you’re sitting in, because the space under your seat is for someone else’s bag and their feet.

I bring up this travel etiquette issue after encountering some very rude people seated in seats 7G & 7H, the bulkhead seats on my US Airways flight on an Airbus A330-243, this past Friday.  Upon settling into my seat, sticking a pillow against the wall of the aircraft from my seat in 8H to rest my head, and trying to nap for my overnight flight, a couple settled into seats 7G & 7H.   The woman in 7H kept pushing her bag as far as she could under her seat, pushing my bag out from under the seat, and taking up all my legroom.   When I asked her politely to place her bag in the overhead bin, since she was in a bulkhead, her husband turned to me and told me to “chill” and “we paid for our seats just like everyone else.

I still have no idea what that meant, but when a flight attendant told them they needed to place their bags in the overhead bin the husband then turned to her, pointed to me, and said “Dude is OK with the bag being there.”  I assure you I was not OK with it and I was not OK with with the couple then making rude comments about the flight attendant as she placed their bags in the overhead while we taxied to the runway.

So … next time you’re in the bulkhead seats, please remember to place your bag overhead and not jam it under the seat you’re sitting in.  The person behind you is entitled to the space directly under your seat for their bag and their feet.

…oh and try not  to be rude to your fellow passengers.  No one likes sitting in a 17-inch wide seat, with a 31-inch seat pitch, for a seven hour flight.

Happy Flying!


  1. […] to me) It seems that no matter what, the topic of travel manners is consistently popping up on blogs and in newspapers as more and more people continue to hog overhead bin space and shove banana peels […]


  1. Back when Qantas used to fly domestically in NZ they had a great bulkhead cut-out so you could put a small bag (not a wheelie) in there instead of the overhead bin.

  2. I had some bulkhead sitters recently take off their smelly shoes and jam them back into my backpack. I was pretty pissed. As soon as I said something, they were falling over themselves to apologize and move the stinky shoes, so at least it wasn’t a confrontation.

  3. Fish, can we get into the situations where, when I go to put my Think Tank Airport International roller in the overhead, I find it full of small backpacks, purses, and coats, and the people in the seats next to me have nothing under the seat in front of them? I once had a confrontation with a couple as I asked if the backpacks and coats were theirs; they said no, so I started moving them around to make room for my roller. (This was a 737, if I recall, and they had placed their coats and backpacks such that it took up the entire overhead.) Once they objected, I told them that they needed to put it under the seat in front of them so I could fit my roller up there. The look on their faces. Unfortunately, the FA wasn’t around to help remind them that the main storage is under the seat in front of them. I finally managed to get my roller in, but come on, people!

  4. @John – I’m going to play “devil’s advocate” for a moment here and point out that if someone does not bring a roller bag, it doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to use the overhead bins. They’re just as entitled to use a fair share of overhead bin space as you are. Now in this specific case it sounds like they were using more than their fair share, but the point remains that just because you brought a rolling bag and they didn’t, that you don’t automatically have superior claim to the overhead bin space. And the space under the seat in front of you is not the “main storage”, it’s just for the “personal item” and incidentals. The overhead bin is the main storage space for carry-on bags and such.

    I frequently bring just a very small “daypack” style backpack or a messenger bag on board, and I put it in the overhead bin, leaving the space at my feet empty. My backpack or messenger bag is less than a third of the size of a roller bag, so I’m using much less overhead space than the average passenger and don’t feel the least bit guilty about it…again, I bought a ticket just like you and I’m entitled to a fair share of the overhead space.

    I agree people could stand to be more considerate about coats, I usually put mine in a checked bag, but if I’m not checking a bag then it goes in the overhead, but squeezed in after bags. People who bring expensive coats on planes and then complain about them getting a little wrinkled are just not thinking.

    I have tucked a little messenger bag under the seat I was sitting in when in the bulkhead row a few times, but only for takeoff and landing and after asking permission of the person whose “foot space” I was borrowing. A little common courtesy (and an offer to buy the guy a beer in one case) goes a long way.

  5. Fish,

    The airlines have exacerbated this problem to a degree with their zealous pursuit of additional bag fees. I don’t know about you, but its taking longer and longer to board and de-board, because people insist on taking their entire wardrobe onboard.

    I’m too old and grumpy now to tolerate poor manners on flights, especially with something like this.


  6. I need to agree with Craig above. On a daytrip round trip I often only bring a small daypack. Recently I put it above and the flight attendant huffed that, “smaller items belong below.” Yet, if I had brought a big roller bag there would be no conplaints. I don’t mind my smal bag being moved around to better fit roller bags, but I have a right to that overhead space as well.

  7. @Craig, for the past several years, most flights started off with the flight attendant reminding people that the storage under the seat in front of them is their main storage, and that the overhead bin is for bags that cannot fit under the seat. American, United, Delta, US Air, all said something of the same. I’m sure I could Google up the exact words, but I’m fairly positive about it.

  8. In my experience, this is usually a rule in search of a problem. Most flights do not fill all overhead storage space. When you are 6’5″ tall with size 14 feet, there is barely enough room for your body in the ever shrinking seat space. Sure, of overheard is full, then under the seat it is, but of not, let’s loosen up a bit seat Nazis.

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