Why Boeing’s New Sky Interior Isn’t Good For Flyers (listen up photogs)

EDITED ON 28-MARCH-2011 at 7:05PM EST – Edited to correct the following, Boeing 737-800 aircraft with Big Bin overhead bins hold 114 “standard” sized bags and Sky Interior overhead bins hold 118. This information was reversed originally.

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the new Boeing Sky Interior being fitting into its new 737 aircraft.   While Boeing has stated “there will be more room for carry-on bags in the new, larger stow bins,” in fact there is less room for carry on bags with the new Sky Interior.

Looking at the Boeing 737-800’s non-Sky Interior bins vs the Sky Interior bins reveals less room for passengers to stow their baggage by volume, but by design the Sky Interior holds more … sort of. A Boeing 737-800, outfitted with 174 seats, with non-Sky Interior overhead bins offer a bin volume of 85.25 in² per seat, where as the 737-800, with 174 seats, with the new Sky Interior offers a bin volume of only 80.60 in² per seat.

In practical terms, the Boeing 737-800 Sky Interior accommodates 118 bags sized at the “standard”  22″ x 9″ x14″ , where as the older non-Sky Interior overhead bins can accommodate 114 bags of the same size.

The difference of four bags in the overhead bin may seem insignificant, unless you’re one of the last people boarding a plane.

By comparison however … the Airbus A320, with 164 seats, offers an overhead storage bins with a volume of 93.00 in² per seat.

For travelers the extra space, by volume, in the older Boeing 737 overhead bins and Airbus A320 bins,  has some added advantages. When flying in the winter for example, there is more room to stuff your L.L. Bean Warden Parka over the bags in the overhead bins. For photographers that travel with a pouch-&-belt system there is less room to stuff your Think Tank Skin Kit over your bag. For business travelers that stuff their laptop in the exterior pocket of their expandable roll-aboard bag, there is less room to stuff your bag in the overhead.

So what does this mean for travelers? If you want to stuff more of your items in the overhead bin, look for an Airbus A320.

Below is a Boeing handout image of their new 737 Sky Interior bins and a photo of my Mountainsmith Correspondent bag in the overhead bin of an Airbus A320.

Happy Flying!


  1. Square inches measure surface area.
    Cubic inches measure volume.
    I cannot tell whether your numbers are meaningful.

  2. Carl,

    The numbers I have are for volume and are from both Boeing and Airbus. You want a meaningful number … the 737-8 with a non-Sky Interior can handle 118 “standard” carry on bags, while the Sky Interior holds 114. That should be a meaningful number.

    Happy Flying!


  3. Any of those hinging bins are a disaster, as there are always a certain size of bag that does not quite fit. The Airbus photo shows the o/h with door, much better for squeezing in all sorts of stuff, including coats etc.

  4. I’m sort of with Carl – did you calculate the number of bags, or do we know that’s the only number that fit? You can have more room (in cubic inches) but be able to fit less bags due to the actual dimensions of the more room (dividers etc.).
    You may be correct – less space – but it’s just a mathematical solution I’m not sure that it’s going to hold out in the real world.

  5. Mat,

    The numbers of bags you can place in the bins are from Boeing, so the calculations on overhead bin sizes come from Boeing and Airbus figured. As stated, they are the numbers they use to calculate the overhead bin sizes. Bins are sized by volume, less volume equals less space.

    Happy Flying!


  6. Its all very good bigger overhead bins but of course you get people who abuse the system with bags that are too heavy and more weight more = fuel burn and then airfares will have to go up

  7. I think Mat is thinking in the right direction with this. While the new Sky interior has less volume in the bins, the dimensions play a key factor. If, for example, roof of the bin is angled such that an “average” rollaboard carry on can’t slide all the way back when oriented as shown in Boeing’s photo, then there is useless space in the back of the bin that inflates the overall volume.

  8. All these number’s don’t mean a thing when most people have bags bigger than
    the “ standard ” 22″ x 9″ x14″ and many times have more than one per person. That is the problem … not the bins.

  9. so boeing and airbus measure volume in in2? no wonder the 787 is delayed.

    i think someone messed up somewhere along the line and i feel as though your article should be corrected to show that you/airbus&boeing know what youre talking about

  10. Gary,

    The original numbers I have for the bin volume sizes were in meters-cubed, but in further research I found them converted to inches-squared.

    The total overhead bin volume for the Boeing 737 Sky Interior is Bin volume 9.090 m3; 737 Big Bin is 9.630 m3; the Airbus A320 is 9.778 m3.

    Happy Flying!


  11. Airlines charging for checked baggage has caused the average passenger to bring everything into the cabin. I consider this to be a safety concern. You may recall the BMI crash at East Midlands airport where a number of the passenger injuries/deaths were associated with items coming from the overhead bins. The aircraft manufacturers subsequently increased the strength of the bin support structure.
    Overhead bins should be made smaller and passengers should be encouraged to put baggage in the hold. It would also speed up boarding and disembarking the aircraft. I travel extensively around the world and always travel light with a roll on cabin bag. For trips more than 5 days or over a weekend I check a bag.

  12. If the Boeing Sky Interior holds 118 standard 22″x9″x14″ bags and the older non Sky Interior holds 114 bags, wouldn’t that make the Sky Interior better since it holds 4 more bags? Your article implies the opposite. Does your Mountainsmith Correspondent bag fit in a Sky Interior bin?

  13. John,

    The Sky Interior does hold four more bags, but the space in the actual bin leaves less room for other items in the overhead bins. The design of the Sky Interior bins leaves less room around the bags for storing small bags, coats, etc.

    Happy Flying!


  14. Boeing has certainly made this confusing.

    If it holds 4 more rollaboards that is probably a good thing – a lot of the rest of the space isn’t packed as densely as the rollaboards.

    Isn’t there also more headroom and better lighting?

  15. “The original numbers I have for the bin volume sizes were in meters-cubed, but in further research I found them converted to inches-squared.”

    Whomever did that conversion is an idiot, since they attempted to convert a measurement of volume (cubic meters) to a measurement of area (square inches). Unfortunately for you, it also makes you look stupid since you end up taking about volume in terms of a measurement of area (square inches).

  16. David,

    If you have an issue with the numbers, take it up with Boeing and Airbus. I have checked the info with both Boeing and Airbus and neither has a problem with the numbers used in the post.

    As Boeing and Airbus know their products better than you or I, I’m going to have to trust that they know their own specs.

    Happy Flying!


  17. Steven, argue all that you want, but giving the dimensions in inches squared is completely and utterly meaningless when you are trying to discuss volume. This should be obvious.

    The conversion is quite simple to do you your own from cubic meters to cubic inches. The big sky is roughly 3, 188 cubic inches, and the big bin 3,377 cubic inches.

    The difference is basically a 5 3/4 in cube per seat.

    As noted above though, if this extra space results from sloped ceilings that result in dead space, it’s not entirely useful. Usable volume is more meaningful than total volume.

  18. Mark,

    I am not arguing … I am simply stating these are the numbers made available by Boeing and Airbus. In looking into this information I sought out the insights of an aircraft engineer who works in cabin design, as well as others who deal with cabin interiors. The numbers are not in dispute by either Boeing or Airbus.

    Happy Flying!


  19. Steven
    You are reporting the values to your readers a d have a responsibility to them to ensure the accuracy of what you report. It is your credibility not some unnamed Boeing engineer that is impacted.

    Unless Boeing has somehow redefined the basic tenants of geometry volume refers to cubic measurement while area is squared. If indeed Boeing is putting out volumetric specifications in square inches then you should be challenging them on it and not simply aping what they provided.

  20. Mark,

    All my values have been confirmed by Boeing’s Corporate Communications folks, who ran them past the people involved in the Sky Interior. The Boeing Corp Comm folks are not unnamed they are Bernard Choi and Doug Alder Jr.

    Happy Flying!


  21. Steven,
    I think you are missing the point. Regardless of where you got the numbers, you cannot blindly post volumes in terms of square inches. If you spotted this then you should have posted the volumes in cubic metres.

    As for Boeing confirming the numbers, maybe they confirmed the numbers but I highly doubt they confirmed units of volume as square inches.

    This is not a matter of numbers but of units. Not only the publishing of the incorrect units but then defending the incorrect units and blaming your sources for the mistake. Yes maybe your sources did give you incorrect units but that is no excuse for publishing them as correct.

  22. I am looking up the bin size of the 787-800 and what i find most disappointing is the reporting of volume in in2 -not a very useful index. Keep in mind that the people at Boeing the author spoke are probably communications experts just like our journalist here (not schooled in fundamental physics/math). Granted these number can be useful from a standpoint of marketing to airlines for example in comparing Boeing’s volume to Airbus’. (This all implies Boeing’s communication dept needs to adjust their language when info is intended for travelers vs airlines) . BUT USELESS to TRAVELLERS! I don’t even want to know the total volume of carry on space in cubic anything! What matters to me is the volume of a SINGLE COMPARTMENT with LINEAR DIMENSIONS (assuming approximately cubic like most bags -a*b*c) of the SOLID space. Linear dimension dimension of EACH bin are more relevant to the traveler since our bags are (1) SOLID OBJECTS (cannot fit into equivalent or even larger volume if the shape is off!) (2) bags go into a SINGLE over head bin (one bag cannot fit into two bins!). In simple terms Steven info you provide in this article to end consumers should answers THEIR question: CAN MY CARRY ON FIT IN AN OVER HEAD BIN?. The data you provided whether in cubic inches or dumbed down to square inches is irrelevant to this question. Advise to author: I understand you may not be mathematically inclined but you are a smart person albeit with own mental focus area and should always have technical things completely explained to you and thence can take responsibility for what you post. Thanks for reading-intention is not offend but to clarify. Too many people are reluctant to THINK carefully about technical things when there are well capable of doing so.

  23. I think a whole bunch of you are missing the point here. Someone did some research, posted their conclusions, and a bunch of you don’t like the way he did it, to which I say, go out and do the research yourself instead of doing a whole bunch of whining and complaining about it.

  24. I work onboard the 737-800. We have just over 50 of them, halv og them with Sky. Your numbers supprise me a lot. Their is no question about it, we can store a lot more in the Sky Interior bins. Never any problems with hand bagage when flying Sky.
    I did not find any figures on Boeing site but I am sure you are right. But in any case my experience is that the new bins store quite a bit more.

  25. @JT, The complaints were about an obviously incorrect unit. It’s not possible for a measurement of volume to be expressed in square inches because ‘square inches’ is not a unit of volume (it’s a unit of area.) Cubic inches are a unit of volume. Perhaps the square inches number was the surface space in the overhead bin per person, but it definitely wasn’t the volume.

    Regarding the Sky interior, I can confirm from my travels that bags do indeed fit much better in the Sky interior than in the prior one. As others have mentioned, the previous interiors had wasted sloped space at the back of the bin. While they might have technically been slightly higher volume, the extra space wasn’t easily usable and it made it difficult to get a bag that was around the maximum carry-on size into the bin. In the Sky interior, the same bag fits easily, no problem (it fit either way, but it required some shoving in the pre-Sky interiors.) The hinged overhead bins in the Sky interior are much more convenient than the older style fixed-position bins found in the older Boeings and the A320. They’re easier to access and the bags fit in better.

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