United Airlines is riling the flying public by decreeing that those who purchase seats at the lowest fares cannot use overhead bins to stow their belongings.

“Cabin pressure fee incoming,” one commenter at star- tribune.com wrote. Another predicted charges for bathroom use. Still another noted, “One more reason to drive.”

According to United, the new basic economy fare, which it will begin selling in January, will benefit all fliers by limiting the clamor for that coveted space for carry-ons.

I can think of a few other ways to avoid that particular scramble. How about skipping the fees for checked bags? When those fees were imposed by major carriers, around eight years ago, carry-ons (sometimes overstuffed carry-ons) became the norm.

Another way to ease the overhead squeeze? Increase bin size. Delta Air Lines has been doing just that this year as it refreshes the interiors of some of its Boeing 757s and Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft. Among the improvements are slightly wider seats, new lavatories and — yep — larger overhead bins.

Of course, there’s no telling whether Delta, or any other major carrier, will follow the lead of United, the first of the major airlines to reduce the right to stowage.

Delta has its own basic economy fare. As with United’s lowest fare, fliers are assigned seats after checking in. But Delta allows use of overhead bins for all main cabin fliers.

United will enforce its new policy by having economy fare fliers board last. Fun, right? (MileagePlus credit card holders, MileagePlus Premier members and Star Alliance Gold members will be exempted from the restriction.)

Sure, some fliers are happy to pay less for fewer services. That’s why no-frills carriers exist. Some like tiered fares, where you pay for what you get. Me? I’m hoping this wacky idea doesn’t spread to other old-school airlines.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.