Passengers on United Airlines, as well as on other US carriers, are accustomed to being asked to volunteer to check their carry-on bags at the boarding gate due to lack of space on the aircraft.
The Chicago-based carrier wants to change that, said Toby Enqvist, senior vice president, chief customer officer, and plans to equip 80 per cent of its mainline domestic fleet with larger bins by 2023, with the goal of eventually totally eliminating the need to gate check bags.
The retrofitting will mainly be made to mainline domestic narrow-body aircraft, Enqvist said. The airline’s wide-body fleet is already equipped with larger bins, he added.
“When it comes to the larger bins, we have over 400 airplanes that we’re considering, so that will take a while; but by 2023, we should be over 80% per cent complete for all our mainline aircraft. We’re going to do it through our normal seat check schedule. We most likely will not touch any of the airplanes that are retiring before 2025,” he said.
Enqvist said that, for example, a Boeing 737-900ER would be able to accommodate 65 extra bags after the bin retrofit is complete.
Asked by a journalist at the event whether the additional space occupied by the retrofitted bins would impinge on passenger space, Enqvist said: “Because of how these bins are, they come down a little lower which could also be helpful if you’re not as tall as I am. The only thing you gain is you can get a room for your bag and it goes faster to board – which is a win-win.”
Enqvist showed journalists a photograph of several suitcases stacked perfectly into an overhead bin, jokingly describing this image as his “Mona Lisa”.
“We have hundreds and hundreds of airplanes with different bins, but by 2023 we expect to have every aircraft in our fleet that allows each passenger to store one carry-on bag,” he said.
Yesterday, United brought a group of journalists – including Business Traveller Asia-Pacific – to Chicago O’Hare to see one of its new CRJ-550 aircraft, which was equipped with the new bins. We will publish a ‘First Look’ of that aircraft soon.