United says that '100%' of customers will be able to bring carry-on bags as part of its massive fleet upgrades

·3 min read
Inside a United Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 with new interior - United Airlines New Aircraft Interior
Inside United Airlines' newest aircraft and interior. Thomas Pallini/Insider
  • United Airlines' new aircraft interiors will have larger overhead bins that it says can accommodate every passenger's carry-on.

  • As many as six bags can fit in the new overhead bins when placed on their sides.

  • Gate-checking bags would be eliminated and flyers wouldn't need to crowd the gate before a flight.

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United Airlines plans to gut the interiors of its narrow-body Boeing and Airbus planes as part of a multi-year fleet revitalization program. Upgrades to the cabin will include installing seat-back in-flight entertainment screens, in-seat power at every seat, and LED mood lighting.

One upgrade that flyers should look forward to more than most, however, is larger overhead bins that United says will create enough space for every passenger's carry-on bag. If that holds true, passengers will no longer have to worry about gate-checking their carry-on bags.

"We're going to have one spot for each bag for each customer," Toby Enqvist, United's chief customer officer, said at an airline event on Tuesday. The hope is that by ensuring all bags will have an onboard home, passengers won't be in such a rush to board and can stop crowding gate areas waiting for their boarding group or zone to be called.

"You don't have to line up 45 minutes before the flight because everybody's going to have a spot," Enqvist said. "It's a game-changer."

As many as six rollaboard bags can fit in each of the new overhead bins. Though, it may take time for flyers to adapt to the new storage method of putting bags on their sides instead of on their backs.

The new bins won't just aid passengers' peace of mind, they will help prevent departure delays incurred from gate-checking luggage. United staff will also be more focused on more important aspects of sending off a flight, rather than dealing with minor bag issues.

"It's just going to create a different environment onboard the airplane," Scott Kirby, United's chief executive officer, said. "And that frees our customer, our flight attendants, our gate agents, all of our people that are interacting with customers to be customer service agents, as opposed to dealing with the kinds of issues that they had to deal with often in the past."

Read More: United's CEO argued it's not a problem that airlines will keep burning tens of millions of cash per day for months

All 270 of the Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A321neo aircraft that United just placed orders for will come standard with the interior, as Insider found on Tuesday during a tour of the new cabin. United's existing fleet of Boeing and Airbus narrow-body aircraft will be retrofitted in the new interior by 2025, with 66% of the fleet estimated to be completed by the end of 2023.

"Our tech ops teams are going to work faster than ever," Enqvist said of the retrofits.

And in yet another win for carry-on bags, United is also retiring around 200 of its 50-seat regional aircraft, notorious for their smaller cabins and overhead bins. Flyers on those aircraft often drop their carry-on bags before the boarding door and pick them up after deplaning.

Larger aircraft with greater overhead bin space will gradually replace those aircraft and give flyers more storage space for their bags.

"The 50 seaters will continue to have a role but we will no longer fly small aircraft to large cities," Andrew Nocella, United's chief commercial officer, said. "That will come to an end with the 'United Next' plan."

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