Stop self upgrading your luggage, people!

by Anshul
a woman putting luggage on a shelf

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One of my pet peeves is people self upgrading luggage while boarding. Situation – Traveler is seated in economy but shoves their bag in Business class as they walk past the cabin. Or a person seated in row 54 that piles their bag overhead in row 12. This has to stop.

Self Upgrading luggage

I have noticed this sneaky behaviour for years and do not understand the “advantage” of having your bag so far removed from you. Cabin crew is usually wise to these antics and call out passengers for doing so. One of the simple tricks they deploy is to keep the business class overhead bins shut during boarding. This simple technique dissuades people from self upgrading their luggage. But this is far from standard procedure and not consistent enough to dissuade rogue passengers.

On a recent trip, seated in business class, I noticed a gentleman put his luggage in row 4 of the business class cabin as he walked towards his seat in the economy section. Few minutes later, a business class passenger arrived and was struggling to find overhead bin space. I alerted the passenger and the cabin crew to what had transpired, who did a quick check for the missing owner of bag, and the baggage was moved back to the economy section. Apparently, he was an ‘elite’ passenger with the airline and did not think it was an issue. Right.

Personally, I cringe at anyone not seated in my row placing their bags before checking into their own rows. Obviously, with genuine lack of space, I am happy to share the overhead bin. Mind you, these are the same people that have complete disregard for others’ luggage and will simply shove their bags over things wrapped in fragile tape.

What are they thinking?

Presumably, the thinking is to avoid a full overhead bin and simply grab the bag on their way out? But what about the risk of stolen baggage or belongings while they sleep 20 rows behind?! No matter how light I travel, I carry personal belongings valuable enough to never consider my bags being that far away from me.

This practice of self upgrading luggage is far more prevalent in certain regions of the world – India, China, and some countries in Africa come to mind (personal experiences). For example, folks in India love traveling with 5 pieces of hand luggage (slight exaggeration of course) and will take whatever space they get irrespective of the rows they are seated in. And to my surprise, nobody around (including cabin crew) seems to bat an eyelid at that behaviour. Could this simply be a travel etiquette issue, rather than a sneaky move?

Surely, I am not the only one that has seen this inflight. Does it bother you as much or are you indifferent to people self upgrading luggage? Share your experience or thoughts with a comment below. 





Christian March 14, 2023 - 11:21 pm

Spot on correct. The best solution I’ve read is when a commenter said that someone did this on his flight. He was flying first class and some rando dumps off his bag in the overhead on the way back to his seat in coach. The first class commenter said that he pulled down the bag, approached a FA, and said that he decided to gate check “his” bag after all. The FA was obliging and whisked the bag away. I thought that was the perfect way to handle things.

30YearElite March 14, 2023 - 12:22 pm

I’d be embarrassed to have written this article. I hate this practice also, but it is the AIRLINES at fault for having created this issue. Biz and Premium classes are usually seated by the time a lot of the last boarding passengers come on board. Its far more efficient for those passengers to put their bags in any available location than drag them all the way to the back of the plane, just to have to make the trip back forward to try and find space and add further delay. I’m always boarded with early privileges so never need to do this practice, but I applaud the passengers boarded late who find any available space for their bags rather than add further delay. It is the “elite” seated around me that complain that someone put a bag in their class and are so elitist that they would rather add delay for all passengers than a lower class bag fly near them. I pray I never fly with this author who is delaying my flight because he wants to call out another passenger for efficiently boarding.

Anshul March 14, 2023 - 9:54 pm

You have made a lot of assumptions. Maybe I didn’t do a good job of explaining – the person boarded early, and dumped their bag in business class, even before all passengers in that cabin had taken seat. When the actual business class passenger came in, and found their entire overhead bin taken, crew was informed. This is about passenger etiquette, not elite or class.

Sarah. March 17, 2023 - 1:10 am

You know what will really slow down a plane? Someone in business/ near the front finding no space overhead to put their stuff because a passenger in a row further back put their stuff there already. That passenger near the ring has to walk further into the plane, find space for their luggage, and walk back to the front against the flow of traffic. The reverse will be true on exiting the plane. If you’ve always boarded early you’ve clearly never had a connecting flight run late. Or have a child or has to use the bathroom at the last moment before boarding starts or carried a credit card/top tier elite status that allows you to board early despite sitting in economy. Or have a cat/dog allergy that gives you pre-boarding privileges regardless of where you are sitting. All of these cases can cause economy passenger sitting further back in the plane to board before a premium class passenger.

Patrick March 14, 2023 - 9:05 am

…”complete disregard for others’ luggage and will simply shove their bags over things wrapped in fragile tape…” I find those fragile things typically take up more than their fare share of luggage space. Don’t be surprised when that happens.

Franz March 14, 2023 - 8:35 am

Finally! Someone else finds this super annoying! Maybe that was just a one-off but AA crew did nothing about this

Billy Bob March 13, 2023 - 8:32 pm

Would help if people didn’t try to cram in two weeks worth of clothes into multiple ‘carry ons’ and then personal item and then ‘purse’, or fat shopping bag also loaded with luggage items. And then they stuff all four items into a bin, filling it after stuffing in their coat too.

Anshul March 13, 2023 - 8:44 pm

100% the basic fares have added to this behaviour, people cram in way too much as carry on to save on $25.

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Lisa Hrabec October 13, 2017 - 2:26 pm

Some Row 40 luggage upgraders might learn their lesson if when they get up to row 4 for their bag it is already gone because some eagle eyed passenger in row 10 grabs it and heads off the plane 10 minutes before back row guy can get there.

Anshul October 14, 2017 - 11:18 am

Totally. That risk is very real.

eric October 10, 2017 - 3:17 am

if they would enforce the Luggage rule people wouldn’t bring like 3 roll cases with
them on board. I only take my fragile and valuable stuff on board, mostly in an
small backpack.. only to find that the people with 2 or 3 roll bags want to
push them into the overhead bin so roughly that they crush my stuff. And if you
make an comment they get aggressive..

Max Prosperi October 9, 2017 - 8:07 am

From experience, at least on domestic narrowbody aircraft, I completely understand upgrading bags as bins in the back fill up. Crew will often instruct later boarding groups to find the first available spot, be it in First, Business, Eco+, just to move boarding along. As long as the premium cabins are onboard, seated, and managed to store their belongings, I don’t see this as an issue.

With bigger overhead bins, I bet we see less and less of this.

Great post!


Anshul October 9, 2017 - 8:51 am

Thanks Max! Yes, on narrow body aircrafts and when crew is instructing to grab the first spot available, it makes operational sense. My issue has been people who just like leaving their bags upfront, regardless of the space situation in their row.

Sergio October 10, 2017 - 3:08 pm

What narrow body domestic flights in the US have 3 classes of seating? Guess I have been in Asia too long as all domestic flights and short haul international flights only have one class of available seating.

Anshul October 10, 2017 - 4:22 pm

This issue is not exclusive to certain cabins. It happens in all econ cabin as well – Passenger leaves bag in row 2 bin before taking seat in row 40.

Peter Galvin October 9, 2017 - 1:23 am

Had this happen yesterday on BA to Abu Dhabi. I was in premium economy and there was a random bag there above my seat. I ask the people sitting near me, it wasn’t theirs so I moved it to one side.
I am not been precious, but on a bi trip the laptop etc I prefer to have it close to me.
The crew didn’t seem to understand when I asked them.
To me if you self upgrade your bag you are just a selfish person

Anshul October 9, 2017 - 8:48 am

Spot on Peter – I share your frustration. Nothing worse than your cabin space taken by someone because they chose to bring extra hand baggage or someone upgrading their luggage. And the crew being indifferent is what makes me think it is a travel etiquette issue as well. Some regions of the world are far more immune to it than others.

D Lee October 9, 2017 - 1:12 am

This never even occurred to me as an issue… Thanks, I guess… for giving me just one more reason to be irritable on the plane?

Anshul October 9, 2017 - 8:44 am

Obviously that was not the intention. I think its best to be pre-occupied on the phone 😉

Gene Gibbs October 8, 2017 - 4:55 pm

I only sit in first, and I will call these people out in a heartbeat, LOUDLY.

Anshul October 8, 2017 - 5:06 pm

Good on ya Gene! You will be doing us all a great service 🙂

Flight Detective October 8, 2017 - 4:07 pm

Drives me mad as well when I see it, but almost always the crew see it. The shame on some people’s faces when the crew hand their bags to them and tell them politely that they can’t go there is worthwhile… they clearly know what they are doing!

Anshul October 8, 2017 - 4:13 pm

Spot on Trent. And again, thank you 🙂

Moises Castillo October 9, 2017 - 1:29 am

I once put my bag over row 3 on a UA 737-9 (my assigned/seated row), continued a few feet away to use the lavatory in row 7 (where Y begins). I come out and the crew, and passenger who was to be my seatmate, tried to shame me and hand me my luggage to take with me to the back row because I had “upgraded my luggage”. Crew got a little in my face while I continued to put my bag right back over row 3 again, only for them to immediately shut it when I plopped right down in 3B with boarding pass in hand.
Sometimes the crew and your fellow passengers get it wrong.

Anshul October 9, 2017 - 2:13 pm

That is awful. I am surprised that the crew would get in your face without asking for your boarding pass first. Good on you for shutting them up with politeness.

Marc Lombardo October 8, 2017 - 4:01 pm

I actually agree with you, but you seem like an entitled prick. Alerting the crew of someone doing putting their luggage in business class?

Anshul October 8, 2017 - 4:17 pm

Haha. Sorry if I came across as a prick. Allow me to elaborate on the situation – I didnt jump off my seat to complain. When someone at row 4 grumbled about their bin being full, I had to tell them what I saw.

Does it make me come across as less of a prick? Regardless, I accept your opinion 🙂 Cheers!

Sarah R. March 17, 2023 - 1:01 am

I’ve had this happen ie sitting in business class seat and by the time my family and I boarded someone in economy had out their stuff in the overhead area where we were to sit. We were on a connecting flight that ran late so ended up boarding with main group not earlier with other business class passengers. I travel with special medications that have to be on ice and like to have them close to me. They are in a large cooler backpack. Luckily the crew was on hand to clear space near me by returning the luggage to its rightful owner several rows behind (there was space very early near to the passenger). Not every business class or passenger in economy/premium economy seats closer to the front of the plane boards early. If the crew announces take any open space (which, in my experience doesn’t happen until near the end of boarding) then that’s fine. Before that, try to find space near or above your row – it’s just common sense and common decency imo.


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