In-flight Baggage Scrum: Here's How to Win

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It is war in the aisles, don't think it's not, as today's flyers scramble for overhead bin space to stash their carry-on luggage.

Baltimore public relations consultant Jean Miskimon knows. She had even ponied up $40 for "an upgrade seat" but when she attempted to board, she was told, no more room for bags. "They stopped taking them two people in front of me," she said. So she had to gate check her bag - and then "deal with baggage claim at O"Hare!"

That is becoming a fact of life as more of us scramble to duck checked baggage fees, typically around $25 apiece. Matters get worse as temperatures dip, because winter coats take up lots of overhead bin space. So if you thought it was bad in July, wait until December (and don't even think about the Xmas crush when people are stashing gift-wrapped presents in the bins too).

Thus the pointed question: are there ways to win at this scrum, and let's not even mention flying business or first class, where yes, overhead bin space is plentiful. And don't tell a frustrated traveler that if he had elite status on the airline, he would get to board first, when overhead bins are empty. None of that is useful, because if we had elite status, or flew first class, we wouldn't be grumbling at all, would we now?

Yet there are proven ways to win out, to just about always succeed in stashing one's bag in the plane's cabin. How?

Here's a sampling of strategies - ranging from polite to downright rude - that work for the rest of us:

Get airline credit cards, suggested Jonathan Weber, founder of Pennsylvania-based web development company Marathon Studios. "I have a couple," he said. These branded Visa or Mastercard cards cost money - typically near $100 per year - but they deliver perks including priority boarding when there still is plenty of room in the overhead compartments. They also usually throw in double mileage deals, perhaps free passes to the airline's private club, and other goodies. For many flyers, this is their lifeline to civility in an ever more cantankerous aviation world.