Road Warrior

Coming to a plane near you: More overhead space

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Source: Boeing

Roomier seats and more adequate legroom are among the top airline fixes travelers often hope for, but at least one wish is in the process of being fulfilled. One airline is experimenting with larger overhead carry-on bins.

Last week in Seattle, Alaska Airlines took delivery of the first Boeing 737 outfitted with new "Space Bins," which increase storage room by almost 50 percent. The redesigned bins can each hold six standard-size carry-on bags, which Boeing says is two more than the current pivot bins installed on some Next-Generation 737s.

In making this fix, Alaska Air appears to tackle a problem frequently encountered by travelers — having to check (and pay extra for) a bag that airlines consider too large.

"There's a lot of anxiety for passengers these days about whether or not they're going to get their bags on the plane," said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines vice president of marketing. "With these bins, the pain point and that stress is dramatically lowered because they know they'll get their bags on."

Alaska is installing Space Bins on all its 737-900ERs and 737 MAX aircraft currently on order. By 2017, 69 airplanes, or 46 percent of the carrier's passenger fleet, will be outfitted with Space Bins. Delta and United Air are among the other airlines planning to install Space Bins on some planes, according to Boeing.

On Next-Generation 737s and 737 MAXs with interiors configured for Alaska, Space Bins will provide room for a total of 57 more bags. Boeing estimates other airlines that purchase the option may be able to fit up to an additional 66 bags.