It is surprising that the advent of enclosed overhead bins took so long to catch on. The reality for anyone flying well into the jet age was for these to be completely open spaces, which must have been a nightmare in heavy turbulence.

These open spaces were usually called hat racks, because they were for hats and small items like handbags or perhaps a briefcase. Carry-on luggage as we know it today just did not exist, for better or worse.

The First Enclosed Overhead Bins

An airline called Loftleiðir Icelandic, also known as Icelandic Airlines, was a privately owned carrier based in Reykjavik. They operated a very rare aircraft called the Canadair CL-44J on their long haul services to places such as New York.

Since nobody knew what a Canadair was, they marketed the aircraft as a “Rolls-Royce 400 PropJet”. They also happened to be the first airline to have enclosed overhead bins.

What is curious about the pictures is that looking towards the rear, the overhead bins seem to have some kind of handle or something on the front. When looking at the other image, these are no longer present.

Either way, enclosed bins really arrived with the advent of widebody, namely the Boeing 747, the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar and the Douglas DC-10. Many older planes were then refitted with the new, modern look.

Overall Thoughts

Quite frankly, I never knew Loftleidir was the first airline with overhead bins, nor did I know the Canadair CL-44J was the first aircraft with them. Considering only four ever flew in passenger configuration, all with the Icelandic airline, it is obscure to say the least.

Did you know that Icelandic Airlines had the first enclosed overhead bins? Ever fly with them? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Bob Polaneczky on
Cabin interiors by Olafur Sigurdsson on