This question is prompted by a recent news about a dog dying while transported in the cabin overhead bin for about 3.5 hours.

Are those bins airtight enough to cause death of a (relatively) small animal by asphyxiation? According to some pics on the internet, the dog in question was a French bulldog or similar.

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    $\begingroup$ No, the bins are not air-tight. However, combining the lower-oxygen levels (around 8,000 ft. pressure) with a brachycephalic animal in a dark, confined, noisy space, its easy to see how it could've worked itself into a panic and likely had a heart attack. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Mar 13, 2018 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not saying the story implies suffocation, I'm just trying to understand what might have caused the poor pooch's demise. $\endgroup$
    – mustaccio
    Mar 13, 2018 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Any number of things could have led to the death of the dog, most unrelated to suffocation... the one possible reason that gets all the news is the one that the airline can be sued over. Let's face it - everyone likes reading bad news about airlines, which means the newsies tend to hypothesize in that direction, because it gets them more ad views. $\endgroup$
    – tj1000
    Mar 14, 2018 at 4:58

1 Answer 1


Screw the cap back on a plastic water bottle while in cruise, by the time you land the bottle will be crushed due to the change of cabin pressure.

If overhead bins were airtight, they would have been forced open or ripped during a climb. Best case scenario they will fail (e.g. crack) slowly after repeated cycles.

Answer is no, they are not.

Related: At which point does an airliner start to pressurize/depressurize the cabin? A typical cabin altitude is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet during cruise for a jetliner.

While this is best suited for Health.SE, the smaller the mammal the faster the breathing / heart rate. And if panicked, it is even more. In a confined space the CO2 from breathing won't be replaced quickly, which can eventually lead to asphyxiation.

See this from Biology.SE: Sitting in a closed room filled with regular air - for how long will the air last?

From BBC:

Although, overhead lockers are not air-tight, lack of oxygen could have been the cause of the dog's death, US media report.


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