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Passengers groan as carry-on sizes shrink
June 10, 2015, 2:33 pm

Will the carry-on bag be allowed to be carried on board past the beady eyes of airline check-in staff, is often a hassle that passengers have to go through before boarding their flights. Given different carry-on bag dimensions and varying airline policies, as well as the limited space available on many airlines, whether your bag makes it into the overhead bin is often a touch-and-go affair. 

Under the guise of streamlining the process and ensuring everyone with a carry-on finds a space for it in the overhead bin, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has now stepped in and announced a new initiative to optimize the accommodation of carry-on bags.

Working with members of IATA and aircraft manufacturers, an optimum size guideline for carry-on bags has been agreed that will make the best use of cabin storage space. According to the guidelines provided to airlines by IATA, a size of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches) means that theoretically everyone should have a chance to store their carry-on bags on board aircraft of 120 seats or larger.

But passengers are crying foul at the new size, seeing it as yet another attempt to squeeze even more money out of the hands of travelers by forcing them to check-in anything over the recommended size. Passengers also point out the new size is smaller than prevailing sizes; for instance, British Airways (BA) currently allows bags of size 56 x 46 x 25 cm (22 x 18 x 10 inches) , to be carried onboard as a carry-on. 

BA also allows passengers to take a second smaller personal bag on board and even that, at 46 x 36 x 20 cm (18 x 14 x 8 inches), would exceed the new limits recommended by IATA. However, a spokesman for IATA stressed that the proposals were guidelines and that airlines were free to set their own limits.

An ‘IATA Cabin OK’ logo to signify to airline staff that a bag meets the agreed size guidelines has also been developed. A number of major international airlines, including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Lufthansa, have signaled their interest to join the initiative and will soon be introducing the guidelines into their operations.

“The development of an agreed optimal cabin bag size will bring common sense and order to the problem of differing sizes for carry-on bags. We know the current situation can be frustrating for passengers. This work will help to iron out inconsistencies and lead to an improved passenger experience,” said Tom Windmuller, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

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