New carry-on baggage size introduced

New carry-on baggage size introduced

The new recommended size of carry-on luggage is almost 40% smaller. (Photo by Boonsong Kositchotethana)
The new recommended size of carry-on luggage is almost 40% smaller. (Photo by Boonsong Kositchotethana)

In the future, there may be no need for passengers to scramble, even elbow at times, to claim their coveted space in overhead stowage bins on airplanes.

This is not because the bins would grow much in size to accommodate those oversized and overstuffed carry-on baggage, but a new size guideline that seeks to shrink their dimensions that may put an end of fighting for room in the overhead storage.

The new-size guideline, revealed last week in Miami by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), was essentially meant to optimise the accommodation of carry-on bags given differing carry-on bag sizes and airline policies.

A size of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (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 even when the flight is full, said Tom Windmuller, IATA's senior vice-president for airport, passenger, cargo and security.

That is all about the optimal size which the global airline trade body, its member airlines, planemakers and luggage makers have agreed on in addressing the cabin-baggage dilemma.

"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," said Mr Windmuller.

"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," he added.

However, the "IATA Cabin OK" size guideline is nearly 40% smaller in volume compared to the existing dimension of 56 x 45 x 25 cm IATA recommended decades ago and adopted by most carriers, including Thai Airways International.

The IATA official maintained that the recommended bag size is just a guideline and not by any means compulsory. 

He stressed it was a guideline for the "optimal" size of carry-on bag, not the "maximum" size.

Individual airlines will continue to determine the maximum size of carry-on bags they allow on their flights.

The proposed size has drawn harsh criticisms from certain members of the travelling public who believe the guideline was a ploy to force them to check-in their baggage (which is subject to charges in North America) and to buy new bags.

Mr Windmuller responded: "The sole objective is to provide passengers with greater confidence that they will be able to keep their carry-on bag with them, even when they travel on today's relatively full flights.

"If a passenger wishes to travel with a larger-sized bag, provided that the bag they carry is within the maximum limit set by their airline, they will simply face the same uncertainty that they face today as to whether they will be able to keep their bags with them.

"When they travel with an optimally sized bag, that uncertainty is almost completely eliminated," he elaborated.

He noted that the IATA Cabin OK initiative does not require passengers to buy new luggage.

But these passengers with larger than Cabin OK-sized bags will simply continue to face the same uncertainty that they face today — their bags may not be kept in the cabin.

A typical fully booked narrow-body jet aircraft is not able to accommodate a bag for every passenger on board at maximum size limits.

On-time departures suffer as airline staff search for passengers willing to put their bags in the hold.

The guideline size is open to all airlines wishing to adopt — some 260 IATA member airlines and non-member carriers alike.

Amongst the first airlines to adopt the new-size guideline are Avianca, Azul, Caribbean, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, China Southern, Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar, the IATA official told the Bangkok Post.

They will soon be introducing operational guidelines to give Cabin OK bags priority on board the aircraft when all carry-on bags cannot be accommodated in the cabin.

However, there is no plan for Thai Airways to switch to the new-bag guideline anytime soon, a senior executive of the Thai flag carrier said yesterday.

"Like many major Asian airlines, we're relatively flexible and more generous with the cabin baggage allowance," he said, adding that this is an issue more relevant to North America.

There, many passengers refuse to check in their baggage because it means forking extra bucks, waiting at the carousel and risking losing it or having it mangled by some baggage handlers.

IATA expects bags with the guideline size to be available in stores before the end of the year — and from several different luggage brands and at various prices, just like today.

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