Are Carry-Ons Getting Smaller?

Deal Expert, New York
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Update (June 18): After U.S. airlines rejected the proposed changes as “unnecessary” and politicians criticized the new guidelines, IATA has shelved its proposal for smaller carry-on bags. 

With the airlines’ influential trade group proposing new guidelines for smaller carry-on luggage allowances, it looks like the traveling public could be left holding the bag.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is recommending an “optimal” carry-on bag maximum of 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep. That’s a shade smaller than the allowance currently given by most U.S. airlines (22 x 14 x 9).

The trade group says that this guideline will standardize baggage allowances, creating efficiencies in boarding, and “theoretically” allow all passengers to get their carry-on bags on board, instead running out of bin space for late-boarding fliers.

As airlines cram more seats onto planes, expect the crunch for bin space to become even more pressing. In an industry where the seats have gotten smaller, legroom has shrunk and in-flight amenities usually carry a fee, it’s not surprising to see baggage requirements become more onerous as well. Some airlines, including Spirit and Frontier, already charge passengers a fee for carry-on bags.

Regardless of the theory behind the change, the real impact is that many fliers will need to either buy new luggage or check their bags — for a fee, of course.

IATA is proposing a new “IATA Cabin OK” badge on new carry-on baggage from manufacturers that meet the size requirement. In a quick search on the Samsonite website, the overall dimensions listed on all 24 roller bags in the “carry-on” category do not meet the new proposed requirement.

Airlines are not required to adopt these new guidelines, but don’t be surprised if your trusty carry-on is deemed “too big” on a future flight.

To read more:

USA Today: Airline group says carry-on bags should be smaller

Associated Press: IATA proposes smaller carry-ons to free up bin space


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