Skift Take

Considering the low margins they make flying us where we're headed, airlines are smart to seek other sources of revenue through travel-related merchandise.

Frustrated by confusing carry-on baggage policies? Unsure whether your roller will fit that overhead bin? Anxious over being shamed on social media by pics of your worldly goods protruding from an overstuffed duffle sausage?

Fret not: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) plans to make it all OK.

Though new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing feature larger bins, which can carry more of our bags, the extra seats packed into those same aircraft mean more individual passenger bags to fit. The cure cannot keep up with the weight of the malady.

Add baggage fees, which discourage passengers from checking luggage, and the manifold interpretations of the various luggage manufacturers around the world—and their customers—on what constitutes a standard sized carry-on bag, and you have today’s carry-on shame.

Until now, airlines haven’t helped matters. Their allowed on-board bag dimensions vary, meaning what you carry-on for one leg of a journey may not fit the standards of the airline you connect with. And let’s not forget airport shopping, adding more bundles to limited overhead bin space.

By proposing a single standard size for cabin carry-on luggage, certified with a proposed IATA “Cabin OK” label, the airline association says it has addressed the quandary of carry-on luggage, for airlines and passengers alike.

“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 Tom Windmuller, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security. “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.”

In collaboration with airline members and aircraft manufacturers, the association has come up with an “optimum size” of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches) for the new bag standard, which should “theoretically” give everyone space for their carry-on bags on aircraft of 120 or more seats. The new “IATA Cabin OK” logo on certified luggage will let airline staff know you’re good to go.

Of course, none of this means that every airline around the world will adopt the new standard. It doesn’t even mean that all of IATA’s 260 members will comply. It’s only a proposal, and while IATA hopes airlines will adopt this measure, individual carriers are still free to set whatever baggage limits they like. So why bother?

For IATA, just trying is enough reward. It will work with baggage tracking solutions provider Okoban, Geneva, to manage the approval process with baggage manufacturers. The association says it already has several major luggage labels developing products which would meet these optimum size guidelines, with new “OK” bags retailing later this year.

While IATA doesn’t divulge what it, or Okoban, will earn from every “Cabin OK” label placed on a bag, there is revenue to be had.

According to Statista, the global luggage market is forecasted to generate about $31.62 billion in 2015.

North America alone will generate approximately $8.64 billion in luggage retail sales in this year.

If airlines get smart and collaborate with IATA on merchandising, they could have found a new way to generate new ancillary revenue from our luggage–even if we don’t check our bags.

For passengers, the drawback of this proposal is that it takes away one of the space limitations for airlines thinking of adding seats. The other disadvantage is that this “optimum” size is tailored for larger aircraft. The same bags might not fit the overhead bin on smaller regional planes for connecting flights.

But at least the “optimum dimensions” are now published. Smart travelers can measure their bags today and see if they fit. If so, job done. No need to wait for the industry to agree on that “OK” label.


Jet Stream Newsletter

Airline news moves fast. Don’t miss a beat with our weekly airline newsletter. Landing in your inbox every Saturday.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: baggage

Photo credit: IATA Introduces New 'Cabin OK' carry-on bag standards. Iata / Flickr

Up Next

Loading next stories