Hand luggage restrictions to get tighter with new IATA proposals

Hand luggage restrictions are set to get a lot tighter in case new proposals by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are approved.

The proposed requirements set forth by IATA – representing 260 major carriers, accounting for 83 per cent of air traffic – would limit the size of a carry-on bag to just 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep.

That stood in contrast to British Airways' current regulations, that are somewhat more generous at 22 inches tall, 18 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

Air China, China Southern, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Qatar had all said they would adopt the regulations – meaning customers might have to pay extra to place a non-compliant bag in the hold.

The bags would also get unique IDs and smart codes to help lower incidents of luggage loss.

According to IATA senior vice president Thomas Windmuller, the new guidelines were designed to speed up the boarding process for passengers.

IATA's new guidelines state that cabin bags should have dimensions of 55cm x 35cm x 19cm, which worked out to a volume of 36,575 cubic centimeters which was lower than what low-cost carriers, such as easyJet, currently specify  at 40,000 cubic centimetres while some like Southwest, allow 63,000 cubic centimetres.

According to the association the new guidelines were not mandatory; airlines were still free to allow whatever size bags on their planes that they wanted.

However, it would be natural to expect that many carriers would use it as an excuse to force more people to check luggage into the hold. Indeed, a number of airlines  already had done that including Lufthansa and Emirates. For Lufthansa, this meant cutting its luggage allowance by close to 30 per cent.

According to IATA it was concerned that overhead storage had become too full. The overhead luggage space was so woefully inadequate that those at the back of the embarkation queue were forced to stow their hand luggage in the hold anyway.

Incidentally, IATA says US carriers last year alone made $3.5 billion from luggage fees.