The airline industry wants smaller hand luggage


The trade association for the airline industry, IATA, has presented a proposal to reduce the permitted size of cabin bags. The aim is to make better use of the space in the cabin, as more and more passengers choose to travel with only hand luggage.

Picture of a man putting his luggage in the over-head compartment on a plane.

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, is an international trade association representing more than 270 airlines. Among other things, IATA is working to standardize the rules of commercial passenger flights, and they are now making an attempt to unify the rules concerning the maximum size of cabin bags.

More and more airlines charge you for checking in bags, and the consequence has been that many passengers travel with hand luggage only. IATA has determined that the optimal size of a cabin bag – which in theory would mean that all passengers can bring one bag each – is 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches). By comparison, the airlines SAS and Norwegian currently allow cabin bags measuring 55 x 40 x 23 cm.

Applying the maximum size is voluntarily

– We know that the current situation can be frustrating for passengers. The development of an agreed optimal cabin bag size will help to iron out inconsistencies and lead to an improved passenger experience, says Tom Windmuller, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, in a press release.

The airlines that are affiliated to IATA may choose whether they want to apply the new proposal for the maximum size of cabin bags. According to a spokesperson for the organization, nine international airlines have already said they will introduce IATA's new guidelines in its operations. The airlines concerned are Avianca, Azul, Caribbean Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, China Southern, Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar.