How Big Is Your Carry-On?

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn
are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.
— Mark Russell

Life is challenging enough. Anytime I find a proposal which might smooth out some of the bumps, twists, and all-out pot holes in the road of life, I try to check it out. That was the case last week when I read about new uniform sizing suggested for carry-on bags.

Until now the required maximum size for luggage allowed to be carried onto a jet for storage in overhead compartments has varied by airline. Often even within an airline there are variations in what will actually fit in planes of different makes; the suitcase I could stow on the Boston to Chicago flight had to be handed over before boarding the smaller plane headed to Peoria. The matter of whether to check or carry a bag used to be a matter of preference and convenience. Now that most airlines charge for checking a bag on a domestic flight, we have money involved and that raises the bar for whether this is important.

Last week the International Air Transport Association (IATA, sounds like “I oughta…”) revealed their recommended dimensions for Cabin OK bags. They hope that having a uniform recommended size for carry-ons will reduce hassles for airlines and travelers alike by providing an agreed-upon standard. The new dimensions are 21.5  x 13.5 x 7.5 inches. (You have plenty of time to measure your favorite bags and check compliance.)

The International Air Transport Association wants airlines to limit cabin bags to 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches to create more space for passengers to store luggage.

The International Air Transport Association wants airlines to limit cabin bags to 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches to create more space for passengers to store luggage.

Of course there are a few problems with this. First, it is a recommendation. Compliance by the airlines to make their own requirement match this is strictly voluntary. Next, the airlines still have all the planes they had two weeks ago.  Passing a resolution will not change the capacity of overhead bins. Third, we all still have the same suitcases we had last month. Imagine the resistance (mild word for air rage) if passengers were told that their next flight would require a new carry-on bag.

But going forward we can all try to adapt to the new plan.

How much of a change is the new sizing? Most American airlines have size requirements which are pretty close to the new measurements. International airlines tend to allow larger bags in the cabin; people flying internationally likely will stay longer and want to bring more stuff along than if they were going a short distance. The difference in most cases is how deep the case is. (Imagine you have just closed the bag after packing. How high does it rise it off the bed?) New “Cabin OK” cases will be skinnier than most bags currently in use.

For the immediate future the best plan is to check your airline’s website to see what their allowed measurements are for carry-on bags. Honestly, do you fill your soft-sided case to nearly bursting? You should add an extra inch or two to its empty measurements when comparing against the airline’s regulation size. Knowing ahead of time what to expect at the airport eases the stress of the trip.

Look for this label on new carry-on bags by the end of the year.

Look for this label on new carry-on bags by the end of the year.

If you do shop for new luggage, look for a small blue and white “Cabin OK” label. These will not be available until the end of the year, but manufacturers will surely try to capitalize on the reason a new case would be better.  On the other hand, you could take the time honored Yankee approach (“use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”) and keep using the cases which have served you well until they are just too shabby or no longer allowed. Let each case live a full life before you discard it!

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

18 June 2015

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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One Response to How Big Is Your Carry-On?

  1. Travelling is always a challenge. Therefore, when packing your luggage always check with your airline before flying to avoid stress in the airport.

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