In June the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents members of the airline industry, put forth industrywide guidelines for cabin baggage on aircraft with 120 or more seats.
The new preferred bag size, the group said, would be 21.5 by 13.5 by 7.5 inches, smaller than the common 22-by-14 by-9-inch bags many passengers have. So much for that generously sized bag you were thinking of buying for your European adventure. A number of major international airlines expressed interest in the initiative, including the German carrier Lufthansa. Soon travelers would be able to buy these smaller carry-on bags, which would come with an “IATA Cabin OK” logo, recognizable by the airline staff during the boarding process. And wouldn’t you know it, the association said it would not make Cabin OK logo tags available to travelers with bags that already meet the guidelines. Consumers would have to shell out for new bags if they want the Cabin OK designation.
Buying the bags would be voluntary, the association said. But passengers who choose not to get the new luggage could face uncertainty as to whether their bag would remain onboard a participating airline if the overhead bins were full. That’s because OK Cabin bags would theoretically be given priority to stay onboard in the event that not all carry-on bags could be accommodated. I say theoretically because, ultimately, the airline would still have the right to check any bag. In other words, there would be no absolute guarantees for anyone. Individual participating airlines could choose to implement the guidelines however they see fit, including allowing some larger bags on board.
Days after the initiative was announced, however, the association said it was halting the roll out “in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America.” Still, you would be wise not to rush out and buy one of the roomier rollaboard bags on sale in the United States right now. Flights are fuller than ever and overhead space remains at a premium. If the Cabin OK program or some newfangled version of it resumes, you could get stuck with a bag that doesn’t fit in.