IATA defers plans to reduce size of carry-on bags on flights

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GENEVA — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is rethinking plans to reduce the size of the carry-on bags allowed to passengers to ensure it accompanied them in the aircraft cabin even when the flight is full.

Called the Cabin OK initiative, IATA Wednesday announced decision to put the plans on hold for further reassessment “in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America”

In a statement, the global aviation industry group, which represents 250 air carriers, said this will include further engagement with program participants, the IATA membership, and key stakeholders.

“This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers. We need to get it right,” IATA senior vice-president Tom Windmuller said announcing the “comprehensive reassessment”.

IATA says though there has been “intense” interest in the scheme, launched on 9 June 2015, there was also confusion resulting in concerns being raised in the media and by key stakeholders, particularly in North America.

The Cabin OK initiative was launched with the aim of providing passengers with greater assurance that their carry-on bags will travel with them in the aircraft cabin, even when the flight is full.

The initiative provides consumers with a voluntary option to use a Cabin OK labeled bag that would be immediately recognizable as complying with the vast majority of airline maximum size requirements for cabin baggage.

These standarised bags would be given a priority (determined by airlines individually) to remain in the cabin on full flights when cabin storage capacity is exceeded.

“Our focus is on providing travelers with an option that would lead to a simplified and better experience. While many welcomed the Cabin OK initiative, significant concerns were expressed in North America,” said Tom Windmuller, Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

“Cabin OK is a voluntary program for airlines and for consumers. This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers. We need to get it right. Today we are pausing the rollout and launching a comprehensive reassessment of the Cabin OK program with plans to further engage program participants, the rest of our members, and other key stakeholders.”

IATA reiterated that while Cabin OK is a guideline for an optimally sized cabin bag, it is not an industry standard as it does not seek to define a maximum size for carry-on bags, which is something each airline does individually.

The industry body stressed that no consumer will be forced into buying a new bag as a result of this voluntary initiative.

Criticizing the plan, New York Senator Chuck Schumer stated that while airlines are making record profits the change would add a further financial burden on travelers who already pay extra for checked baggage, leg room, head phones and other services.

“We want to blow the whistle on this before it happens,” Schumer told The Associated Press. “Enough already! They charge a fee for peanuts, for leg room, for just about anything.”

Addressing a press conference at the Newark-Liberty International Airport, US Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said if US airlines adopt new guidelines recommended by the IATA to reduce carry-on bag sizes, they must also eliminate or reduce checked-bag fees.

“As both a U.S. Senator and consumer I’m obviously concerned this proposal to cut the size of allowable carry-ons is a gimmick so airlines can keep padding those bag profits,” said Sen. Menendez, Ranking Member on the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development.

“I’m telling US airlines that if our luggage has to go on a diet, the result cannot be another airline-industry profit binge. We already have less seat-space, less leg-room, fewer options and higher costs we have to stand up for consumers and say “no” to the airline industry.”

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