IATA "Pauses" Rollout of New Carry-on Size Initiative

An example of a bag that meets the new "Cabin OK" size guideline.
An example of a bag that meets the new "Cabin OK" size guideline. 

In the wake of criticism of its new "Cabin OK" initiative, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it has "paused" the rollout of the new plan.

The IATA is pausing the rollout of "Cabin OK" and is "beginning a comprehensive reassessment in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America," the organization said in a written release. That reassessment will include further engagement with program participants, the IATA membership and key stakeholders. 

The IATA announced "Cabin OK" on June 9 as an initiative aimed at shrinking the size of carry-on bags to a standard dimension of 55 x 35 x 20 cm or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches. Bags meeting this specification would be marked with an "IATA Cabin OK" logo to speed identification by airlines. IATA had said it was working with baggage tracking solutions provider Okoban to manage the approval process of bag manufacturers. "Cabin OK" was meant to be voluntary, meaning airlines would have to opt in to the plan. 

While the IATA had said that the move was aimed at ensuring all passengers had space in overhead bins, some travel agents and government officials had criticized the move as a plan to boost revenue from checked bag fees. 

"IATA is wrong," said Jennifer Bradford in a discussion on our Facebook page. "Smaller carry-ons mean more checked bags and higher profits for the airlines. Who is looking out for travelers?"

Additionally, Senator Charles Schumer had called on airlines to scrap the plan in a June 14 news conference, pointing to rising fees and expected high profits for airlines this year. 

"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."

At the same time, some travel agents had either called for better enforcement of existing size guidelines, or praised the plan. 

"They need to enforce the size requirements they have now at the gates and this wouldn't be an issue," agreed Patti Slater.

"It's about time!" said Elle Kane in the days following the initial announcement. "Some people bring full-size suitcases…taking up space that is meant for other passengers. Should never been allowed in the first place."

What's Next

In its statement announcing the plan to pause the rollout, the IATA said that interest in "Cabin OK" had been "intense," but that there had been concurs raised in the media and by key stakeholders. 

"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. 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,” said Tom Windmuller, senior vice president, airport, passenger, cargo and security.

The IATA said that three key principles would guide their reassessment of the initiative:

- Cabin OK is a guideline for an optimally sized cabin bag, not an industry standard. 

- Cabin OK does not seek to define a maximum size for carry-on bags, which is something each airline does individually. 

- No consumer will be forced into buying a new bag as a result of this voluntary initiative.

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