Solving the carry-on conundrums

26 Jun 2015

Seeing a fellow passenger trying to jam an oversized bag into an overhead locker is a familiar sight on aircraft all over the world. 

Despite the issue being widespread to the point of having dedicated Twitter and Instagram feeds, a recent proposal from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to crack down on oversized carry-on luggage faced strong opposition recently.

Robust disagreement from politicians in the USA and lobby group Airlines 4 America, forced IATA to  suspend the initiative to rework the program and engage additional stakeholders.

IATA's Senior VP for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security Tom Windmuller said 30 to 40 carriers had expressed interest in adopting the scuttled guidelines including major carriers that service Australia such as Emirates and Qatar Airways.

If IATA's proposal is eventually adopted it will pose some significant challenges for airlines and passengers.

Carriers will have to  effectively communicate the changes and contend with irate customers carrying previously permissible luggage. Passengers may also have to fork out money for a new piece of luggage that fits within the IATA guidelines.

IATA's contention is the new guidelines are designed to create more room for passengers to store luggage.

In a recent article from CNN, aviation analyst and Boeing 777 captain Les Abend offered some solutions to overcome the problem of carry-on luggage space and the boarding logjam it creates.

Abend said larger aircraft that feature two aisles are far more effective in coping with oversized carry-on baggage. The problem with limited storage space is a bigger issue for smaller, single aisle aircraft that cater to business travel, have a reduced number of overhead compartments and less space for passengers.

If IATA's guidelines are not adopted, one solution Abend notes to cut the hold-up time on boarding and loading is to give early boarding priority to passengers who don't have carry-on luggage.

Some airlines have instituted bag valet trials where airline personnel are responsible for loading bags into overhead lockers prior to boarding. Carry-on baggage that can't fit is then checked in.