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Carry-on luggage

As it grows ever more difficult for air passengers to find space for their carry-on luggage, several solutions have been proposed to deal with the problem

Carry-on luggage
Carry-on luggage. Image: Getty

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What’s the issue?
As more airlines begin to charge for check-in bags, many passengers have tried to get round this by carrying everything they need onto the plane. But, as anyone who has flown recently will testify, this leads to overstuffed overhead bins, chaos while boarding and subsequent delays.

What’s the solution?
In June, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), a trade group representing nearly 85% of total air traffic, issued a recommendation that carry-on bags be restricted to 55 x 35cm, with a depth of 20cm — a good deal smaller than the size many airlines currently permit (for example, British Airways allows bags measuring 56 x 45 x 25cm). This recommendation has since been dropped in the face of a strong reaction from US-based airlines. While several carriers had expressed interest in the ‘Cabin OK’ programme, IATA is now ‘launching a comprehensive reassessment’ which could see it revived at some point. Until then, your carry-on luggage may end up being checked-in if the flight is busy.

What else is being proposed?
Delta — one of the big three US airlines so reluctant to reduce their maximum carry-on sizes — has instead trialled an Early Valet service, in which staff preload passengers’ hand luggage above their allotted seat before boarding begins.

What is Early Valet?
While Delta’s new service is only being rolled out on a limited number of flights at a small selection of busy US airports, early trials found the presence of an Early Valet did indeed reduce boarding times. This is crucial for companies such as Delta, as new research from Northern Illinois University has revealed that it costs airlines £19 for every minute a plane stands idle at the gate.

Published in the September 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)