Business

Smaller carry-ons placed on hold after U.S. carriers balk

Bloomberg

Frequent fliers can rest easy. Your carry-on bags are safe for now.

The trade group for global airlines is reassessing its much-criticized guidelines for handheld luggage after suggesting that the bags become smaller. That idea has been put on hold.

“Significant concerns were expressed in North America,” the International Air Transport Association said Wednesday in a statement. “This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers. We need to get it right.”

The pullback is a victory for American Airlines Group Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc., and Delta Air Lines Inc., the world’s three largest carriers, after they said they had no plans to follow the guidelines or reduce size allowances for carry-on bags.

In fact, U.S. companies are working to expand room for onboard luggage, including adding larger overhead bins, said trade group Airlines for America.

“We are concerned IATA called for a change without input from the airlines,” Delta said Tuesday.

American and United spokeswomen didn’t immediately respond when asked if their airlines had been consulted when the association was developing the new guidelines. IATA spokesman Perry Flint said the group had no comment beyond Wednesday’s statement.

It was clear right away that passengers in North America weren’t happy, said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group. “And now the market has spoken.”

While the IATA “had good intentions,” the way the guidelines were presented wasn’t clear and the initiative probably won’t come back, he said.

The carry-on guidelines were released during the industry group’s conference in Miami earlier this month, with the IATA saying it wanted to address the frustrations and delays caused by carry-ons that are too big. Plane builders Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE had been consulted in developing the voluntary guidelines, which suggested the optimal size for the bags to be no more than 55 cm by 35 cm by 20 cm), the IATA said in a report.

The IATA’s goal was to provide passengers with assurance that their carry-on bags would be accepted into the cabin rather than taken away at the gate and checked. Most narrow-body jets, when fully booked, don’t have sufficient overhead bin space for every passenger to stow a bag.

Nine airlines, including Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, Qatar Airways and Avianca, had confirmed interest in the effort, the industry group said at the time.