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IATA Cabin OK Initiative Explained (& Now Scrapped)

LAT_56 Explains IATA Cabin OK

Looking up the cabin luggage dimensions for each airline can be a pain, but was IATA’s “Cabin OK” initiative the solution?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is having a careful rethink. After experiencing consumer and industry pushback to its “Cabin OK” initiative, IATA have had to back track to making alterations to the already ‘advised’ IATA optimum size for cabin luggage of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21.5″ x 15.5″ x 7.5″) (LxWxH). The initiative has been scrapped as they begin a formal reassessment.

So what was the Cabin OK initiative? Let’s take a closer look.

The Cabin OK initiative was proposed as a way to address the problem of different airlines having different carry-on luggage requirements. And in theory this would be great – no more having to look up luggage dimensions each time you fly with a different airline.

So IATA consulted aircraft manufacturers to determine an ideal carry-on size so that each passenger could store their luggage on board an aircraft of 120 seats or more. Then it announced the following “Cabin OK” dimensions which are a reduction from its existing less formally advised 55 x 40 x 20cm optimum dimensions:

55 x 35 x 20 cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches)

But this is when the pushback began.

This optimum size is actually significantly smaller than what some airlines set as their standard. British Airways and Easyjet as well as countless others both set their maximum size at 56 x 45 x 25cm, as do many of the North American airlines. For those airlines which initially suggested they would take part in the initiative, they too have stated they will not be adjusting their already set-in-place maximum carry-on sizes, which were larger than these new IATA Cabin OK proposed sizes – In a way, making the scheme obsolete with immediate effect.

Airlines for America (A4A), the trade group for many North American airlines, has expressed concerns that Cabin OK undermines its own efforts to address the problem of cabin capacity. A4A president and CEO Nicholas E. Calio argues that the initiative “flies in the face of the actions the U.S. carriers are taking to invest in the customer experience — roughly $1.2 billion a month — including larger overhead bins.”

While IATA has emphasized that their recommended size is not a maximum allowance but an optimum allowance, they are scrapping the initiative to address the concerns raised.

Apart from concern that IATA’s recommended dimensions could become a maximum standard and necessitate that passengers buy new suitcases, IATA’s Cabin OK logo badge is also controversial.

Under the scheme, new suitcases with the specific dimensions would be produced with a Cabin OK logo, signalling to airline staff that the suitcase is “Cabin OK.” The catch is that if your suitcase meets maximum requirements but does not have the logo, it might be first to be put in the hold if cabin containers are over capacity. In other words, only new bags with the logo would have priority. Additionally, the unit cost of the badge isn’t only made up of the production price to make the physical badge – there is a royalty fee which goes to IATA and their partners for the luggage manufacturer to take part in the initiative. This cost therefore needs to be passed onto the consumer (either directly or indirectly) so nobody wins.

So while IATA may have begun its Cabin OK initiative with the best intentions, and we understand their reasoning behind trying to clarify it for consumers, there are a few kinks it needs to iron out first.

As a traveller, the main thing you need to know is: You do not need to buy a new suitcase. Airlines are not changing their maximum luggage size.

However, we at LAT_56 are pleased that the 4-wheel’er RW_02 Road Warrior meets IATA’s CabinOK exactly anyway, and the 2 wheel’er RW_01 Road Warrior is already compliant with IATA’s current advice of 55 x 40 x 20cm. Both our new suitcases are fully compliant with all international carry-on dimensions. So whatever happens next with the initiative, you’ll be just fine.

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