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No Need To Buy A Smaller Carry-On Just Yet

by Harriet Baskas /  / Updated 

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There’s no need to rush out and buy a new, smaller, carry-on bag.

Just yet.

Responding to backlash from North American airlines, travel industry groups and elected officials, on Tuesday the International Air Transport Association announced it will “pause” a recently rolled-out “Cabin OK” plan to standardize and, in many cases, reduce the size of airline carry-on bags and address what the global airline trade organization called “the cabin dilemma.”

“This is clearly an issue that is close to the heart of travelers,” Tom Windmuller, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security said in a statement. "We need to get it right.”

The plan, rolled-out on June 9 at an airline conference in Miami, proposed the creation of specially-labeled bags measuring no more than 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5" inches, a size smaller than the current standard established by many domestic airlines.

These bags, said IATA, would be easy for airlines to identify and could be given priority to stay in the cabin on full flights when space in the overhead bins is at a premium.

Image:  New smaller carry-on size proposed
Thomas Windmuller, a vice president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), holds a carry-on bag which conforms to a new minimum size announced by the group in an effort to get world airlines to sign on to the standard, at the group's annual meeting in Miami Beach, Florida, June 9, 2015.Joe Skipper / Reuters

While some international airlines said they’d voluntary adopt the new plan, North American airlines were united in their opposition.

“Our members already have guidelines in place on what size bags they can accommodate, making this action unnecessary,” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas Calio in a statement. “We agree with IATA’s action to reassess this initiative and take into account stakeholders’ views and recognize work already underway to improve baggage facilitation.”

Some of those plans include new airplanes with larger overhead bins.

While some bag manufactures, including TUMI, have announced plans to offer Cabin OK-compliant carry-on bags, IATA emphasizes it is attempting to create a guideline for an optimally sized cabin bag, “not an industry standard” and that “no consumer will be forced” into buying a new bag.

"It seems IATA put the cart before the horse here,” said David Parker Brown of AirlineReporter.com. "There are some good ideas, but they need to get more buy-in from airlines and get their messaging down before they try this again."

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