New carry-on bag restrictions could severely affect how much kit you can carry on board

By technical editor Matt Allard:

My usual carry on bags
My usual carry on bags

Travelling by air is already hard enough for the working cameraman. The bad news is that things may be about to get even tougher. If you spend a lot of time on planes, carrying lots of equipment, then new carry-on baggage regulations may be about to severely limit what you can take on board with you. When I travel I usually carry a backpack with lenses, a laptop and lithium-ion batteries in it as well as another small carry-on bag holding my camera. Both these bags are quite small, so that check in attendant will not try to force me to check it in. The danger with carrying one large bag with your camera and everything else in it is that often you will get questioned about it and asked to check it in. In over 20 years of travelling all over the world with camera equipment on a frequent basis, it has been very rare that I have run into any problems carrying a backpack and a small camera bag. Recently, however, I was stopped at the check in counter by Emirates and told that they have a strictly enforced one carry-on bag only policy with no exceptions. There was no way I was going to check in my camera in a soft bag, and I was lucky enough to be able to convince the check in manager that I could not check in my camera bag. This may well just be the start of what is planned for carry-on baggage restrictions.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry body, has just announced a new initiative to optimize the accommodation of carry-on bags given differing carry-on bag sizes and airline policies. The problem is that their new guidelines specify a smaller carry-on than most airlines currently allow.

This from IATA:
Working with airline members of IATA and aircraft manufacturers, an optimum size guideline for carry-on bags has been agreed that will make the best use of cabin storage space. A size of 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches) means that theoretically everyone should have a chance to store their carry-on bags on board aircraft of 120 seats or larger.

An “IATA Cabin OK” logo to signify to airline staff that a bag meets the agreed size guidelines has been developed. A number of major international airlines have signaled their interest to join the initiative and will soon be introducing the guidelines into their operations.

“The development of an agreed optimal cabin bag size will bring common sense and order to the problem of differing sizes for carry-on bags. We know the current situation can be frustrating for passengers. This work will help to iron out inconsistencies and lead to an improved passenger experience,” said Tom Windmuller, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

IATA is working with baggage tracking solutions provider Okoban to manage the approval process of bag manufacturers. Each bag meeting the dimensions of the specifications will carry a special joint label featuring IATA and Okoban as well as a unique identification code that signals to airline staff that the bag complies with the optimum size guidelines.

Several major baggage manufacturers have developed products in line with the optimum size guidelines, and it is expected bags carrying the identifying label will start to reach retail shops later this year. Recognition of the IATA Cabin OK logo is expected to grow with time as more airlines opt-in to this IATA initiative.

According to IATA, 30 to 40 airlines are very interested, while more than a dozen carriers including Air China, Avianca, Azul, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar have said they are willing to accept the new proposed guidelines.

It will be interesting to see how quickly camera bag manufacturers start implementing designs to meet these new proposed guidelines. I contacted Sachtler and they are already aware of the situation and are hard at work coming up with new solutions.

It may well be a good idea to start looking into baggage solutions and new ways to pack your carry on camera equipment to meet the new guidelines. Even the popular Pelican 1510 carry on hard case which meets current FAA requirements for carry on luggage at 22 x 13.81 x 9.0″ (55.88 x 35.07 x 22.86cm) (LxWxD) will be deemed too large by the new proposed guidelines.

Cathay Pacific insists it has no plans to cut the maximum size of carry-on luggage in cabins despite signing up to international guidelines that would set a smaller standard.

According to the South China Post, A Cathay spokeswoman confirmed the maximum size of carry-on bags would remain at 56x36x23cm, as opposed to the 55x35x20cm limit under the IATA guidelines. Instead, the guidelines would allow for agreements with baggage manufacturers to sell bags carrying an “IATA Cabin OK” logo.

Subscribe to our newsletter