IATA Recommends the Perfect Size for Carry-On Bag

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced to implement a “perfect” carry-on size bag with the following dimensions, H: 55 cm/21in; W: 35cm/13.5in; D: 20cm/7.5in. The “IATA Cabin OK” logo sticker on a bag will indicate all carry-on requirements are met for flights on aircrafts with 120 seats or more. IATA claims executives from majority of 260 member airlines have shown a positive interest in the standardization of the carry-on bag size.

“IATA Cabin OK” Logo Sticker

It has only been several days since the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced to implement a “perfect” carry-on size bag. I need to confess it sounds like a great idea to develop and unify industry standard to assure every passenger follows the same rules. This approach seems to benefit all parties taking a part in an air transportation process. The acceptance of IATA’s proposal eliminates a potential stress passengers undergo while facing possible fines for attempting to board on a plane with too large carry-on luggage. Airlines do not to need to waist precious time to check out every single carry-on bag. To make the life easier for travelers, the IATA has even engaged with major luggage manufacturing brands to bring to the market the perfect carry-on size labeled bag. The “IATA Cabin OK” logo sticker on a bag will indicate all carry-on requirements are met for flights on aircrafts with 120 seats or more.

Picture 1
IATA sticker logo

While the IATA’s idea has its merit, it might be more challenging to bring it to life than it looks like. The IATA’s recommended size of the perfect carry-on bag is:

Height 5521.6
Width 3513.7

Table 1
IATA recommended carry-on luggage dimensions

Various Carry-On Size Luggage Requirements

The IATA also claims it came up with the selected luggage size after consultation with Airbus and Boeing. Unfortunately, here is the place where confusion begins and future obstacles start. Firstly it needs to be pointed out that different airlines have different carry-on size bag requirements. Needless to say the Federal Aviation Administration’s carry-on size requirement differs from those of airlines’ and IATA’s. And according to information I have read in an article “Who, What, Why: Is this the perfect size of carry-on air luggage?” on BBC website:

Airbus is increasing the width of overhead lockers on A320s from next year, to accommodate more bags which are the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) “standard” size – 55 .8cm x 36.8 cm x 22.9 cm – or even slightly larger. Up to eight could fit in single section if laid next to each other on their sides, it says, meaning 60% more total luggage could be stored.

ATA recommended 55 x 35 x 20 21.6 x 13.7 x 7.8
US FAA "standard" bag55.8 x 36.8 x 22.921.9 x 14.4 x 9
British Airways56 x 45 x 2522 x 17.7 x 9.8
EasyJet56 x 45 x 2522 x 17.7 x 9.8
Ryanair55 x 40 x 2021.6 x 15.7 x 7.8
Thomas Cook55 x 40 x 2021.6 x 15.7 x 7.8
Virgin Atlantic56 x 36 x 2322 x 14 x 9
Lufthansa55 x 40 x 2321.6 x 15.7 x 9
American Airines56 x 36 x 2322 x 14 x 9
United Airlines56 x 35 x 2222 x 13.7 x 8.6
Delta Airlines56 x 35 x 2322 x 13.7 x 9
Air France55 x 35 x 2521.6 x 13.7 x 9.8
Wizz Air42 x 32 x 2516.5 x 12.5 x 9.8
Germanwings55 x 40 x 2321.6 x 15.7 x 9
Flybe55 x 40 x 2321.6 x 15.7 x 9

Table 2
Carry-on bag size requirements change from airline to airline

120 Seats or Larger Aircraft

Despite the fact I am the firm supporter of the IATA’s initiative, I can sense difficulties to the implementation of the recommended carry-on size bag to become a new industry standard. The proven fact is that all involved parties have different carry-on size requirements. Integration and luggage size unification will be very challenging. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the new recommended luggage size is the only recommended size bag for aircraft with 120 seats or more. I cannot find a reasonable explanation why airplanes like Embraer, CRJ, Dash 8, ATR, and few others were not taking into consideration. Ultimately passengers often fly connecting flights. The recommended the “IATA Cabin OK” bag size might not be an issue for business passengers, but leisure travelers might be adversely affect by the new size bag requirements. A completely different view on this topic has Tom Windmuller, the IATA Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo, and Security, who points out, “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”. Even if Mr. Windmuller is correct, then a theoretical question needs to be raised how the IATA, which is as a matter of fact a trade organization, plans to unify its recommendation across the airlines industry. The only hope stays in the fact the IATA will convince all its 260 member airlines, which operate 83% of global commercial air traffic, to accept the recommended bag size as the industry standard.

Luggage Plane Overhead LockerPicture 2
Looks like the perfect size carry-on luggage

75 kg or 165 lbs Combined Weight of Carry-On Luggage

I will not risk much stating the new size bag is small, and it really reflects the carry-on luggage size. Since there was no unified regulation in place before, most customers will need to purchase new bags to meet recommended luggage size requirements. One of the reasons I am supporting the IATA’s initiative lies in the fact the bag size standardization will put everyone on the same page and luggage size misconduct will be easier to trace and eliminate. I recall my father who was flying several years ago from Warsaw (WAW) to Toronto (YYZ) and managed to board on the palne with few carry-on bags of 75 kg or 165 lbs combined weight. I was shocked welcoming him in Toronto and never accepted the fact how severely he overused the carry-on bag policy.

Big carry-onPicture 3
Slightly over-sized carry-on

New Industry Standard

It will be difficult to find another traveler with so much courage to board on an airplane with a similar number of kilograms as my father did it. But the truth is most passengers apply their own discretion when it comes to the carry-on size bag. As long as the luggage is close to the recommended size, travelers assume airlines’ conditions are met. Airlines are not required to participate in the program, but executives from majority of contacted airlines have shown a positive interest in the initiative. It really is interesting to see what frequent flyers and leisure passengers think about developing the industry standard carry-on bag. Lastly, I want to indicate the acceptance of the industry standard carry-on size luggage does not mean all passengers will have identical bags. Manufacturing facilities might supply the market with same size bags but the brand bag along with its quality will dictate the final price of the “IATA Cabin OK” carry-on bag.


BBC. (2015). Who, What, Why: Is this the perfect size of carry-on air luggage? Retrieved on June 29, 2015 from the World Wide Web: Who, What, Why: Is this the perfect size of carry-on air luggage?

Quirk, M. B. (2015). Airline Industry Proposes Ideal Bag Size for Overhead Bins. Retrieved on June 29, 2015 from the World Wide Web: Airline Industry Proposes Ideal Bag Size For Overhead Bins


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I am an aviation professional and a creative opportunity maker with never-ending drive to learn and explore. I have an enjoyable aviation career since 2001 and work presently as a landing gear manager for a leading Canadian maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) aircraft approved organization (AMO). I had an opportunity to work for two airlines where I gained a solid aircraft knowledge and experience working as an aircraft technician. I also had a privilege to earn both, undergraduate and graduate degrees, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL, USA. I also graduated from an aircraft maintenance program from Centennial College, Scarborough, ON, Canada. I always am ready to have a good conversation and to connect with my former co-workers and new friends. I can easily be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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