Carry-On Crunch: Fliers of the World, Get Ready to Downsize

NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Travelers of the world, get ready to downsize.

The International Air Transportation Agency has introduced a new regulation regarding the size of carry-on bags, according to The Associated Press. The guideline suggests that airlines reduce the size of allowed carry-on luggage to 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep. That takes slight bite out of the 22 by 14 by 9 inch maximum that most airlines currently allow.

Now, the IATA’s recommendation isn’t mandatory, so airlines remain free to choose whether to adopt the new size restrictions. With the guideline only released on Tuesday, industry response so far remains unclear, although the last passenger to rely on the goodwill of this particular industry is probably arguing with a Spirit gate agent in Fort Lauderdale to this day.

According to the IATA announcement, however, “[a] number of major international airlines have signaled their interest to join the initiative and will soon be introducing the guidelines in their operations.”

This new standard could come as a mixed blessing for a nation of increasingly harried fliers. Most frequent travelers use carry-on luggage that they know will fit into an overhead bin, sparing them the increasingly onerous checked baggage fees that almost all airlines now charge. Changing the rules of the game could force an entire generation of frequent fliers to buy new little wheelie bags or to show up for a flight and discover that that once-trusty Samsonite bag no longer makes the cut.

Shockingly, an IATA Senior Vice President Tom Windmuller has assured fliers that several major luggage manufacturers are on board for the change and are already planning out products to fit the new guidelines. 

Beyond the immediate inconvenience, however, there’s the possibility that this could be a real benefit to travelers. It has the possibility of finally clearing out some space in the overhead compartments.

Most passengers view boarding a plane, these days, as a full contact sport. Board too late on a full flight and all of the overhead space is usually claimed, because cabins just weren’t designed to handle this much carry-on luggage. It’s impossible not to feel a little resentful watching fellow passengers hammer ridiculously overstuffed bags into the bin, taking up gallons of space with their desperate avoidance of extra fees.

That real estate has become the most hotly contested since they built an Applebee’s in the Alsace-Loraine.

According to IATA officials, the new regulation will bring “order to the problem of differing sizes of carry-on bags.” Far more importantly, it will mean that “everyone should have a chance to store their carry-on bags on board an aircraft of 120 seats or larger.”

Whether this new rule will or will not be enforced, that remains to be seen, but returning to a world where it’s actually O.K. to board last again without a flight attendant “helpfully” explaining how to gate check your bag? That might just be worth it.

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