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The Incredible Shrinking Carry-On Bag

IATA just announced a new size guideline that’s smaller than most U.S. airlines’.

Passengers wait to check in at Logan International Airport in Boston, December 21, 2009. (Michael Dwyer / AP)

And you thought flying couldn’t get any worse.

Thanks to a new recommendation from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air travelers the world over may soon have to replace their carry-on bags with smaller ones. Yesterday IATA announced an “optimal” carry-on size guideline of 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches—about 21 percent smaller than what major airlines such as Delta, American, and United currently allow, the Washington Post reports.

The program is “designed to make things easier for everybody,” said IATA senior vice president Tom Windmuller in a press release. Due in part to overstuffed roller bags, cabin storage often fills up before all passengers have a chance to board, forcing some to check their carry-on items. Applying the new size restriction should theoretically ensure that all carry-ons fit on any aircraft with at least 120 seats.

The rule isn’t binding, but IATA stated that 30 to 40 airlines, including Lufthansa and Qatar, have already expressed interest in implementing it. In the meantime, look out for a new crop of smaller, IATA-approved carry-on bags in retail stores later this year. They’ll have an “IATA Cabin OK” logo to let airline staff know that they’re ready to board.

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