Unify carry-on cabin luggage size - open letter to the EU Commission

I travel and fly quite a lot. Especially inside of the European Union. Traveling should be fun, but can also be a painful experience... and unfortunately many airlines just add their own touch of bitterness to it all. I've been through most of the European airlines and most of the aircraft that fly here. Now it's time for me to speak up and finally ask the EU Commission to regulate the size of the carry-on cabin luggage.
Each airline thinks it's special

Just have a stroll through the check-in area and you'll see that each airline imposes each own dimensions (see chart) for carry-on luggage. Length? 45-60 cm... Depth? 15-25 cm... Weight? 8-15 kg... it's a mess.

As the most popular low-cost airline in Europe is Ryanair I optimized my carry-on luggage for its dimensions (55x40x20 at 10kg) and bought my pretty expensive (but light) carry-on bag and thought I was set.

There are no standards even in airline groups… yet they sell you the tickets!

Well, apparently I wasn't all that set. Today I'm flying to Tokyo with Lufthansa... and my connecting flight (through their Star Alliance group) is with Spanair. Now this is crazy - these two airlines are in the same group yet my carry-on, perfectly OK for Lufthansa (they have the same dimensions as Ryanair), didn't fit the Spanair's standards (because it's 55cm long instead of 50cm - yet it's 20cm thin instead of their 25cm allowance). You see? Even in the same group they sell you the ticket and can't standardize the carry-on luggage size!

How many bags do you want me to buy?

There are many shapes and sizes of carry-on bags and I think I'll have to suck it up and just buy (again) a carry-on luggage which has close to the LOWEST dimensions allowed by all of the airlines. This is not ideal, but I really just want to be set with my luggage for good.

I prefer to travel light with carry-on only. It's easier, more comfortable and last time I travelled to Chicago Air France with proud support from British Airways lost my checked-in luggage… for three months!

Dear European Commission - you regulated the mobile phone industry - please step up here!

Mobile phone industry democratized connecting people yet the operators in Europe were charging outrageous roaming fees if you travelled from one country to another. They still do, but not in Europe (if you have a sim-card with an European carrier). It's still not cheap to call from abroad but it's not prohibitively expensive. EU Commission stepped up and imposed on the mobile operators new tariffs.

Here's my proposition: 55cm x 40cm x 25cm @ 12 kg

To be constructive about all this let me propose this unified size for all airlines - it's what fits all of the popular aircraft (Boeing, Airbus and others) and it's what lets passengers travel lightly without checking-in the luggage. I'd recommend 12kg instead of Ryanair's 10kg because 2kg is what the lightest bags weight and then there is still room for 10kg of stuff which, experience taught me, is about all you may ever need (even for 2-week long holiday).

Passengers who can travel lightly and don't check in 20-30 kg bags should be rewarded by the airlines and not punished. Airlines should actually embrace this change and teach the passengers to pack efficiently so they can save more fuel.

EU Commission - you've done this before with mobile phone industry - now please step up and help the travelers.

The low-cost airlines (and now almost all the airlines want to qualify as low-cost ones…) democratized traveling and now almost anyone can fly. It's finally affordable. It's time to tell the airlines that while it's a good thing to cut costs, this can be done while still providing a good user experience for the travelers.

When I travel, I want to think about my destination… not the size of my carry-on luggage… and you?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 (travel)

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Al Pittampalli
Jun 28, 2011 16:46
What a simple idea. Just make a standard size, that's what the market wants. I agree, Michael. The last thing I want is to be worried about the size of my luggage.
Michael Sliwinski
Jun 28, 2011 16:58
The problem with baggage sizes is crazy - every airline sets their own standard. Hope the EU Commission finally does something about it. Thanks Al for your great comment!
Jun 28, 2011 19:28
Do you belive ine EU Commission? They will force you to use a banana shaped luggage! :-)
Michael Sliwinski
Jun 29, 2011 15:30
That's the thing - EU Commission managed to regulate the shapes of bananas and can't bother to regulate the shape and size of carry-on luggage and the airlines are doing what they want... Have some faith in the EU guys, TesTeq :-)
Tomasz Mioduszewski
Jul 1, 2011 13:45
I see a tiny chance in EU regulating this - as long as those who work in EU don't pay for their tickets they don't bother. If this would dig their own pockets - well, there is a chance that someone will see the issue.
Michael Sliwinski
Jul 1, 2011 17:33
People depend on low fare airlines more and more. I think if not EU officials than their families do fly with Ryanair or others. Hopefully people will start complaining more about this mess... or maybe it's just a wishful thinking on my side :-) Thanks for adding your thoughts, Tomasz! :-)