You probably won't need to buy a smaller carry-on suitcase after all.
The international airline association that proposed smaller maximum dimensions for carry-ons and set off a furor backpedaled on Wednesday, saying it would pause the rollout of its new initiative to advocate smaller bags and begin a "comprehensive reassessment in light of concerns expressed, primarily in North America."
A recommendation by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to dramatically reduce the size of carry-ons, making most current roll-aboards obsolete, recently sparked outrage and suspicion that such a move is less about fitting in more bags to overhead bins and more about padding the profits of airlines with more checked-bag fees.
"I'm telling U.S. airlines that if our luggage has to go on a diet, the result cannot be another airline-industry profit binge," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. "We already have less seat space, less legroom, fewer options and higher costs — we have to stand up for consumers and say 'no' to the airline industry."
IATA last week said an "optimal" carry-on size was 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep. That's 21 percent less in volume than the current maximum size allowed by many airlines.
No U.S. airlines had adopted the smaller standard, called Cabin OK.
And the U.S. airline association, Airlines for America, piled on Wednesday, saying U.S. carriers reject the new carry-on standard "because it is unnecessary and flies in the face of the actions the U.S. carriers are taking to invest in the customer experience — roughly $1.2 billion a month — including larger overhead bins."
"Our members already have guidelines in place on what size bags they can accommodate, making this action unnecessary," said Nicholas E. Calio, CEO of Airlines for America. "We agree with IATA's action to reassess this initiative and take into account stakeholders' views and recognize work already underway to improve baggage facilitation."
IATA's announcement Wednesday probably means the new, voluntary standard is dead.
"I believe this program is as dead as free steak dinners in coach," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Atmosphere Research Group.
"It takes guts to 'pause' a program like this. IATA deserves credit for taking this step," he said.
On Wednesday, IATA acknowledged that reaction to its new standard "has been intense."
"While the value of this initiative has been welcomed by many, including a growing list of airlines expressing interest in the program, there has also been much confusion," IATA said in a statement. "In North America particularly, there have been significant concerns raised in the media and by key stakeholders."