EU rejects imposing aircraft carry-on hand luggage size restrictions

Brussels (Thomson Financial) - The European Commission said it has rejected plans to limit legally the size of aircraft carry-on hand luggage.

In October 2006, security experts initially advised the commission to limit the maximum permitted size of cabin baggage throughout the 27 member state bloc to 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm. However, introduction was delayed pending in-depth studies and analysis ordered by the commission. In its efforts to focus only on the most efficient security measures, the commission said that the effectiveness of this measure does not justify the additional costs and inconvenience to airline passengers.

In new laws set out on Monday, the commission said imposing a size limit would create "undue operational complications". Decisions about limits on the size, shape and number of cabin bags will therefore remain, as is the case today, in the hands of individual airlines who will continue to set limits to suit their aircraft. EU member states will also retain the right to impose stricter limits if necessary to suit local circumstances or to respond to a specific terrorist threat.

The initial plans were part of a package of measures to improve the efficiency of security screening at airports, in the immediate aftermath of the discovery of an alleged plot to attack civil aviation in August 2006 in the United Kingdom. Restrictions on the size of cabin baggage size were supposed to start in May 2007 to allow airlines and airports sufficient time to make the necessary changes to procedures and to inform passengers accordingly.

However, the commission agreed to defer its introduction for another year in order to allow for further studies on the effectiveness of the planned legislation. The rationale behind the limitation of baggage size was that the task of airport security staff to identify prohibited articles in cabin baggage is made more difficult by the size of the bag since larger bags generally contain more objects.

However, the commission said studies concluded that the influence of baggage size on overall performance of security staff at airports was far less significant than other factors and that its effectiveness would not justify the additional costs and inconvenience. The dimension of 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm was taken from the international airline organisation IATA, which still recommends this limit to its members as a maximum permitted cabin bag size.

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