To address the problem of size limits that vary by airline, a trade group for the world's airlines has come up with a standard size for luggage that passengers are allowed to bring on board planes.
But Americans who fly may not be happy because the size limits proposed by the International Air Transport Association are slightly smaller than the standards imposed by most U.S. carriers.
At a meeting in Miami on Tuesday, IATA announced a proposed standard carry-on size of 21.5 inches by 13.5 inches by 7.5 inches. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines, for example, limit carry-on bags to no bigger than 22 by 14 by 9 inches. Southwest limits carry-on bags to no bigger than 24 by 16 by 10 inches.
IATA officials say imposing smaller bag limits will ensure that everyone can fit their carry-on luggage into the overhead bins. IATA officials added that airlines can maintain larger carry-on standards.
"This is a program that is designed to make things easier for everyone," said Tom Windmuller, IATA's senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security.
For now, the carry-on standard is only a guideline for the world's carriers. Windmuller said about a dozen foreign carriers, including Emirates, Lufthansa and Qatar, have already agreed to accept the IATA standard and 30 to 40 others have expressed interest in accepting it.
"This should bring a degree of standardization to the industry and make it easier for everyone concerned," he said.
IATA is also working with luggage manufacturers to produce carry-on bags that meet the size limits and include a logo showing that the bag meets the IATA guidelines.
"We are confident that over the next several months we will get a number of major airlines coming on board," Windmuller said.
Some business travelers say they like the idea because it forces travelers to pack more efficiently, thus eliminating the battles between passengers to find luggage space in the overhead bins.
Jason Womack, an author and leadership coach from Ojai who travels about 140 times a year, said that "for frequent travelers, it makes us think ahead of time."