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EC avoids undue operational complications and inconvenience for passengers on cabin baggage size

Initial plans to set legal limits at European level to the size of carry-on cabin baggage in airplanes have been withdrawn by a Regulation which came into force yesterday[1] (5 May). In October 2006, security experts initially advised the European Commission to limit the maximum permitted size of cabin baggage throughout the EU 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…

Initial plans to set legal limits at European level to the size of carry-on cabin baggage in airplanes have been withdrawn by a Regulation which came into force yesterday[1] (5 May). In October 2006, security experts initially advised the European Commission to limit the maximum permitted size of cabin baggage throughout the EU 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 considers that the effectiveness of this measure does not justify the additional costs and inconvenience to airline passengers.

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.

Jacques Barrot, Vice President of the European Commission said "We must seek to balance security with passenger convenience. We already have very tough screening rules and before going any further I felt we should really analyse the benefits. In this case it is clear that the inconvenience of additional limits would outweigh the advance in security."

The initial plans[2] 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[3], 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, 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.

[1] Regulation (EC) no 358/2008, OJ L111 of 23.4.2008, p.5

[2] Regulation (EC) No 1546/2006, OJ L236 of 17.10.2006, p.6

[3] The rulemaking allowed the possibility of some exemptions for oversized cabin baggage containing an item or items both too large to fit within the permitted bag size and valuable or fragile e.g. for musical instruments.

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