The European Commission dropped plans last Monday to set legal limits at European Union (EU) level to the size of carry-on cabin baggage in airplanes.
In October 2006, security experts initially advised the commission to limit the maximum permitted size of cabin baggage throughout the EU to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm.
However, the limit has been dropped after in-depth studies found that the effectiveness of the measure, as part of a security package, does not justify the additional costs and inconvenience to airline passengers.
'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,' said European Commission Vice President, Jacques Barrot, who is in charge of transport policy.
Decisions about limits on the size, shape and number of cabin bags would therefore remain in the hands of individual airlines who would continue to set limits to suit their aircraft. EU member states would 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 Britain.
Restrictions on the size of cabin baggage size were supposed to start in May 2007. 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 to air passengers.