Overhead bins are now banned for all flights in Italy -- will other countries follow?
In recent weeks, the coronavirus outbreak has slowed in continental Europe. However, health and government officials remain on high alert, especially in previously hard-hit countries like Italy. After a strict monthslong lockdown, select European residents can now travel freely to and from Italy.
Those travels now have a new type of restriction, however. On Friday, Italy's National Civil Aviation Authority announced a decree intended to prevent people from congregating while onboard planes by banning the use of overhead bins. The measure is thought to prevent crowds from clogging aisles while passengers place and retrieve overhead items upon boarding and deplaning.
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This ban applies to all flights arriving and departing from Italian airports, even those that are long-haul international. Interestingly, this same decree also lifts Italy's restrictions on blocked seats, effectively replacing one policy with another.
Since this is a government-imposed mandate, passengers will not have to pay for checked baggage fees -- as long as they're within the airline's size requirements for carry-on baggage.
Alitalia, Italy's flag carrier, has the policy in detail on their website:
"To protect the health of passengers, the use of overhead bins for the storage of hand baggage will no longer be allowed on all flights operated in Italy. Passengers will only be permitted to bring on board small baggage, that can be placed under their seat such as, for example, handbags, backpacks, laptop cases not exceeding 36x45x20 cm. We invite passengers to deliver their baggage to the airport at the Check-in / Drop-off counter, to be placed in the hold, free of charge."
Other European airlines have also updated their policies in recent days. British Airways has a section of their website dedicated to flights to and from Italy with the requirements:
"You will need to complete a Health Declaration form at check-in, and check-in any large hand luggage. Overhead lockers will not be used on your flight, so if your hand luggage will not fit under the seat in front of you, it will need to be checked in. There will be no additional charge for this, as long as it does not exceed the standard hand baggage allowance."
Overhead bins are off-limits now for every passenger flying to or from Italy. While this may be an inconvenience for some travelers, the intention is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding unnecessary crowds onboard aircraft. It remains to be seen if other countries -- or even individual airlines -- will follow Italy's lead. For now, if you're traveling to or from Italy, expect to only bring on board what you can fit under the seat in front of you.