Italy has banned passengers from using overhead bins on flights to and from the country after a Prime Ministerial Decree set out new COVID-19 protection measures following advice from the Ministry of Health. Italy was hit hard by the Corona crisis but after a strict months-long lockdown, the country appears to have its outbreak well under control and is opening up its borders in the hope that tourists and business travellers will come in their droves.
But the threat of the virus hasn’t gone away and Italy is still encouraging social distancing and other health protection measures. For airlines that choose not to enforce social distancing on their aircraft then other protective measures are being put in place – including a ban on passengers taking hand luggage that can’t fit under the seat in front of them.
The idea is to reduce the amount of time that passengers need to spend in the aisle in close proximity with people around them, especially if it means jostling and bumping into one another during boarding and disembarkation. But the ban on using overhead bins is likely to infuriate some airline.
Ryanair, for one, has ignored advice from the UN’s civil aviation organisation and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which discourages the use of the overhead bins and instead says passengers should bring as much of their luggage onboard as possible.
The low-cost carrier claims bringing hand luggage instead of checking-in bags reduces passenger interaction at other touchpoints like baggage claim. Perhaps coincidentally, the policy deviation also means Ryanair can keep its costs low.
Italy, however, now says airlines should check-in hold luggage at no extra cost for passengers – a policy that likely won’t go down well at Ryanair headquarters. The only exception will be for passengers sat in a front-row or emergency exit row where all hand luggage has to be placed in the overhead bins for safety reasons.
The only way around the no hand luggage rule is to block middle seats and enforce onboard social distancing – a policy that would lose airlines even more money.
Italy was also one of the first countries to mandate the use of face masks onboard flights to and from the country. At the time the idea didn’t seem supported by official advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) but since then many governments and airlines have adopted similar policies.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.