Interim Recommendation IR19980099

Interim Recommendation issued to: Regional Airlines

Recommendation details
Output No: IR19980099
Date issued: 06 July 1998
Safety action status:



Between October 1995 and July 1997 the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation undertook a study of the safety of Australian regional airlines. The objectives of this study were to:

(a) identify safety deficiencies affecting regional airline operations in Australia; and
(b) identify means of reducing the impact on safety of these deficiencies.

For the purpose of the survey, regional airlines were grouped according to the number of passenger seats fitted to the largest aircraft operated by that airline in January 1997. The groups are defined as follows:

(a) Group 1: 1-9 seats;
(b) Group 2: 10-19 seats; and
(c) Group 3: more than 20 seats.

The study involved analysing data obtained from:

(a) responses to a survey of Australian regional airline employees;
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and managers; and
(c) air safety occurrence reports involving regional airlines over a 10-year period (1986-1995) from the BASI database.

This recommendation addresses one of the safety deficiencies identified as a result of this study.

(NOTE: The terms "cabin attendant", "flight attendant" and "cabin crew member", as used in this report, are interchangeable and refer to those members of an aircraft crew who are qualified in the execution of emergency procedures in accordance with the requirements of CAO section 20.11.)


The current procedures for preventing passengers from bringing excessive amounts of cabin baggage onto regional airline aircraft are inadequate.


Survey results

Flight attendants were asked to rate, in terms of "major", "minor" or "no problem", potential safety hazards, based on their experience. The hazard of "amount and size of carry-on luggage" was ranked highest, being scored as a minor or major issue by 97% of respondents. In addition, "excess cabin baggage" was commonly cited as a major safety problem in answers to the other general questions posed in the survey. No other hazard in the area of cabin safety was mentioned as frequently (see attachment 1 for examples of survey responses).

As the survey indicated that excess cabin baggage was raised as the most common cabin safety problem, it is considered to be a major safety issue in regional airline operations.


The current Australian cabin baggage regulation is broad in its application and lacks the detail necessary to ensure that excess and inappropriate cabin baggage is not accepted into the cabin area of aircraft (Civil Aviation Order 20.16.3, subsection 9).

Australian domestic and international accident and incident records and studies have identified the following hazards as being associated with the carriage of cabin baggage:

(a) injury to passengers or crew members and/or blockage of exit routes, resulting from cabin baggage falling from failed overhead lockers during an accident sequence;

(b) cabin baggage being incorrectly stowed, or dislodged from stowage positions thereby obstructing aisles or exit ways and impeding evacuation;

(c) injury to passengers carrying baggage onto evacuation slides or through emergency exits during evacuation;

(d) aircraft weight limitations being exceeded because cabin baggage has not been incorporated into aircraft load computations;

(d) individual cabin baggage pieces exceeding the design limitation of the stowage compartment; and

(e) the speed of evacuation being slowed by passengers attempting to collect cabin baggage before evacuation.

(See attachment 2 for examples of cabin safety hazards.)

Regional airline aircraft

Although most accident studies have been conducted on large-capacity aircraft, the hazards referred to apply equally to Group 1 and Group 2 aircraft. For example, aircraft of any size can experience in-flight turbulence. This may result in injury to passengers or crew, or damage to the aircraft caused by movement of cabin baggage. Passengers and crew may be injured if struck by baggage falling from overhead lockers.

Blocked emergency exits and passenger behavioural problems during evacuation are not unique to large-capacity aircraft types. Incorrectly stowed cabin baggage and spillage of luggage from stowage areas during an accident are as much a problem in smaller regional aircraft as in the higher-capacity aircraft types.

Excess cabin baggage is a particular problem for regional airlines as the types of aircraft typically used have considerably less stowage space in the cabin than aircraft used by high-capacity airlines. Passengers familiar with cabin baggage limits on high-capacity aircraft often expect to bring the same amount of baggage into the cabin of regional airline aircraft. Many aircraft designed to the "normal" category standard, and some designed to the "transport" category standard, do not have any overhead lockers or underseat stowage for cabin luggage. Piper Navajo and Fairchild Metroliner aircraft, two of the most common aircraft operated by regional airlines, have almost no space in the cabin for storing baggage.

Under-seat stowage compartments are approved for solid articles if they meet the restraint requirements of CAO part 103, section 10. The design of passenger seats in many of the smaller regional airline aircraft does not incorporate such under-seat stowage restraint.

International perspective

Transport Canada and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considered that their original regulations were not specific enough to ensure compliance. Both agencies have expanded their regulations for stowage of cabin baggage (Transport Canada rule 705.42; FAA rule 121.589 and AC-121-29, and proposed AC-121-29A).

In the introduction to the "Carry-On Baggage Program Rule", which requires United States airlines to develop and use approved carry-on baggage programs, the FAA stated that "excessive carry-on baggage can endanger passengers and crew members in a number of ways: carry-on bags that block aisles or the spaces between seats can slow evacuation of the airplane in an emergency; improperly stowed carry-on bags can block access to emergency equipment and to the under-the-seat lifevests; carry-on bags that fall from overhead racks or bins can injure passengers and flight crew members and hinder evacuation"(FAA Supplementary Information: Amendment 121-194, Federal Aviation Regulation 121.589).

The Cabin Safety and Carriage of Persons Group, assigned to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Regulatory Review, has recommended to CASA that Transport Canada rule 705.42 be adopted as a model for Australian regulation and program requirements (see attachment 3 for Transport Canada rule 705.42-Carry-On Baggage).


Severe limitations on stowage space in some regional aircraft make it imperative that effective procedures be in place to prevent passengers from bringing excess cabin baggage onto aircraft. CASA should develop standards and implement regulations which require Australian airline operators to develop cabin baggage control programs. These programs, approved and monitored by CASA, should control the size, quantity and weight, and correct on-board stowage, of cabin baggage on all Australian passenger-carrying aircraft.

Output text

The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that operators of regional airlines develop cabin baggage control programs that will prevent passengers from bringing inappropriate cabin baggage onto aircraft and ensure correct on-board stowage of cabin baggage.

In addition, as a result of the investigation the above safety deficiency, the Bureau simultaneously issues interim recommendation IR980098 to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority:

The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority develop standards and implement regulations which:

(i) require Australian airlines to develop industry-consistent, cabin baggage control programs that will prevent passengers from bringing inappropriate cabin baggage onto aircraft; and

(ii) ensure correct on-board stowage of approved cabin baggage.

Such programs should be approved and monitored by CASA.

Initial response
Date issued:
Response from: Regional Airlines
Action status: No Response
Response text:
ATSB response:

ATSB Note: As this recommendation was not issued to any specific organisation, no response was expected or required.

Last update 01 April 2011