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The standard maximum dimensions permitted for cabin baggage are 55cm by 40cm by 20cm (22 by 16 by 8 inches). This is sufficient for a 40-litre backpack - but it appears that manufacturers are struggling to cope with demand.

"The makers have been caught short by the shift to charging for luggage and are not yet geared up for the demand," says Paul Goodyer of the travel equipment specialist, Nomad. "By this time next year, there'll be loads."

He adds: "Some travellers are going for 'wheelie' luggage bags that look good. But the wheels take up lots of room and add to the weight of your hand-luggage, so you're better off with a lightweight shoulder bag, possibly one that opens up like a suitcase."

The weight limit for cabin baggage varies widely between airlines. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic impose a 6kg limit for economy passengers. Ryanair's is 10kg, while easyJet has the unusual policy of no restriction: "If it fits in [to the frame used to measure the maximum dimensions], it goes on." A bag of this capacity, if filled with lead, would weigh a quarter of a ton.

TRAVELLERS ON long-established air links from Britain are having to seek alternative flights for themselves and their baggage. BMI has cut its route between London Heathrow and Milan Linate, the most convenient airport for Italy's commercial capital. Passengers already booked on the link are being offered flights on British Airways.

GB Airways, which flies on behalf of BA, is to axe its Gatwick-Valencia link from June, in the face of competition from no-frills airlines.