• Italy's aviation authority banned the use of overhead storage compartments on all flights to, from, or within the country.
  • The restriction is meant to prevent people from crowding in the aisles before and after flights, potentially transmitting the coronavirus .
  • Italy also lifted social distancing requirements on flights, although passengers are still required to wear face masks.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

Italy's National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) said on Friday that overhead storage compartments must be blocked on certain flights to, from, and within the country, part of an unusual effort to try and combat the spread of the novel coronavirus on planes.

The rule change specifically describes it as being "for health reasons," according to The Local , an English-language Italian news outlet.

The new regulation is designed to "avoid gatherings, movements on board and close contacts between passengers," according to an English translation, preventing scenarios where people crowd the aisles to retrieve their bags. The overhead-bin ban will only be mandated on flights that aren't otherwise observing social distancing, ENAC reiterated in a later clarification announcement .

Although there are indications that air-circulation patterns, air filters, and the barriers formed by seat backs can help prevent transmission of the virus during flight, these would not have an effect while the plane is parked and people are standing in close proximity.

According to the ENAC announcement, passengers will not be required to pay a checked bag fee for luggage that could normally be brought onboard. Passengers can still store smaller items under the seat in front of them.

ENAC had previously required airlines to seat passengers at least a meter apart, The Local reports, effectively capping planes at half of their usual capacity. The social-distancing rule was dropped for planes outfitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air filters, which includes most civil passenger aircraft in use today.

Passengers are still required to wear a face mask on board.

Alitalia, Italy's flagship airline, posted an advisory to its website warning of the new restriction.

"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," Alitalia said in the notice. "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."

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