What are Size Issues for Carry-On Luggage?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Flying today has become a difficult process due to stricter regulations and new airline fees. While size restrictions for carry-on luggage have always existed, they have changed significantly in recent years. Remember to ask the airline you will be flying with to make you aware of the basic size issues you should consider when taking carry-on luggage with you onto the plane.

First and foremost, remember that each plane is different from another; this means that one plane you fly on may be much larger or smaller than your connecting flight or return flight. Therefore, a larger suitcase may fit easily into the carry-on luggage compartments above the seats on one plane, but it may be too large for the luggage compartments on another flight. If your carry-on luggage doesn't fit in the overhead bins, flight attendants will be forced to check your luggage into the belly of the plane, which may or may not carry an additional charge.

While specifications vary from airline to airline, most airlines require your carry-on luggage to meet the measurements 22"x14"x9" (55x35x22 cm), or 45 total inches (114 cm). You are generally permitted to take one carry-on luggage item plus one personal item, such as a purse or computer, onto the plane with you. However, cargo space in the overhead bins dictate how much carry-on luggage can be placed inside the cabin of the plane, so understand that you may have to check your bag if space runs out.


One way to avoid such a hassle is to keep your carry-on luggage small enough that it can fit underneath the seat in front of you. While this severely restricts the amount of items you can pack in your bag, it will guarantee that you will not be separated from your items throughout the entire course of the flight. Stowing your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you is a good strategy if you are carrying only bare essentials, such as a jacket, book, toiletries, etc.

Another consideration when packing your carry-on luggage is your destination. If you are flying internationally, be aware that size and weight regulations at your home airport may not be the same as the regulations in the destination country. Be sure to call ahead to the airlines to verify their particular carry-on luggage rules and requirements. When in doubt, go small, and remember: if it's been a while since you last traveled, double check with the airline because that small suitcase that used to fit fine on older model planes may not fit on today's new models.


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Post 3

@MrsPramm - It must also depend on the type of luggage and the airline though. I once had to bring an enormous wood and leather harp on several connecting flights and it was about as tall as I am. I was terrified the whole time that they were going to try and make me check it, because it was very delicate, but I never asked and they never stopped me at any point.

And once I got on the plane, the hosts were happy to place it in a special compartment where it was kept safe. I've had other musicians tell me they managed several large instruments at a time and didn't have a problem. But I've had others tell me that they were forced to book an extra seat for their instrument, so I'm sure it really does depend on the airline.

I would ask fellow travelers about their experiences and just be prepared.

Post 2

@KoiwiGal - I think people bet that by the time they get to the gate, and the plane is about to take off, they won't want to have to send someone to check their luggage because it's too big. Carry on luggage rules always seemed to decrease in strictness depending on how close the time of departure was.

I'd still rather follow the rules though and not just because I'd be worried about being caught out. It's such a process to get through security these days as it is, I wouldn't want to have to do it with an overstuffed bag.

Post 1

A couple of years ago I was flying in Europe and I didn't want to have to check a bag because it was more expensive. So I basically stuffed a lot of items into my pockets to ensure that my carry-on luggage wasn't going to be too big.

It was extremely annoying to be waiting in line, hot and uncomfortable and to realize that they were letting people on with bags that were almost as big as they were. I understand that it's nice for them to bend the rules sometimes, but people take too much advantage of this and it's not fair.

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