Airline Luggage Size Restrictions: What You Need To Know

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Airline luggage size restrictions can be very confusing, and if you don’t know the rules before you travel, you may encounter problems trying to check or carry-on your baggage.  Don’t get caught not knowing the rules and showing up with a piece of luggage that just doesn’t work.

Before we talk about specific airline baggage restrictions, let’s talk about some common airline baggage questions.

Do Airlines Enforce Checked Baggage Policies?

Most airlines do enforce their checked baggage policies, especially if you’re traveling on an international flight.  Ocassionally, you may find an airline that doesn’t appear to be enforcing it’s own baggage restrictions, however, there may be extenuating circumstances that force them to waive fees or restrictions on the day in question.

Do Airlines Enforce Carry-On Baggage Policies?

It’s probably more common to find an airline not enforcing the Carry-On baggage policy than it is to find one not enforcing the checked baggage policy.  Many airlines do have a carry-on bag policy that doesn’t allow passengers to have more than one carry-on bag plus one personal item, but they sometimes overlook that policy if the flight isn’t too crowded and not expected to be overweight with cargo.

What Factors Affect Airline Baggage Policies?

Airline baggage policies are certainly complicated, and may seem somewhat random, but there are certain factors that do affect the policies that are made on every airline. In most cases, an airline will have one standard baggage policy for all of it’s flights.

However, sometimes other factors will affect the baggage policy and the airline will have exceptions, changes, or embargos on it’s own baggage policy.

For example, in cases where the size of the aircraft is small and weight becomes an issue, they may restrict checked and carry-on baggage until after all passengers are boarded and the aircraft weighs in before departure.

Another example is if a large aircraft has an unusually large amount of cargo.  Sometimes that causes passenger luggage to be restricted because, again, the aircraft cannot be cleared for takeoff if it’s overweight.

Some airlines restrict baggage seasonally on certain flights or routes.  This means that they may put an embargo on extra checked bags during times of the year when the passenger load factor is expected to be higher than usual.

So all of these things factor into what baggage you can ultimately either check or carry on to the flight with you.

And because it’s complicated and there are so many changes, it’s critical that you check the policy of any airline you are flying with before you travel so you can have the most updated information.

Does the Baggage Policy Change If I Buy a More Expensive Ticket?

In many cases, yes.  Many airlines have different baggage allowances for passengers seated in different cabins of the aircraft, or on higher priced tickets.  This varies quite a bit between airlines because their fare structures differ and in many cases the type of ticket you purchase determines the baggage allowance.

What Is the Weight Limit For Checked Baggage?

This is something that will vary between airlines.  You must check specifically with the airline you are flying with to see what their policy is.

Are Airline Baggage Restrictions Different for Oversize Checked Baggage?

Yes!  In most cases, there are a completely separate set of restrictions that cover oversized baggage.  Oversized baggage would be things like ski equipment, snow boards, large musical instruments, golf bags, and baby strollers, or even just that “whale” of a suitcase that is so big it doesn’t fall within the normal checked luggage size ranges.

What Is Considered a Carry-On Bag?

suitcase

A carry-on bag, also referred to as an underseat bag, is one that will fit the airline size restriction for carry-on luggage.  The size restrictions will vary between airlines, but the bag must in all cases fit underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin of the aircraft.  Regulations on every airline require the the aisles and rows be free of baggage during take off and landing, so this is why all carry-on baggage must be small enough to fit in one of those designated areas – either underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin.

How Many Bags Can I Carry On the Aircraft?

Most airlines have a maximum carry-on allowance of 1 bag plus 1 personal item.  But this varies from airline to airline and also may be affected by how crowed the flight is.  You must check directly with the airline you are flying with to see what their specific policy is.

What Is Considered a Personal Item?

The personal item, or the +1 after the carry-on bag, would be something like a briefcase, purse, laptop, diaper bag, musical instrument case, or some other type of case or bag that is in addition to your actual carry-on suitcase.

Airline Luggage Size Restrictions (On 27 Major Airlines)

Since the rules regarding baggage vary so much between airlines, and may change frequently, it’s essential that you check the most up to date restrictions with your airline before you head to the airport.

After all, you don’t want to leave any members of your party or their luggage behind, do you?

Here are baggage resource pages for 27 popular major airlines.  The most current restrictions will always be on the airline website.  Follow the links below to access the current airline luggage size restrictions for both carry-on and checked baggage on these 27 carriers.

American Airlines

American Airlines baggage policy

Air Canada

Air Canada baggage policy

Air France

Air France baggage policy

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand baggage policy

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Air baggage policy.

Asiana

Asiana baggage policy.

British Airways

British Airways baggage.

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines baggage.

Emirates

Emirates baggage.

Finnair

Finnair baggage.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier baggage.

Hawaiian Air

Hawaiian Airlines baggage.

Iberia Airlines

Iberia Airlines baggage.

Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines baggage.

Jet Blue

Jet Blue baggage.

KLM Royal Dutch

KLM baggage.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa baggage.

Malaysian Air

Malaysian Air baggage.

Qantas

Qantas baggage.

Ryanair

Ryanair baggage.

Scandinavian Air (SAS)

SAS baggage.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines baggage.

Spirit

Spirit baggage.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines baggage.

Thai Airways

Thai Airways baggage.

United Airlines

United Airlines baggage.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic baggage.

Final tips – Airline Luggage Size Restrictions

Remember that airline baggage policies change.  If you traveled on an airline last week, last month or last year, don’t assume that their baggage policies will be the same as they were when you last traveled.

Be sure to check the airline baggage resource pages for the current baggage information.


Are you planning your own trip?  Don’t invite any travel mishaps to join you on your trip.  Travel mishaps can happen when you miss any important details during the planning stage.  Use a Trip Planning Checklist and enjoy a problem-free journey.

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Mary Emmer
Mary Emmer

About the Author

Mary is an online entrepreneur here at Still en Route where she uses her knowledge from a travel industry career beginning in 1984 to write about everything travel-related, sometimes with a baby boomer twist!  Read more.

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