Carry-on Luggage : LUSENET : Travelite.FAQ Packing Guide : One Thread

What is the regulation size for carrry-on luggage for both domestic and international travel?

-- Teeshla Morgan (, December 21, 1999


Hi Teeshla;

I'm assuming you're in the U.S. (with "domestic" meaning "intra- U.S."). Carry-on size regulations vary by airline, and even by the type of aircraft you'll be flying.

For example, United Airlines' official carry-on regulation states a maximum of 9" x 14" x 22". However, if you are traveling from New York City to Santa Barbara (California), your JFK-to-LAX flight may be on a large 747 with plenty of overhead/underseat space... but you may connect in LAX to a United Express on a Beechcraft 1900 that seats 19, and barely has room for your wallet.

So although they state carry-on dimensions, they add this lovely caveat at their web site: "In certain circumstances, when the quantity or size of a carry-on parcel can not be properly stowed, United Airlines. will process this item as checked baggage if appropriate."

So even if you thought your pack was no larger than 9" x 14" x 22" -- surprise -- you might still be forced to check it in. Fortunately, this doesn't happen too often.

In general, overseas flights are FAR stricter... you will need to phone the airlines to find out exactly what they are. In general, you will probably be fine with a carry-on that does not exceed 20" in length, with just a tad smaller dimensions on the height and width.

Bad news: If you try to take a "maxi-bag" with you that's stuffed full of stuff, airline personnel may force you to check it in (thereby losing the benefit of the carry-on-only technique).

Good news: The luggage manufacturers seem to have perked up to the airlines' stricter enforcement of restrictions. Many now sell packs that will EASILY fit within the carry-on dimensions.

-- Lani Teshima (, December 21, 1999.

My experience with United & other airlines traveling to & from LAX on the smaller planes is that your large carry-on will be stowed when you get to the plane in the nose or other luggage area. It is still carry-on because you carry it to & from the plane yourself. They are very quick about unloading these bags--often they are unloaded before you are. There is room for a regular size book-type daypack under the seat.

-- Val Donohoo (, January 12, 2000.

Be careful about international travel! British Airways, for example, has a weight restriction for carryon bags, as well as the size monitor at the check-in desk. I believe the current weight limit for carryon bags is about 13 pounds. Some other international airlines also have weight limits as well as size limits. Check their websites or ask about this before booking. Travel agents ought to have this information, if you are using one. My experience with BA has been that if you have a 9" x 14" x 22" rollaboard and the flight is not full, they will probably let you take it on, but the slightly smaller size is better. Also, as Lani points out, the wheels make the whole thing heavier. I found the Jansport convertible ideal for a month in Chile last year, and had no trouble on either the international flight or on the Chilean domestic flights.

-- E. D. M. Landman (, January 14, 2000.

Whoa, Nelly! I would never make 13 lbs with my one carry on. Ready for Guatemala and my bag is about 24 lbs. Wonder if this is because the airlines don't want anything heavier in the overheads? TerryD

-- TerryD (, February 12, 2001.

Recently I travelled on Austrian airlines. I managed to get on with my wheelie (20 inches) only because I was in business class and in the US. On the return flight we saw about 15 of these lined up waiting to become checked baggage at the airplane door. They were VERY strict about allowing one carry-on only.

-- lee katman (, June 06, 2001.

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