How Strict is Delta with Carry-on Size and Weight?

Aug, 22, 2023
woman rolling a suitcase onto a plane

Since most major airlines charge for checked baggage these days, many passengers have begun to travel with just carry-on baggage. Naturally, fitting a week’s worth of clothing into a carry-on item can be a real challenge, and it is very common to surpass the low weight allowance. This post will answer the question “How strict is Delta with Carry-on size and Weight?

Delta Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the United States, and it is my personal favorite. With over 5,400 flights per day, Delta is committed every day to getting tens of thousands of passengers where they want to go. Delta is frequently recognized as the best airline in the United States, smoking competitors like American Airlines and United.

This post will explain whether or not you can get away with using a bag that is larger or heavier than Delta’s baggage policy technically allows.

Disclaimer: This post describes some of our own personal experiences flying on Delta Air Lines and its partners. Our experiences may provide a good reference to answer your questions about carry-on baggage, but there is always a chance that you have a different experience. In that case, we are not liable for any damages or fees you may incur from any of the advice in this post.

Note: This post contains affiliate links that earn a commission for purchases made at no additional cost to you.

What Is Delta’s Carry-on Baggage Policy?

Delta’s website is an excellent resource to learn about its policies. Per the Delta Carry-on Baggage Policy, all passengers are allowed to bring one personal item and one carry-on bag onboard. Using your carry-on wisely can be extra prudent, especially if you need to go through Customs before a connecting flight

The official policy states the following about both personal items and carry-on bags:

Approved Personal Items

Passengers may bring one item similar to the types listed below. This smaller item counts as your personal item.

  • 1 purse, briefcase, small backpack, camera bag or diaper bag
  • 1 laptop bag (computers cannot be checked, unless directed to by security)
  • 1 item of similar or smaller size to those listed 

Additional Free Items to Carry On

In addition to your personal item and piece of carry-on luggage, you may bring the following items onboard:

Carry-on Baggage Size Restrictions

Delta allows all passengers to bring one carry-on bag that is no larger than the following size details:

  • Combined length + width + height of baggage must not exceed 45 linear inches (114 cm) 
  • Individual length, width and height measurements may not exceed 22” x 14” x 9” (56 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm) respectively 
  • These measurements include any handles or wheels, but do not apply to small musical instruments that fit in the overhead or under-seat space.

There is a separate policy that applies to oversized sports equipment and other special items. It’s a good idea to refer directly to Delta’s website for information about bringing these things on a domestic flight.

How Strict Is Delta with Personal Items?

We fly on Delta many times per year, and we always test the boundaries with personal item size. We fly with a lot of photography and computer equipment. This means our personal items are always much larger and heavier than the policy technically allows. 

Each of our backpacks normally weighs over 20 pounds, and both are full-sized, fully-packed backpacks. 

To be clear, we do not bring massive hiking backpacks. We bring normal backpacks like you might take to school, college, or work. We have never been stopped for stuffing them to the brim, even when they clearly won’t fit under the seat.

Delta is very customer-centric. They realize that an oversized personal item is a burden to nobody but the passenger who brings it. As long as it reasonably fits under the seat (even if it leaves you with no legroom), they tend to let it slide.

We have never once been stopped by Delta for stuffing our backpacks to the brim.

man standing in the middle of the street wearing a grey backpack and facing away from the camera
An example of my favorite backpack to use as my carry-on.

Weight Restrictions for Personal Items on Delta

Delta doesn’t have specific guidelines about weight for personal items. The total dimensions matter more to them, as the item needs to fit under the seat in front of you. As long as your bag size isn’t obnoxiously large, you don’t have to worry about size limitations.

Admittedly, Delta expects you to bring a laptop bag, small backpack, or small purse. But this doesn’t have to be the case. 

If you decide to bring a larger-than-allowed personal item for your Delta flight, there is a good chance you will board with no issues. As always, there is also a chance you will be forced to pay to check it, so just be prepared. As long as you are discrete near the check-in counter and the gate, you will probably go unnoticed.

traveler with suitcase standing in front of glass while taking photo of plane

How Strict Is Delta with Carry-on Baggage?

In my 50+ flights with Delta, I’ve observed that they care even less about carry-on baggage than they do about personal items. Every passenger is entitled to a free carry-on that must be stored in the overhead bin space throughout the flight. While the bag shouldn’t exceed the maximum total length of 45 linear inches, there may be some leeway in carry-on luggage sizes depending on the airplane you’re flying on.

Overhead compartment sizes vary per airplane type. If you fly on an airplane with small overhead compartments, you will likely get busted for having an oversized carry-on. However, if you fly on a plane with larger overhead compartments, your slightly oversized bags might go unnoticed. 

This is a major advantage of using a soft-sided bag like a duffel bag as your carry-on. My friend taught me this on a budget airline flight in Italy. These soft-sided bags can be bent and smooshed to fit in the overhead cabin, creating a gray area in carry-on luggage size limits.

Weight Restrictions for Carry-on Bags on Delta

Delta’s new carry-on bags policy clearly states that there is no weight limit on all domestic US flights and most international flights. As long as your bag meets the maximum size restrictions, you’re in the clear. The best way to make all of your luggage fit into a carry-on bag is with compression packing cubes.

You can find our preferred packing cubes on Amazon in the link below.

Per Delta’s website, no maximum weight applies to carry-on baggage, except in the following locations:

  • Singapore, Singapore – Changi International Airport (SIN) carry-on should not exceed 15 lbs. (7 kg)
  • Beijing, China – Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) requires that domestic hand carry bags should not exceed 10 kg. Individual carrier rules apply for international flights.
  • Shanghai, China – Pudong International Airport (PVG) carry-on should not exceed 22lbs. (10 kg)
a close up of a black piece of luggage with locks
Whether we are checking our carrying on our luggage, we always prefer rollers that have locks for security.

Delta Basic Economy Baggage Allowance

All Delta fare classes include both a personal item and a carry-on bag. This includes basic economy. The carry-on allowance doesn’t change regardless of fare class, as federal guidelines restrict any passenger from bringing more than one carry-on bag.

Most fare classes, including basic economy, do not include free checked baggage. Bag fees are normally $30 for the first bag on domestic flights, with an additional bag costing $40. Bag fees also vary depending on the destination to where you fly. Flights to South America, Central America and Puerto Rico may have different baggage fees than regional flights within the US.

If you have a Delta American Express credit card, you can skip these extra fees on the first checked bag. We have had a Delta credit card for years, and it remains one of the most valuable things in my wallet. In addition to free baggage, the card helps me to accrue tens of thousands of SkyMiles each year, which I have turned into flights all around the world.

If you apply for a Delta American Express card today, you can take advantage of a lucrative welcome offer in addition to getting free checked baggage for you and your travel companions on your next trip. 

Does Delta’s Baggage Policy Apply on Partner Airlines?

Delta is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, which is one of the best airline alliances in the world. This alliance includes a robust network of airlines all around the world, including Air France, ITA Airways, Saudia, KLM, and many more. This network connects passengers to destinations all over the world without the need to re-check bags or wait in line at another ticket counter.

On international flights with Delta, there’s a really strong chance that at least one flight leg will actually be run by a partner airline. While you book through Delta, a codeshare agreement allows you to ride on a different airline’s plane. In cases like this, your baggage allowance will be clearly specified on the Delta app before you travel, and again at the check-in kiosk at the airport.

Like with any other alliance, size limits are usually similar across airlines. Also, Delta’s baggage fees are usually right in line with the rest of the SkyTeam airlines. Most international airlines specify size requirements in centimeters instead of inches, but the actual measurements are usually the same or very similar.



Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

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Meet The Author - Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.