Over the years, airlines have gotten increasingly picky with their baggage rules. Years ago, you used to be able to get away with overweight or oversized baggage. Now, showing up to the airport with bags that are too big or too heavy can incur disproportionately large extra fees or cause major disruptions to your travel plans. For this reason, it’s really important to understand the carry-on and checked luggage size in cm and inches that your airline allows.
While there is some wiggle room, major airlines within the same country tend to have the same baggage dimension requirements.
What Are Linear Inches?
Most airlines’ maximum dimensions policies are written in terms of linear inches. In short, linear inches are equal to the sum of the length, width, and height of a bag. If a bag is 30 inches tall, 20 inches across, and 10 inches wide, its total linear inches would be 60.
Linear measurements actually give a little bit of leeway to travelers, as they allow the shape and size of the suitcase to vary, so long as the total size falls within certain parameters.
The Maximum Size of a Checked Bag
Whether you are looking at domestic or international flights, the size requirements on check-in luggage tend to be pretty consistent across major airlines. While international airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Aer Lingus state their bag limits in centimeters, the allowed measurements are approximately equal to those of popular American carriers.
Checked Bags on Major Airlines in the United States
For domestic flights within the United States, the maximum size for a checked bag is normally 62 linear inches. This is the case with major airlines like American Airlines, Delta, and United. The weight restrictions are also usually similar, at 50 pounds.
Checked Bags on Budget Airlines in the United States
The exception to both of these rules for domestic flights is budget airlines, as they often have stricter restrictions on suitcase sizes. While Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant all allow total linear dimensions of up to 62 inches like major airlines, the permitted weight may be as much as 10 pounds lower. Frontier, for example, only allows checked bags to weigh 40 pounds.
Checked Bags on International Airlines
International airlines tend to use centimeters to determine the linear length and height measurements, as the vast majority of countries in the world use the metric system. On most major international airlines, like British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, and Air Canada, the maximum size suitcase allowed is 158 linear centimeters. This is approximately equal to the 62 linear inches allowed by most American airlines. As always, be sure to check each individual airline’s size restrictions as you don’t want to be stuck paying additional fees for oversized baggage!
The Maximum Size of a Carry-on Bag
While there is not much variation in the permitted size of checked bags around the world, the case is entirely different with carry-on baggage. Permitted carry-on sizes tend to vary drastically depending on where you fly, and with which type of airline. While carry-on bags are generally supposed to be around 24x14x9 inches or 56x36x23 centimeters, it is a good idea to check your particular airline’s website before traveling, as there is a lot of variability among different airlines.
Carry-on Bags on Major Airlines
As a rule of thumb, if an airline allows you to bring a free carry-on, they likely allow it to be on the larger end. Traditional airlines, like Delta and American Airlines, permit passengers to bring free cabin luggage in most fare classes. These types of airlines also tend to be the least picky when it comes to imposing a carry-on luggage size limit.
Carry-on Bags on Budget Airlines
While you may think that the overhead compartment on every plane is the same, this is not the case. Many airplanes used by budget airlines have much smaller overhead bins, which can really restrict the type of cabin bag that a passenger brings. While a major airline’s overhead compartment might fit a small or medium suitcase, there is a chance that a budget airline’s compartment might not.
After all, Budget airlines are able to save money by fitting as many passengers on a plane as possible. This means fitting extra seats, minimizing legroom, and ultimately shrinking any component of the plane that they can. Whether you are flying on an American budget airline like Spirit or a European budget airline like Wizz Air, there is a good chance that the overhead bin will only fit a laptop bag, small backpacks, or small duffel bags.
The Maximum Size of a Personal Item
Just like with carry-on bags, some airlines are pickier with personal item sizes than others. Generally, you are allowed to bring a personal item for free on every flight that fits under the seat in front of you. In my experience, if you are willing to sacrifice legroom, that personal item can be pretty big.
We take full advantage of our personal item allowance every time we fly. We travel as lightly as possible, but we naturally have to bring a lot of equipment with us. From the drone and camera to our laptops and other electronics, our backpacks are absolutely stuffed when we get on a plane.
Major airlines have never once told us that our backpacks are too large, even though they are significantly larger than the permitted dimensions listed on the airlines’ websites. However, budget airlines have stopped us in the past and told us that our bags are too big to count as personal items.
If you are traveling on a major airline that allows you to bring a free carry-on, they will almost never be picky about your personal item, as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. If your airline charges you for a carry-on, they are much more likely to scrutinize larger personal items, even if they fit under the seat in front of you.
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