Your Essential Guide to Carry-On Luggage Restrictions

Carry-on luggage size restrictions vary by airline—here’s how to tell if your bag is small enough to bring onboard.

Collage illustration of bags and tape measures

The majority of airlines allow passengers to bring one personal item and one carry-on, but travelers should always check their airline’s website for specific information.

Illustration by Emily Blevins; Jeffery Cross; Kelsey McClellan; SuperJet International/Flickr; Max Pixel

Even if you now have your packing strategy down to a science, you’ve probably had at least one run-in with a carry-on bag that won’t fit into an unexpectedly small overhead bin as a flight attendant glares with disapproval. Even worse, maybe you have been forced to gate-check a bag when it didn’t snugly fit in the dreaded measurement box. Did the airline website understate how seriously gate agents would take size limits, or did you flat-out forget to check?

Restrictions for carry-on luggage vary by airline, types of aircraft, and even ticket class—meaning that suitcase you brought onboard for one flight might be gate-checked on another depending on the size or the carry-on weight limit. Before your next trip—whether you’re heading somewhere within the United States or embarking on several international flights—use this guide to make sure your bag will fit in the overhead compartment.

Rows of occupied seats seen from back of plane

Carry-on luggage requirements can vary greatly from airline to airline.

Courtesy of Omar Prestwich/Unsplash

What size should your carry-on luggage be?

On domestic flights within the United States, a carry-on bag that’s smaller than 22 x 14 x 9 inches (45 linear inches), including handles and wheels, will meet the size restrictions of all major airlines, such as United Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Although some airlines—notably Southwest and Spirit Airlines—will allow bags of up to 50 linear inches, it’s a good idea to look for a bag that’s around 45 linear inches or smaller if you’re shopping for a new carry-on and anticipate using it on multiple different airlines).

The size limit varies more widely on non-U.S. airlines, but unless you’re flying on say, a small island-hopper in the Azores, 45 linear inches or smaller will allow you to meet the requirements of nearly all of them.

A masked and gloved flight attendant putting pink carry-on roller bag in overhead compartment

Flight attendants are not required to help passengers put their bags in overhead compartments, so be sure that you can make the lift yourself.

Courtesy of Unsplash/Getty Images

Weight limits for carry-on luggage

Aside from Frontier and Hawaiian Airlines, most major U.S. airlines do not have a weight limit for carry-on bags. However, they generally require travelers to be able to lift their own bags into the overhead compartment since flight attendants have a few good reasons for not helping with that. In fact, Delta spokesperson Ben Zhang points out his airline’s very specific policy, which notes that “flight attendants are unable to proactively assist customers placing carry-on baggage into overhead bins, with certain exceptions.” The exception is for passengers with disabilities, per the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, which states that airlines “must provide assistance, if requested, such as . . . stowing and retrieving carry-on items, including assistive devices.”

Outside the USA, however, most airlines have a weight limit for carry-on bags. They can range anywhere from 11 pounds (Air China) to 51 pounds (British Airways). Many budget airlines, both domestic and international, have strict guidelines and fees for the number and size of carry-on bags—and enforce them—so be sure to check your specific airlines’ requirements when traveling abroad.

Carry-on sizes for major domestic airlines (United States)

The carry-on sizes and weights listed in the following tables are generally for a standard, economy ticket (though some airlines, such as Spirit and EasyJet, require a fee for carry-on baggage other than a personal item). Some airlines allow additional carry-ons, a larger bag, or a bag that weighs more than the standard economy weight if you have booked a premium economy, business-, or first-class ticket.

Carry-on size (in inches)
Carry-on weight (in pounds)
Alaska Airlines
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
Allegiant Air
22” x 16” x 10” (48 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
American Airlines
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
Delta Air Lines
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
Frontier Airlines
24” x 16” x 10” (50 linear inches)
35 lbs
Hawaiian Airlines
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)
25 lbs
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
Southwest Airlines
24” x 16” x 10” (50 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
Spirit Airlines
22” x 18” x 10” (50 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
United Airlines
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)
No weight restrictions

Carry-on sizes for major international airlines departing from the United States

Carry-on size (in inches)
Carry-on weight (in pounds)
Aer Lingus
21.5” x 15.5” x 9.5” (46.5 linear inches)
22 lbs (10 kg)
19.7” x 15.7” x 9.8” (47 linear inches)
22 lbs (10 kg)
21.5” x 15.7” x 10” (47.2 linear inches)
22 lbs (10 kg)
Air Canada
21.5” x 15.5” x 9” (46 linear inches)
No weight restrictions
Air China
22” x 16” x 8” (46 linear inches)
11 lbs (5 kg)
Air France / KLM
21.6” x 15.7” x 7.8” (45.1 linear inches)26 lbs (12 kg)
Air New Zealand
46.5 linear inches 15 lbs (7 kg)
21.5” x 15.7” x 7.8” (45 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
British Airways
21.6” x 15.7” x 9” (46.3 linear inches)51 lbs (23 kg)
Cathay Pacific
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)15 lbs (7 kg)
China Eastern
21.6” x 15.8” x 7.9” (45 linear inches)17.6 lbs (8 kg)
China Southern
21.5” x 15.7” x 7.8” (34 linear inches)11 lbs (5 kg)
17.7” x 14.1” x 7.8” (39.6 linear inches)33 lbs (15 kg)
22” x 15” x 8” (45 linear inches)15 lbs (7 kg)
Ethiopian Airlines
21.6” x 15.7” x 9" (46.3 linear inches)11 lbs (5 kg)
Etihad Airways
21.6” x 15.7" x 9” (46.3 linear inches)15 lbs (7 kg)
21.6” x 15.” x 7.8” (45 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
Korean Air
21.6” x 15.6” x 7.8” (45 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
LATAM Airlines
21” x 13” x 9” (43 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
22” x 16” x 9” (47 linear inches)17 lbs (8 kg)
Nippon Airlines
22” x 10” x 16” (total linear inches cannot exceed 45)22 lbs (10 kg)
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)15 lbs (7 kg)
21.6” x 15.7” x 7.9” (45.2 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
Singapore Airlines
45.2 linear inches15 lbs (7 kg)
TAP Portugal
22” x 16” x 8” (46 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
Turkish Airlines
21.6” x 15.7” x 9” (46.3 linear inches)17 lbs (8 kg)
Virgin Atlantic
22” x 14” x 9” (45 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
21.6” x 15.7” x 7.9” (45.2 linear inches)22 lbs (10 kg)
21" x 15" x 9” (45 linear inches)No weight restriction

How many carry-ons can you bring?

Most major domestic and international airlines allow economy passengers one carry-on and one personal item. (Business-, first-, or premium-class passengers are usually allowed more.) Basic economy tickets typically allow one personal item but no use of the overhead bin compartments.

What is a personal item?

A personal item must fit under the seat in front of you and usually includes items like purses, small handbags and backpacks, briefcases, and laptop bags. Some airlines allow diaper bags, cameras, and duty-free merchandise—or items purchased within the airport—in addition to a carry-on and personal item. Some airlines will also gate-check strollers.

Illustration of red luggage carry-on size measurements

While carry-on luggage can go in overhead bins, personal items must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.

Illustration by Shutterstock

How to measure your carry-on luggage

To calculate the size of your carry-on bag, measure the length, height, and depth (or width) of your bag. You can add the three numbers together to find the total linear inches. For example, a bag with a length of 20 inches, width of 12 inches, and depth of 6 inches would be 20+12+6 = 38 linear inches.

If you don’t have a measuring tape handy, you can also find the dimensions of your bag on the seller’s product page online under the product specifications. Many bags also list the dimensions on the hang tag, so instead of throwing that out after purchase, tuck it into one of the pockets so you’ll always have it to show any inquiring airline staff. Most airlines also provide boxes where you can check your carry-on before you check in to your flight. This will help you understand whether or not it will fit in the overhead compartment.

What counts as a carry-on?

Generally, a small rolling suitcase, duffel bag, or larger backpack will count as a carry-on bag. Garment bags count as carry-ons, as long as they follow the dimensions specified by the airline. For instance, American Airlines allows passengers to carry on a soft-sided garment bag up to 51 inches in lieu of a standard piece of luggage.

By law, airlines are required to allow passengers to substitute a small musical instrument for a carry-on bag as long as it fits under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Travelers may want to choose a preboarding option to ensure there is space for the instrument, which is not guaranteed.

Travelers can purchase a seat for larger instruments (such as a cello), as long as the instrument adheres to the airline’s size and weight guidelines. Military bags and sports equipment are also allowed as carry-on luggage, although bigger equipment—such as surfboards, golf clubs, and hockey gear—may be charged the standard checked baggage fee, depending on the airline’s carry-on rules.

What can you pack in your carry-on and personal item?

Carry-on luggage must pass through airport security and, therefore, cannot include dangerous materials or excessive amounts of liquid. According to the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, they can be a maximum of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) per item, they must fit into a quart-sized plastic bag, and each passenger is allowed one quart-sized bag.

In general, food is allowed in your carry-on, though some items may be subject to the TSA’s liquids restrictions—just like your toothpaste. One of those surprising things is peanut butter, which the TSA has deemed a liquid. After a great online debate, it announced that since peanut butter has no definite shape and takes the shape of its container, it is, by their standards, a liquid. That’s only one of several surprising things the TSA won’t let you carry freely onboard.

Carry-on luggage cannot contain cutting instruments, explosives, or flammable materials, although some of these prohibited items are allowed in checked bags. If you have any doubt about a specific item, the TSA’s What Can I Bring? site is a helpful resource to consult.

If you need help getting all your stuff to fit into the right size carry-on, consider packing cubes, which not only save space but also help organize your belongings. And if you want to forgo the luggage struggle altogether, including checking in a bag, you can use a company to ship your luggage and breeze onto the plane with just a stylish fanny pack.

This article was originally published in 2019 and most recently updated on January 3, 2024, to include the latest information.

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