Only a few years ago, you could take a carry-on and a personal item on a plane without pulling out your hair. Sometimes, you could even take more than two items without any additional fees.
But today, that happens rarely. Most of the times, you’ll be charged for bringing the same amount that was free only a few years ago.
That’s happening because the airline industry is getting tougher and tougher each year. It’s not uncommon to see a new airline go bust just after a few years out of the blue. Airlines have to compensate for the lost revenue from affordable tickets. So they upsell drinks, foods, perfume, alcohol, and start charging additional fees for baggage.
In this article, we’ll explain the current situation of baggage on airplanes. In addition to answering how many carry-on bags are allowed on airplanes, we’ll tell what the major differences in baggage limits between airlines are, what items can be taken in addition for free, and how many checked bags are allowed per passenger.
How Many Cabin Bags Can You Carry on a Plane?
Most commonly, you can bring only two items onboard – a carry-on and a personal item. But it’s heavily dependant on the airline because some will allow more and some less.
Airlines are so strict about this because there’s limited room in the overhead compartments and below the chairs. The rest has to be stored in the cargo hold at the back of the airplane. Airlines don’t want too many, and too large bags in the passenger compartment, because that usually results is more stressful and longer boardings, which could result in delayed flights. In our modern society, everyone likes speed and efficiency, so airlines have to adapt.
Here’s how many bags you can carry on a plane in the most popular airlines:
You can bring one carry-on and one personal item for free on all flights.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
Personal item limit: 18 x 14 x 8 inches.
Delta Airlines allows one carry-on and one personal item for free. On connecting flights or on airplanes with less than 50 seats, you can take only a personal item on the plane, and the carry-on has to be checked-in free of charge.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches and may not exceed 45 linear inches (width + height + length) in size. On flights to Singapore, the carry-on can’t weigh more than 15 lbs, and on flights to Bejing and Shanghai, it can’t weigh more than 22 lbs.
Personal item limit: No size restrictions, but must fit under the front seat.
Southwest allows one carry-on and one personal item for free on all flights.
Carry-on limit: 24 x 16 x 10 inches.
Personal item limit: 18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches.
United allows one carry-on and one personal item on most flights, but there are a few exceptions. On Basic Economy, they allow only one personal item onboard, except for flights across the Atlantic Ocean, and except for MileagePlus Premier and Star Alliance members. On United Express Flights, you might be asked to check-in your carry-on free of charge.
For an additional fee, fragile or bulky items below 165 lbs can be placed in a separate airplane seat.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
Personal item limit: 17 x 10 x 9 inches.
Air Canada allows one carry-on and one personal item for free on all flights. Star Alliance Gold members can bring an additional carry-on for free when flying on flights with two or more carriers.
Carry-on limit: 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 inches.
Personal item limit: 17 x 13 x 6 inches.
Alaska Airlines allows one carry-on and one personal item for free on all flights. On smaller airplanes, sometimes you might be asked to check-in your carry-on free of charge.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches and cannot exceed 45 linear inches (width + height + length) in size.
Personal item limit: No size limit.
JetBlue allows one carry-on and one personal item for free on all flights.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
Personal item limit: 17 x 13 x 8 inches.
Spirit Airlines only allow one free personal item on all of their flights. You can bring a carry-on, however, depending on the weight, you’ll have to pay an additional 30$ – 100$ fee.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 18 x 10 inches.
Personal item limit: 18 x 14 x 8 inches.
Lufthansa allows one or two carry-ons per flight and a personal item for free on all flights. Economy and Premium Economy passengers are limited to one carry-on, while Business and First-Class passengers get to bring two carry-ons. Due to regulations in some airports and countries, sometimes you might be asked to check-in your second carry-on free of charge.
Carry-on limit: 21 x 15 x 9 for regular carry-ons, and 22 x 21 x 5.9 inches for foldable garment bags. Must be below 17.6 lbs.
Personal item limit: 15 x 11 x 3.9 inches.
Air France allows one or two carry-ons and a personal item free on all of their flights. Economy passengers may bring only one carry-on, while Premium Economy, Business and La Première passengers get to bring two carry-ons.
In the Economy class, the combined weight of all hand luggage can’t exceed 26 lbs. And in the Premium Economy, Business or La Première class, the combined weight of all hand luggage cant exceed 40 lbs.
Carry-on limit: 21.7 x 13.8 x 9.9 inches.
Personal item limit: 16 x 12 x 6 inches.
Ryanair only allows one free personal item on flights. You can bring a carry-on, but it will cost an additional 6 EUR per flight. Additionally, if the flight is overbooked, you might be asked to check-in the carry-on free of charge.
Carry-on limit: 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 inches and can’t exceed 22 lbs.
Personal item limit: 15.7 x 9.8 x 7.8 inches.
British Airways allows one carry-on and one personal item on flights for free. On crowded flights, you might be asked to check-in your carry-on for free.
Carry-on limit: 22 x 18 x 10 inches and must be under 51 lbs.
Personal item limit: 16 x 12 x 6 inches and must be under 51 lbs.
Can You Take a Backpack/Purse and a Carry-On on a Plane?
Most of the times you can. You just have to make sure that your backpack or purse is within the personal item limits, and that your carry-on is within the carry-on size and weight limits of that specific airline.
Also, you should make sure that the airline allows one free personal item and one free carry-on on board, because some, like Spirit Airlines and Ryanair, allow only a personal item. But I’d say that 90% of airlines will allow a free personal item and carry-on.
In fact, a backpack and a carry-on is my personal favorite form of cabin baggage. I rarely take any checked bags because I’m a minimalistic packer. Also, my backpack has a rear strap that fits around the carry-on’s handle, which makes moving the two bags around really easy.
P.S. If you need help figuring out what luggage to choose, check out our ultimate guide where we compare the 16 best luggage brands.
Things You’re Free to Bring on a Plane in Addition to Hand Luggage
Some items, like assistive and medical devices, you’ll be free to bring on most airplanes without any additional fees. They’re not counted as carry-ons or personal items, which is nice.
Here’s a list of items that you can bring on airplanes for free in addition to hand luggage:
- All assistive devices
- Large jackets
- Diapers and one child seat for each child
- Canes and crutches
- Duty-free items
- Cameras and pet carriers (Some airlines consider them as personal items, but some don’t.)
These items aren’t universal to all airlines, and on some, they may be counted as personal items, so you should do your research before you board the flight. On very specific items, it’s best just to call the airline beforehand.
What to Do If You Want to Take More Bags Than Allowed?
If you’re dedicated to bringing more hand luggage than allowed, you’ve got only a few choices.
First of all, you could become a member of the Star Alliance Gold. In addition to airport lounges and other benefits, on some airlines, you’ll be able to take a second carry-on or carry additional 20kg in your hand luggage.
Second, you could look into purchasing business or first-class tickets. Some airlines, like Lufthansa and Air France, allow two carry-on’s per passenger for their premium passengers.
Thirdly, you could look into purchasing additional tickets for large or fragile items. For instance, United Airlines allows storing bulky items in passenger seats for an additional fee.
But if you can’t afford any of the options above, you’ll have no option but to check-in your excess hand luggage for an additional fee. It’s advised to do this at the check-in desks, instead of the gate, because delayed, last-minute check-ins at the gate usually cost more and are available to be paid for only with a credit card.
How Many Checked Bags Are Allowed per Passenger?
It heavily depends on the airline, but usually, you’ll be allowed to bring 1-10 checked bags per person.
Here’s how many checked bags you can bring on the most popular airlines:
- American Airlines: Up to 10 bags if traveling domestic, transatlantic, or transpacific. Up to 5 if traveling from Central America, Mexico, Carribean, South America, or Brazil.
- Delta Airlines: Up to 10 bags, but only 4 on connecting flights.
- Southwest Airlines: No limit.
- United Airlines: No limit, except for a maximum of 3 excess checked bags for flights between the U.S. and Brazil, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Air Canada: No limits.
- Alaska Airlines: No limits, with a few exceptions. On peak travel times, they may add new restrictions on how many checked bags can be carried per passenger. Also, seasonal restrictions of only 2 checked bags apply to flights to Barrow, Bethel, Cold Bay, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, Guadalajara, Homer, Kenai, King Salmon, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Nome, and Sand Point.
- JetBlue Airlines: No limits.
- Spirit Airlines: No limits, with a few exceptions. On flights to South America and on all international flights between 1. December – 10. January, each passenger can only bring one checked bag.
- Lufthansa: No limits.
- Air France: 10 bags per person, but on smaller aircrafts 3 checked bags per passenger.
- Ryanair: 3 checked bags per passenger.
- British Airways: No limits.
P.S. These limits change all the time because of new embargo rules or overbooked flights, so take this only as general advice.
How Much Luggage Is Allowed on International Flights?
Usually, on international flights, you can take one carry-on, one personal item, and one or two checked bags for free. If you want to bring any additional checked bags, you usually can do that for a 20-80$ fee for each bag. That said, it’s heavily dependant on which airline you’re flying with, which priority class you’ve chosen, and which countries you’ll be flying through.
For hand luggage, generally, you’ll be able to take one 22 x 14 x 9 inch carry-on that has to be stored in the overhead compartment, and one 18 x 14 x 4 inch personal item that has to be stored under the front seat. However, some airlines have different size restrictions, and sometimes there will be additional weight restrictions. Some airlines, like Spirit Airlines, only allow one personal item for free, while some, like Lufthansa and Air France, allow two carry-ons and a personal item for free.
And for Checked luggage, you’ll usually be allowed to take 1-2 free checked bags that are 62 linear inches large (width + height + length), and under 50 or 70 pounds. For each additional checked bag, you’ll have to pay a fee. The number of free checked bags and their size and weight restrictions heavily depend on which class you’ve chosen and with what airline you’re flying with.
Also, it’s worth noting that some destinations have region-specific rules for hand luggage and embargo rules for the total count of checked bags. For instance, in America, Italy, and India, passengers who are flying with two carry-ons have to check-in their second carry-on. And usually, when you’re flying to South America, you’ll be allowed to bring fewer checked bags because of the embargo rules.
As you can see, for international flights there are a lot of different factors that influence how many bags you can bring. So for international flights, it’s best just to call up the airline and ask how many cabin bags and how many checked suitcases you can bring.