Most of the time, airlines don’t really care if your carry-on is an inch too big, especially during the less busy seasons or if you’re traveling with a higher-end airline. However, the final say always rests on the airline employee. To avoid having to pay last-minute checked-luggage fees, you must adhere to the measurement limits of the airlines you’re traveling with.
In this article, you’ll learn the size and weight limits for hand luggage, what are the fees for last-minute check-in, and our top three picks for the best carry-on bags that are just within the correct size limits.
The Size and Weight Restrictions for Carry-on Luggage
Most airlines’ carry-on size limit is 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 33 cm), including the wheels and handles of the bag. There are, however, some airlines that have a smaller size limit, so you should always check the airline’s website or call them to double-check before you pack for your trip. The weight allowed for a carry-on bag also varies between airlines; it usually ranges between 22-50 pounds (10-23 kg). Most major US airlines don’t have a weight limit for carry-on luggage, but you should still confirm on their website to avoid any hassle.
Tip: If you find out that your carry-on is above the weight limit and you don’t want to check it or pay penalty fees, wear as many clothing items from your bag on your body to reduce the final weight of your carry-on. You’re also allowed to pack snacks in your pockets, which you can explain are for in-flight consumption.
What Are the Fees For Oversized Hand Luggage
If your carry-on is too big, you will either have to pay penalty fees or check your luggage. Checking your luggage means that your carry-on won’t be traveling with you but will instead be sent to the airplane cargo, and you will be able to claim it once the plane lands. The fees for checking your luggage at the gate vary between airlines, but most airlines charge between 30-70$.
Usually, the late check-in bag fee consists of the normal check-in fee, plus an additional 20-50$ for checking in at the gate. That said, some airlines don’t have late check-in fees, and only charge you the regular amount. Down below, we’ve researched the late check-in fees for oversized hand luggage for a few of the most popular airlines:
- American Airlines: You’ll have to pay 30$-75$ (depending on your destination) for checking oversized hand luggage at the gate. It’s the normal checked luggage fee with no additional costs.
- JetBlue: For checking oversized hand luggage at the gate, their fee is 65$ if it’s your first checked bag, and 180$ if it’s your second, which is more than their typical checked luggage fee (35-105$).
- Delta: For checking-in oversized carry-ons at the gate, you’ll have to pay their typical checked luggage fee – 30$ for the first bag and 40$ for the second.
- United Airlines: They charge an additional 25$ on top of their normal checked luggage fee, which depends on your destination and flight class.
- Ryanair: For oversized carry-ons weighing up to 10 kg (22 lbs), Ryanair has a fee of 45.99 EUR, and 69.99 EUR for luggage weighing up to 20 kg (44 lbs). This is more than their typical check-in baggage fees, which are 12-25 EUR and 17.99-50 EUR respectively.
How Do the Airlines Measure Your Luggage?
Most airlines have a sizer box to measure your carry-on bag. It’s essentially a metal frame, which can fit only bags in the correct dimensions. Your bag will have to fit into the sizer for it to be approved as a carry-on. Having a flexible fabric bag is advantageous in this situation because you’ll be able to squeeze it in even if it’s slightly oversized.
Usually, many airlines won’t check every carry-on but will instead go for ones that look oversized. If your luggage does not fit in the sizer, you might have to pay a checked bag fee along with the gate checking fee and have your bag transferred to the airplane’s cargo.
Checked luggage is usually measured with a tape measure, to make sure that it’s below 62 linear inches (height + width + depth). So if your checked bag is 63-65 linear inches, usually, you won’t have to pay the oversized baggage fees, because tape measure readings aren’t too precise, and the airline employee with let you go through, even if he sees that it’s 1-2 inches above the limit.
It’s also worth noting that the wheels, handles, and anything else that’s “sticking out” is included in the measurements. The height, width, and depth are always measured at the widest part.
Read next: Can You Use a Backpack as a Carry-On?
Usually, the Airline Staff Doesn’t Care if Your Carry-on Is Just 1 Inch Over the Limit
The airline staff at the gate usually doesn’t check the size of the carry-on of every passenger. That’s because if they would, there would be some serious delays. From my own experience, they check maybe 1 or 2 people out of every 100 passengers that board the plane. And typically, they check only passengers who are carrying way too large bags. So if your carry-on is slightly over the limit, there’s a very high chance that you’ll be able to board the plane without any issues.
That said, it doesn’t mean that it’ll always work. Sometimes the employee might have a bad mood, and he might pick you out specifically. Other times the employees are pressured by the airline to check more bags so that the airline can make more money on checked baggage fees. And finally, the flight could be overbooked, which would mean that there isn’t any more space left in the overhead compartments, and they’re looking for passengers who are over the limit to move their bags to the cargo hold.
I’ve also noticed that airlines are usually stricter with lower-class passengers, especially budget airlines. It makes sense though because they earn more from checked baggage fees, and they’re trying to make up the low fare costs.
Read Next: Can You Use a Duffel Bag as a Carry On?
Budget Airlines Usually Are Stricter, Especially in Europe
Budget airlines manage to reduce their costs by compromising on the comfort and extravagant services other airlines offer. Most aircraft in budget airlines are smaller, so the overhead storage and seats are smaller to fit more seats in the aircraft. The more people fly, the less space there will be for everyone’s carry-on in the overhead compartments. It is usually recommended to check the airlines’ website because chances are the size limit of carry-ons is smaller.
The weight limit for carry-ons varies between 22-50 pounds (10-23 kgs), depending on the airline. Ryanair, the most popular budget airline in Europe, has a weight limit of 10 kg (22 lbs) for carry-on luggage, and the bag size is 22 x 16 x 8 inches (55 x 40 x 20cm), including the wheels and handles.
The chances of you having to weigh and measure your carry-ons on budget airlines are more likely because they are trying to fit as many carry-ons as possible. Sometimes, you might be asked to check in your carry-on even if it falls under the measurement limit if the overhead space of the airplane is full because budget airlines sometimes overbook their flights.
3 Carry-Ons That Are Just Within 22 x 14 x 9 Inches
Best Affordable: Delsey Paris Helium Aero Carry-On
|- 21.25 x 14 x 9 in (54 x 36 x 23 cm)|
|- 8.2 lbs (3.7 kg)|
|- Editors rating: 4.4|
This stylish carry-on bag is a steal for its price tag because of how durable it is while remaining lighter than other carry-on bags in the same price range. You can pack items enough for up to 5 days along with a separate section to keep your toiletries and other small items. The Desley bag can also fit in a laptop with sizes up to 15.6 inches.
The spinner wheels make it effortless to carry around, so it is a perfect pick if you will be taking it around during your trip or layover. The bag is expandable by 2 inches, and it still stays by the measurement requirement of most airlines. This bag comes in 11 different colors; our personal favorites are plum purple and blush charcoal.
Best in Medium-Class: Travelpro Crew Versapack Carry-On
|- 21.5 x 14 x 9 in (55 x 36 x 23 cm)|
|- 7.3 lbs (3.3 kg)|
|- Ballistic Nylon|
|- Editors rating: 4.7|
The Travelpro Crew Versapack is a great pick if you want a bag with multiple convenient features without paying a ridiculous amount of money. The handle is expandable to multiple heights, and the bag has a padded space for laptops as big as 15.6 inches. It has zips that can expand the space in the bag to up to 2 inches, but keep in mind that the bag would not fall under the maximum size limit for carry-ons in airplanes if expanded.
To take full advantage of the Travelpro bag, you could purchase their all-in-one zipping organizer separately. It’s specifically built for the bag, so there won’t be a waste of space, and you will be able to fit even more items and keep them organized. Keep in mind that some airlines, especially budget airlines have weight restrictions for hand luggage, so don’t get carried away with fitting a lot of items, especially if they are heavy. This bag also comes with an external USB port that you can use to plug your power bank and charge your phone or tablet on the go.
It comes with a lifetime warranty, so it might be the only carry-on bag you would ever need, even if you are a frequent traveler.
Best High-End: Briggs & Riley Baseline Carry-On
|- 22 x 14 x 9 in (56 x 36 x 23 cm)|
|- 9.3 lbs (4.2 kg)|
|- 1680D ballistic nylon|
|- Editors rating: 4.9|
This premium bag has multiple features to make your packing easy, secure, and comfortable, and it’s the only carry-on bag that comes with no question asked unconditional lifetime guarantee. So if you break it at any point, you could get it repaired for free. The bag is built with the CX system meaning that it can expand to store up to 25% when packing and shrink back to its original size so your bag will remain within the airlines’ size requirement.
It also comes with a TSA-approved combination lock to keep your bag secured during your flight. The only downside of this bag is the hefty price tag, especially if you are not a frequent traveler or you don’t think you need all the extra features this bag comes with.