The problem with buying carry-on luggage is that most of it is over the size limits when you include the wheels and handles. But is it safe to buy an oversized carry-on? Won’t you have to pay extra fees at the airport? The good news is that airlines aren’t too strict about carry-on size requirements.
Most Airlines Don’t Care if Your Carry-On Is 1 Inch Too Big
Carry-ons are measured at the airport before boarding the plane. It’s done with metal measuring boxes just in the right size for the allowed carry-on dimensions. If your bag is too large and it isn’t flexible, you won’t be able to fit it inside. But airlines rarely ask you to use it.
Unless your carry-on is extremely large, the airline employees at the gate most likely won’t ask to measure it. If they’d ask each passenger to measure their carry-on, the boarding would take too long. This could cause delayed flights, which airlines don’t want.
In Europe and Asia, airlines are usually a bit stricter compared to the United States. I’ve even encountered one instance where every passenger was asked to use the measuring boxes. But generally, even in Europe, this happens very rarely. From my experience, they only measure carry-ons for passengers whose bags look way oversized.
Budget Airlines Are Stricter Compared to Premium Ones
Mid-class and premium airlines, like American Airlines, Delta, Turkish Airlines, British Airways, etc. rarely ask passengers to measure their carry-ons. Budget ones (Spirit, Ryanair, WizzAir, etc.) measure carry-ons more frequently.
They do it because they need to make up for lower fare prices by charging higher carry-on and checked baggage fees. Still, I fly with Ryanair very frequently and I’ve had to measure my carry-on only twice in my life.
Oversized Carry-Ons Need to Be Checked-in
If your carry-on is oversized (and doesn’t physically fit inside the overhead compartments) or you encounter a strict airline employee, they will ask you to check it in at the gate.
Most commonly, gate-checking luggage is offered at no extra cost, but it depends on the airline. Usually, the fee is identical to purchasing a checked bag at the airport (if it isn’t already included in your ticket).
For example, American Airlines doesn’t have an additional gate check fee. They charge a 0-75$ checked baggage fee, depending on your flight class, destination, and status level. Other airlines, like United, charge extra fees for this. On top of their 0-60$ checked baggage fee, you’ll have to pay a 25$ gate check fee.
It’s also worth remembering that if you already have checked baggage, your fees will be higher. For example, if you already have 1 checked bag, then your oversized carry-on will count as your 2nd checked bag. The fees for this usually are 30-100$ more expensive than for your first checked bag.
Carry-on Size Restrictions for Popular Airlines
Most airlines require carry-on luggage to be under 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 cm). But it depends on each airline. Down below, you’ll find the carry-on size restrictions for the most popular airlines.
|Airline Name||Carry-on Size (Inches)||Carry-on Size (Cm)|
|Alaska Airlines||22 x 14 x 9 in||56 x 36 x 23 cm|
|Allegiant Air||22 x 16 x 10 in||56 x 41 x 25 cm|
|American Airlines||22 x 14 x 9 in||56 x 36 x 23 cm|
|Delta Airlines||22 x 14 x 9 in||56 x 36 x 23 cm|
|Frontier Airlines||24 x 16 x 10 in||61 x 41 x 25 cm|
|JetBlue||22 x 14 x 9 in||56 x 36 x 23 cm|
|Lufthansa||21.7 x 15.7 x 9.1 in||55 x 40 x 23 cm|
|Southwest Airlines||24 x 16 x 10 in||61 x 41 x 25 cm|
|Spirit Airlines||22 x 18 x 10 in||56 x 46 x 25 cm|
|United Airlines||22 x 14 x 9 in||56 x 36 x 23 cm|
Airlines Are Less Strict About Carry-on Luggage Weight Restrictions
I travel frequently, and I’ve only had to weigh my carry-on luggage once.
When a carry-on is oversized, airline employees can notice it just by looking at it. But there’s no way for them to determine its weight without using a scale. And weighing each passenger’s bag takes too much time. Usually, they ask you to weigh your carry-on only if it looks oversized.
But it depends on which airport and airline you’ll be flying with. For example, the Rome Fiumicino airport in Italy is notorious for strictly following the size and weight rules for baggage, while most other airports don’t pay much attention to it. Down below, you’ll find the weight restrictions for the most popular airlines.
|Airline Name||Carry-On Weight (Lbs)||Carry-On Weight (Kg)|
|Frontier Airlines||35 lbs||15.9 kg|
|Lufthansa||17.6 lbs||8 kg|
Summing Up: Traveling With Oversized Carry-Ons
If your carry-on is 1-2 inches over the size limit, don’t stress about it too much. Most likely, you’ll be allowed to pass through without anyone saying anything. But be prepared that if you encounter a strict airline employee, you might have to check it in. To account for this, pack your valuable and fragile items in your personal item, so you don’t have to overpack everything at the last minute.
One way to travel with oversized carry-on luggage more easily is to use a flexible carry-on backpack. By doing this, you will be able to overpack it every time, and still squeeze it in the measuring boxes if needed. Plus, airlines usually are less strict about flexible bags since they know that they’ll fit inside the overhead compartments anyway.
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