The amount of carry-on bags that you’re allowed to bring on planes depends on the airline you’re flying with your flight class. Usually, only premium airlines from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia allow bringing two carry-ons, and only to Business and First class passengers.
Most Airlines Allow Bringing One Carry-on Bag and One Personal Item
Contrary to popular belief, air regulators (FAA, TSA, IATA, etc.) don’t limit how many bags each passenger can bring. It’s up to each airline to determine if each passenger is allowed to bring one or two carry-ons.
The space in the overhead compartments is limited. So most airlines allow bringing only one carry-on that has to be stowed in the overhead compartments. In addition to this, they also allow bringing one personal item, which has to be stored under the seats.
Here’s a list of airlines that allow bringing only one carry-on per passenger, regardless of the flight class: Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air Transat, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, EasyJet, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet2, JetBlue, JetStar, Norwegian Airlines, Ryanair, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, WestJet, and WizzAir.
If you’d bring two carry-ons when flying with these airlines, one of them would have to be checked in at the gate. This sometimes includes a small extra fee. But usually, you just have to pay checked baggage fees if it isn’t included with your ticket.
Why You’ve Seen Some People Bringing Two Carry-on Bags
If you’ve seen a person putting two pieces of baggage in the overhead compartments, most likely they’re also stowing their personal item there. This is against airline policies, which state that personal items have to be stowed under the seats.
If too many people do this, then the overhead compartments become full and there’s no more room left for other people’s carry-on bags. In this case, flight attendants will go over all bags in the overhead compartments and ask each passenger who it belongs to until they find people who packed two bags there.
This can delay the flight and is an inconvenience to other passengers, so please don’t do it – pack your hand baggage where it’s supposed to be. It’s okay to stow your personal item in the overhead compartments only if the flight is half-empty.
Which Airlines Allow Bringing Two Carry-on Bags
No popular airline within the US or Canada allows bringing two carry-on bags onboard the plane. Only a few airlines in Europe, Middle East, and Asia allow bringing more than one carry-on bag. And usually, it’s only included only with Business and First class tickets.
- Air France: Premium Economy, Business, and La Premiere passengers can bring 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
- KLM: Premium Comfort and Business class passengers are allowed to take 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
- Lufthansa: Business and First class tickets include 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
- Qantas: On international flights, First, Business, and Premium Economy passengers can take 2 carry-ons and a personal item
- Qatar Airways: Business and First class passengers are allowed to bring 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
- Singapore Airlines: Suites, First, and Business class passengers can take 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
- Turkish Airlines: Business class passengers are entitled to 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
- Virgin Atlantic: Upper-class passengers can bring 2 carry-ons and 1 personal item
Most People Can Pack Everything They’d Need in a Carry-on and Personal Item
You’re allowed to bring a 22 x 14 x 9 inch carry-on and a 16 x 12 x 6 inch personal item for free with most airlines. But the exact dimensions may vary between different airlines. There may also be a weight limit for the carry-on, personal item, or a combined weight limit for both of them.
If you become a minimal packer, you can pack everything you’d need for a 1-2 week vacation in your carry-on and personal item. This way you can save some money on checked baggage fees. A lot of people, including me, can even pack for 3-4 week vacations using this setup.
The best combination for a personal item and carry-on is a small 20-25 liter backpack and a 35-45 liter carry-on suitcase. You can carry both of them at the same time on any surface, and they provide plenty of packing space. You may even stow your backpack on top of the suitcase if it has a strap that goes around the retractable handle.
But to use this combo, you need to become a minimalist packer. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Don’t bring a hair dryer because most hotels have them
- Buy toothpaste and shampoo at your destination
- Bring only a few pairs of underwear, socks, and T-shirts. You can wash them in the hotel sink mid-trip and they’ll dry overnight
- Don’t bring many pairs of shoes. Instead, wear a single pair of comfortable sneakers
- Wear your bulkiest items on the plane
- When packing, categorize all items into two categories – essential and beneficial. Cut down on the beneficial ones if you’re low on space.