What’s the key to beating the airlines’ fees for checked bags and oversized luggage? Understanding how airline policies differ, choosing the right sized luggage for the trip you have planned, and making savvy ticket purchases. Here’s how to navigate baggage restrictions and limits by airline.
Although traveling with a carry-on bag alone is now de rigueur for most savvy travelers trying to beat the luggage fees and ever-growing strictions, it’s hard to know if your bag will work on that new airline you’re trying out. If you have a new bag, a new airline, or if you’re traveling with a lot more checked luggage than usual, then you have a lot of questions: How large can your bag actually be, and how much can it weigh?
We can help.
Every airline has different policies regarding luggage weight, baggage size, and fees if you go over any of those restrictions. So we’ve gathered the information for most of the major U.S. carriers from their official websites.
And if you’re traveling internationally, double check those size restrictions as well (and even consider traveling with just a personal item!). At Eagle Creek, we design our international carry-ons to different dimensions, which ensures maximum compliance whether you’re flying a budget airline in Asia, or tiny puddle jumper in Africa.
Carry-On Luggage Sizes and Restrictions by Airline
Carry-on bags are free on all major airlines, except Spirit, which charges a minimum $35 per carry-on (but does permit one free personal item, a purse or small backpack up to 18 x 14 x 8 inches). And United doesn’t permit a free carry-on for basic economy. Keep in mind that Spirit will charge $100 at the gate for any carry-on that has not been paid for in advance. A few U.S. airlines restrict carry-on baggage to a maximum of 50 inches when adding all three sides, though most (including American, United, Delta and US Airways) set the limit at 45 inches (22 x 14 x 9). It’s safest to travel domestically with a bag that is 45 inches in total. Many airlines do not specify weight limits for carry-on items, but it’s becoming increasingly common, so those weight restrictions are noted.
● Air Canada free carry on size limits: 9 x 15.5 x 21.5
● Alaska Airlines free carry-on size limits: 22 x 14 x 9
● American Airlines free carry-on size limits: 22 x 14 x 9
● British Airways free carry-on size limits: 22 x 18 x 10 (max 50 lbs)
● Delta Carry-on size limits: 9 x 14 x 22
● easyJet free carry-on size limits: 22 x 17.7 x 9.8
● Emirates Airlines free carry-on size limits: 22 x 15 x 8 (max weight 15 lbs)
● Frontier Airlines free carry-on size limits: 24 x 10 x 16 (max weight 35 lbs)
● JetBlue free carry-on size limits: 22 x 14 x 9
● Lufthansa free carry-on size limits: 22 x 16 x 9 (max weight 17 lbs)
● Norwegian Air free carry-on size limits: 15.7 x 7.9 (max weight 22 lbs)
● Southwest free carry-on size limits: 10 x 16 x 24
● Ryanair free carry-on size limits: 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 (max weight 22 lbs)
● Spirit carry-on size limits: 18 x 14 x 8 (carry-on bag fee: $26)
● United carry-on size limits: 22 x 14 x 9 (but basic economy is only permitted an under-the-seat bag)
Pro Tip: If you’re traveling carry-on only, then you’ll need to be sure all your packed items will pass through TSA.
Checked Luggage Size Restrictions and Overweight Baggage Fees
Most airlines charge at least $25 per checked bag, with the exception of Southwest, which allows two free checked bags up to 50-pounds each.
Checked bags on all major domestic and international airlines must be 62 inches or less (length + width + height) and weigh no more than 50 pounds (except on Spirit, which has a 40-pound limit). Otherwise, you may be charged a hefty fee.
Wondering which airlines allow the largest checked luggage? Notable for those with significant baggage are the following airlines, which all allow luggage larger than 62 inches: British Airways (35.5 x 29.5 x 16), Norwegian Air (118 in), Japan Air (79 in), Allegiant Air (80 in but only 40 lbs!), and EasyJet (108 in). Note, however, that you do not always get more weight with that extra size!
Which airlines allow the heaviest checked luggage? Many of those allowing large checked luggage also have higher weight limits. Airlines with notably lenient weight restrictions include: Norwegian Air (70.5 lbs), Korean Air (70 lbs), Air India (55 lbs), Qatar Airlines (50 lbs but you get two bags!), Volaris (55 lbs), and Singapore Airlines (66 lbs).
Keep in mind that many of the fees can be avoided by joining the frequent flyer programs of the individual airlines, or signing up for airline credit cards that offer free checked bags as a perk.
Under-the-Seat Luggage Sizes
If you’re making the most of your under-the-seat bag, here’s a quick starter guide of what you need to know about luggage sizes for the most popular budget and international carriers. Always double check the dimensions against the latest policies since they can change rapidly!
● American Airlines: 18″ x 14″ x 8″
● Frontier: 18″ x 14″ x 8″
● JetBlue: 17″ x 13″ x 8″
● RyanAir: 15.5” x 8” x 10”
● Southwest: 8.5” x 13.5” x 18.5”
● Spirit: 18″ x 14″ x 8″
● United: 17″ x 10″ x 9″
● Vueling: 8” x 14” x 8”
Pro tip : The Wayfinder 20L (13 x 19 x 5.25 in) is a safe bet as it’s roomy enough for everything you need, but hard to over-stuff (so you won’t go over the size limits!)
Don’t see the airline you’re looking for on these lists? Skyscanner has a great chart with more information.
Best Luggage for Your Next Trip
If you’re looking for a new carry-on or checked bag that you know will meet the specs of domestic and international airlines, use our luggage buying guide, or use this cheat sheet of our favorites that will suit whatever type of trip you have planned.
Looking for a:
● domestic wheeled carry-on? Go with the
● international wheeled carry-on? Go with the
● lightweight carry-on duffel? Go with the
● large-capacity checked duffel? Go with the
● versatile under-the-seat bag? Go with the
● convenient personal item? Go with the
Pro tip: Pair your favorite luggage with the Eagle Creek Pack-It system to maximize your space and organization, so you can easily fit everything you need for your trip.
This info was accurate as of January 20, 2020. Always check each airline's site at the time of travel to confirm there have not been any size, weight, or luggage fee changes. Once you’re sure you have your luggage sizing under control, use our ultimate packing checklist to get yourself travel ready for your adventure!
While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.
Switchback International Carry-On
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
How to Choose a Duffel Bag for Your Travel Style
Budget Airline Survival Guide: 4 Things to Know Before You Fly
8 Must-Have Items To Pack In Your Personal Item
What Are the Best Ways to Use Packing Cubes?
By Scott Shetler on January 22, 2020
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.
With additional reporting by Eagle Creek.