The Ultimate Carry on Luggage Size Guide

By Fred Perrotta
Man checking departures board at the airport

Getting past the ticketing agent, the gate agent, and the flight attendants can feel like running a gauntlet.

Will your bag fit? Will you have to check it, pay for it, and hope that it shows up at baggage claim?

We’ve all been there. That’s why you should only carry on and never check your luggage.

The first step to traveling light is to learn rules. The second step is to get the right luggage.

Carry on luggage sizes and weights differ by airline, fare type, and region.

In this article, you’ll learn the rules: what qualifies as a carry on, size and weight limits by airline, and what bag to bring. Since the rules aren’t consistent, you’ll also learn the minimum and most common sizes by region and around the world. Then you can be sure that your bag is ready for world travel.

What Counts as Carry On Luggage?

Carry on luggage is the primary bag you bring onboard a plane and store in the overhead bin. Carry on luggage may also be called cabin luggage or hand luggage, especially in Europe. Most people carry a suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag as their carry on.

You may have a carry on in addition to checked luggage which you give to the airline and is carried in the plane’s cargo hold. Checked luggage costs extra and is a hassle to deal with. At Tortuga, we believe in traveling light, which means carry-on-only. We won’t cover checked luggage in this article. Instead, we’ll assume that your carry on is your main bag.

Lastly, a personal item is your secondary bag which you bring onboard the plane but store under the seat in front of you. Personal items include purses, laptop bags, totes, or anything else that can fit comfortably in the cube-shaped space under the seat. Personal items are bags, not suitcases. The rules for personal item sizes are even more confusing than those for carry ons.

Most airlines allow you to bring one carry on and one personal item with you onto the plane.

However, basic economy tickets are more restrictive. When flying on a basic economy fare, you aren’t allowed a carry on. You can only bring a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. Some budget airlines are similarly restrictive. In both cases, you can either pay to add a carry on to your fare or pay extra for a different type of ticket that includes a free carry on. Make sure to pay attention to the luggage information when booking a flight so that you don’t bring too many bags and have to pay for them when you arrive at the airport.

Carry On Luggage Sizes by Airline

The most common size for carry on luggage in the United States is 22 x 14 x 9″ or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). The 22″ height limit includes the wheels and handles for suitcases.

Most airlines’ size limits are similar to these dimensions.

Some airlines only specify total linear dimensions, not individual dimensions. Some airlines allow larger bags. Some airlines are more restrictive.

Use the charts below to get started but always confirm the size guidance on your airline’s website before flying.

If you’re traveling on multiple airlines, use the strictest size guideline. If you’re flying on a budget airline expect them to be more serious about enforcing the size and weight limits.

If you’re planning to buy a new carry on bag, check the airlines that you fly most often and buy a bag that will fit on all of them.

Below are tables of carry on size and weight limits by region and airline. Each airline’s name is linked to its website so that you can get the full details and latest information directly from your airline. I’ve also included minimums, maximums, and modes (most common) for each region and across every airline. Use these summary statistics to find a carry on that fits common measurements and isn’t too big in any one dimension.

Any discrepancies between measurements are due to converting between metric and imperial and rounding up or down to make the sizes as clear as possible. In some cases, airlines provide guidance in both measurement systems.

American Carry on Luggage Sizes

AirlineCarry On Size (in)Carry On Weight (lb)Carry On Size (cm)Carry On Weight (kg)
Aeromexico21.5 x 15.7 x 10 in22 lb¹55 x 40 x 25 cm10 kg¹
Air Canada21.5 x 15.5 x 9 inNot specified55 x 40 x 23 cmNot specified
Alaska Airlines22 x 14 x 9 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
Allegiant Airlines22 x 14 x 9 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
Avianca Airlines21.5 x 13.5 x 10 in22 lb55 x 35 x 25 cm10 kg
American Airlines22 x 14 x 9 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
Delta Air Lines22 x 14 x 9 in15 or 22 lb²56 x 36 x 23 cm7 or 10 kg²
Frontier Airlines24 x 16 x 10 in35 lb61 x 41 x 25 cm16 kg
Hawaiian Airlines22 x 14 x 9 in25 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm11 kg
JetBlue Airlines22 x 14 x 9 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
Southwest Airlines24 x 16 x 10 inNot specified61 x 41 x 25 cmNot specified
Spirit Airlines22 x 18 x 10 inNot specified56 x 46 x 25 cmNot specified
Sun Country Airlines24 x 16 x 11 in35 lb61 x 41 x 28 cm16 kg
United Airlines22 x 14 x 9 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
WestJet21 x 15 x 9 inNot specified53 x 38 x 23 cmNot specified
Minimum21 x 13.5 x 9 in22 lb53 x 36 x 23 cm10 kg
Maximum24 x 18 x 11 in35 lb61 x 46 x 28 cm16 kg
Mode (most common)22 x 14 x 9 inn/a56 x 36 x 23 cmn/a

¹ “[I]ncludes one piece of carry-on baggage and one personal item weighing a maximum of 10 kg (22 lb) between them (except on domestic flights)”

² “Singapore, Singapore – Changi International Airport (SIN) carry-on should not exceed 15 lbs. (7 kg); Beijing, China – Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) requires that domestic hand carry bags should not exceed 10 kg. Individual carrier rules apply for international flights. Shanghai, China – Pudong International Airport (PVG) carry-on should not exceed 22lbs. (10 kg)”

European Carry on Luggage Sizes

AirlineCarry On Size (in)Carry On Weight (lb)Carry On Size (cm)Carry On Weight (kg)
Aer Lingus21.5 x 15.5 x 9.5 in22 lb55 x 40 x 24 cm10 kg
Aeroflot80 in¹51 lb203 cm¹23 kg
Air France21.5 x 14 x 10 in26 lb55 x 35 x 25 cm12 kg
Alitalia21.5 x 14 x 8 in18 lb55 x 35 x 20 cm8 kg
British Airways22 x 18 x 10 in51 lb56 x 45 x 25 cm23 kg
easyJet22 x 18 x 10 inNot specified56 x 45 x 25 cmNot specified
Iberia22 x 15.5 x 10 in22 lb56 x 40 x 25 cm10 kg
Icelandair21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 in22 lb55 x 40 x 20 cm10 kg
KLM21.5 x 14 x 10 in26 lb²55 x 35 x 25 cm12 kg²
Lufthansa21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in18 lb55 x 40 x 23 cm8 kg
Norwegian Air Shuttle21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in22 lb²55 x 40 x 23 cm10 kg²
Ryanair21.5 x 15.5 x 8 in22 lb55 x 40 x 20 cm10 kg
SAS Scandinavian Airlines21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in18 lb55 x 40 x 23 cm8 kg
Swiss Air Lines21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in18 lb55 x 40 x 23 cm8 kg
Turkish Airlines21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in18 lb55 x 40 x 23 cm8 kg
Vueling21.5 x 15.5 x 8 in22 lb55 x 40 x 20 cm10 kg
Minimum21.5 x 14 x 8 in18 lb55 x 35 x 20 cm8 kg
Maximum22 x 18 x 10 in51 lb56 x 45 x 25 cm23 kg
Mode (most common)21.5 x 15.5 x 10 in18 or 22 lb55 x 40 x 25 cm8 or 10 kg

¹ The sum of all three dimensions (length + width + height).

² The weight limit is for the combined weight of a carry on plus a personal item.

Asia Pacific Carry on Luggage Sizes

AirlineCarry On Size (in)Carry On Weight (lb)Carry On Size (cm)Carry On Weight (kg)
AirAsia22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb¹56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg¹
Air China21.5 x 16 x 8 in11 lb55 x 40 x 20 cm5 kg
Air New Zealand46.5 in²15 lb118 cm²7 kg
ANA21.5 x 16 x 10 in22 lb55 x 40 x 25 cm10 kg
Asiana Airlines21.5 x 16 x 8 in22 lb55 x 40 x 20 cm10 kg
Cathay Pacific22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb 56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg
Cebu Pacific Air22 x 14 x 10 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
China Airlines22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg
JAL (Japan Airlines)21.5 x 16 x 10 in22 lb55 x 40 x 25 cm10 kg
Jetstar22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg
Korean Air21.5 x 16 x 8 in22 lb55 x 40 x 20 cm10 kg
Malaysia AirlinesNot specified15 lbNot specified7 kg
Philippine Airlines22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg
Qantas22 x 14 x 9 inNot specified56 x 36 x 23 cmNot specified
Singapore Air45 in²15 lb115 cm²7 kg
Thai Airways22 x 18 x 10 in15 lb56 x 45 x 25 cm7 kg
Virgina Australia22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg
Minimum21.5 x 14 x 8 in11 lb55 x 36 x 20 cm5 kg
Maximum22 x 18 x 10 in22 lb56 x 45 x 25 cm10 kg
Mode (most common)22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg

¹ The weight limit is for the combined weight of a carry on plus a personal item.

² The sum of all three dimensions (length + width + height).

Middle Eastern Carry on Luggage Sizes

AirlineCarry On Size (in)Carry On Weight (lb)Carry On Size (cm)Carry On Weight (kg)
El Al Israel Airlines22 x 18 x 10 in18 lb56 x 45 x 25 cm8 kg
Emirates21.5 x 15 x 8 in15 lb55 x 38 x 20 cm7 kg
Etihad Airways22 x 14 x 9 in15 lb56 x 36 x 23 cm7 kg
Saudia Airlines62 in¹15 lb158 cm¹7 kg
Minimum 21.5 x 14 x 8 in15 lb55 x 36 x 20 cm7 kg
Maximum22 x 18 x 10 in18 lb56 x 45 x 25 cm8 kg
Mode (most common)22 x n/a x n/a in15 lb56 x n/a x n/a cm7 lb

¹ The sum of all three dimensions (length + width + height).

Worldwide Carry on Luggage Sizes

TypeCarry On Size (in)Carry On Weight (lb)Carry On Size (cm)Carry On Weight (kg)
Minimum21 x 13.5 x 8 in11 lb53 x 35 x 20 cm5 kg
Maximum24 x 18 x 11 in51 lb61 x 46 x 28 cm23 kg
Median22 x 15.5 x 9 in18 lb56 x 40 x 23 cm8 kg
Mode (most common)21.5 x 15.5 x 9 in22 lb55 x 40 x 23 cm7 kg
Woman walking through airport

How Strict are Airlines About Carry On Sizes?

Every airline differs in how strictly it enforces its carry on rules. Budget airlines are stricter than major carriers. Every airline is stricter on small, regional flights than on its larger planes.

Based on my years of travel experience, I recommend bringing a carry on that complies with your airline’s rules. If you do, even if you’re bag is slightly over-packed, you should be safe. Yes, you’ll have some leeway with airlines, but please don’t flout the rules.

Having a soft-sided bag that’s not 100% full will give you some flexibility if you’re asked to put your bag in the bag sizer (the cage next to your boarding gate). As long as your soft-sided bag isn’t totally full, you can smush it down a bit to fit.

Carrying a travel backpack, rather than a suitcase, will also help as gate agents are stricter with suitcases. You may have seen agents asking passengers to “gate check” suitcases on particularly full flights. They are unlikely to ask anyone to gate check a backpack. We’ve found that to be a huge benefit of carrying Tortuga backpacks over the years.

Finally, don’t forget about weight. Most travelers focus on the size of their bag but ignore weight limits. Airline employees rarely weigh bags. I’ve never been asked to weigh my bag on a domestic flight. But I have had agents ask to weigh my backpack for an international flight. This has only happened to me when I had to check in or get my ticket at the desk. I’ve never had a bag weighed at the gate.

To be safe, don’t overpack your bag.

Buy a handheld luggage scale for $10-20, and weigh your bag after you’ve packed for your trip. Over time, you’ll develop a good sense of how much you can pack without going over any weight limits. If you avoid having to check your bag even even once, the scale will have paid for itself.

The Best Carry On Backpack

Carry on bag limits are mostly within a narrow range of sizes, but the limits do vary between airlines. Choose your bag based on how and where you fly.

If you only or mostly fly domestically, a bag measuring 22 x 14 x 9″ will work well. This 45L size will let you max out your packing without breaking any rules. Notice that in the Americas chart above, all of the airlines with more restrictive size limits—Aeromexico, Air Canada, and Avianca—are outside of the US.

If you travel internationally, choose a smaller bag that’s compliant in more regions and on more airlines so that you don’t have to check airline websites for every single flight you take. Paradoxically, you should choose a smaller bag if you take longer trips.

Outbreaker Travel Backpack

The Outbreaker Backpack comes in two sizes: 45L for the US and 35L for international travel so that you can choose the right size for your travel style.

Personal Item Sizes

Personal item sizes are trickier than carry on sizes. Many airlines don’t publish specific size guidance. However, the guidelines that do exist vary greatly, even more than carry on sizes.

The most important thing is that your personal item fits under the seat in front of you. As long as you can fit it under the seat for takeoff without your bag sticking out, you should be fine.

Read the full guide to personal item sizes to be sure that you’re compliant and have the right bag.

TSA’s 3-1-1 Liquids Rule

The final consideration for packing your carry on is the TSA’s 3-1-1- liquids limit. Your liquids go inside of your carry on, but TSA’s limits are important in ensuring that your bag—and everything in it—is ready to fly.

Here’s what the TSA allows:

You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.

Your liquids must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less. Those containers must be in one, quart-sized, resealable bag. A ziplock-style plastic bag works fine.

Any containers larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) must be packed in your checked luggage.

Keep these numbers in mind when buying toiletries. You can find carry-on-friendly versions of most products and brands. Watch out for products in small containers that are just slightly over the limit. I’m always surprised to find 4 ounce containers of toiletries. Those are close but not compliant.

If you can’t find your favorite brands in 3.4 oz sizes, buy the larger size and squeeze some into a Gotoob—a refillable silicon bottle—for traveling.

Conclusion

Staying carry-on-compliant can seem confusing at first. But the airlines aren’t as strict as you might imagine from the details on their website. Carrying a travel backpack that is small enough to fit every single airline and fare type is ideal but impractical.

Instead, choose a bag that fits most airlines, pack light, and weigh your bag before you leave.