Your Guide to Carry On Weight Limits (and How Not to Exceed Them)

By Fred Perrotta
Woman putting a travel backpack in the overhead bin of an airplane

As long as everything fits in a carry on, you’re good. Right? Not necessarily.

Everyone knows about carry on size limits. But airlines have carry on weight limits too.

You can easily overstuff a carry-on-sized bag. The weight of a laptop, book, and an extra pair of shoes adds up quickly.

Airlines’ carry on weight rules vary even more than their size rules do. Air China only allows carry on bags up to 11 lb, while British Airways and Aeroflot allow bags up to 51 lb.

The most common weight limits are 15 lb (6.8 kg), 18 lb (8 kg), and 22 lb (10kg), but you should always check with your airline before flying.

In this article, we’ll outline the carry on weight limits by airline and then give some advice on packing lighter. The goal is to bring everything you need in a travel backpack while still being able to carry it comfortably.

Putting travel backpack in a carry on luggage size cage

Carry On Luggage Size Guides

First, the basics. Your carry on luggage is the main bag that you bring onto the plane and store in the overhead bin. You may have also heard it called hand luggage or cabin luggage, especially in Europe. Most people carry a suitcase, backpack, or duffel bag as their carry on luggage. Size limits vary by airline and region so check the size guide below before flying.

Carry On Luggage Size Guide

A personal item is the secondary bag that you bring onto the plane and store under the seat in front of you. Personal items include purses, laptop bags, messenger bags, totes, or anything else that can fit comfortably in the space under the seat. The rules for personal item sizes are even more confusing than those for carry ons, so use the size guide below for reference. Note that most airlines don’t specify weight limits for personal items, so we won’t be covering those in this post.

Personal Item Size Guide

Woman fitting the hip belt on her travel backpack

The Best Carry-On-Sized Backpack

The Outbreaker Backpack was designed with airline carry on limits in mind. You’ll find it in two sizes: 45L to max out the US carry on limits and 35L to max out the international limits.

Whether you pack light or load it up, you’ll be able to carry an Outbreaker comfortably. The height-adjustable shoulder straps adjust to your body for the perfect fit. The padded straps and weight-bearing hip belt take 80% of the weight off of your shoulders and onto your hips. This allows you to carry your bag with your stronger leg muscles and avoid any back, neck, or shoulder pain.

Carry On Luggage Weight Limit by Airline

Carry on weight limits vary by airline and sometimes change without warning. Be sure to check the baggage restrictions for your specific airline before you fly. This is particularly important if you fly a budget airline or book a discount ticket through a major airline.

If you’re flying a North American airline and you choose to book a low-cost, basic economy fare, pay attention to the change in baggage allowance. That’s often where they get you at the last minute and slap you with an unexpected (and high) baggage fee at the gate.

American Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
Aeromexico22 lb¹10 kg¹
Air CanadaNot specifiedNot specified
Alaska AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Allegiant AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Avianca Airlines22 lb10 kg
American AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Delta Air Lines15 or 22 lb²7 or 10 kg²
Frontier Airlines35 lb16 kg
Hawaiian Airlines25 lb11 kg
JetBlue AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Southwest AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Spirit AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
Sun Country Airlines35 lb16 kg
United AirlinesNot specifiedNot specified
WestJetNot specifiedNot specified
Minimum15 lb7 kg
Maximum35 lb16 kg
Mode (most common)22 lb10 kg

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 Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
Aer Lingus22 lb10 kg
Aeroflot51 lb23 kg
Air France26 lb12 kg
Alitalia18 lb8 kg
British Airways51 lb23 kg
easyJetNot specifiedNot specified
Iberia22 lb10 kg
Icelandair22 lb10 kg
KLM26 lb¹12 kg¹
Lufthansa18 lb8 kg
Norwegian Air Shuttle22 lb¹10 kg¹
Ryanair22 lb10 kg
SAS Scandinavian Airlines18 lb8 kg
Swiss Air Lines18 lb8 kg
Turkish Airlines18 lb8 kg
Vueling22 lb10 kg
Minimum18 lb8 kg
Maximum51 lb23 kg
Mode (most common)18 or 22 lb8 or 10 kg

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

Asian Pacific Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
AirAsia15 lb¹7 kg¹
Air China11 lb5 kg
Air New Zealand15 lb7 kg
ANA22 lb10 kg
Asiana Airlines22 lb10 kg
Cathay Pacific15 lb 7 kg
Cebu Pacific AirNot specifiedNot specified
China Airlines15 lb7 kg
JAL (Japan Airlines)22 lb10 kg
Jetstar15 lb7 kg
Korean Air22 lb10 kg
Malaysia Airlines15 lb7 kg
Philippine Airlines15 lb7 kg
QantasNot specifiedNot specified
Singapore Air15 lb7 kg
Thai Airways15 lb7 kg
Virgin Australia15 lb7 kg
Minimum11 lb5 kg
Maximum22 lb10 kg
Mode (most common)15 lb7 kg

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

Middle Eastern Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

AirlineCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
El Al Israel Airlines18 lb8 kg
Emirates15 lb7 kg
Etihad Airways15 lb7 kg
Saudia Airlines15 lb7 kg
Minimum 15 lb7 kg
Maximum18 lb8 kg
Mode (most common)15 lb7 lb

Worldwide Carry On Luggage Weight Limit

TypeCarry On Weight (lb)Carry On Weight (kg)
Minimum11 lb5 kg
Maximum51 lb23 kg
Median18 lb8 kg
Mode (most common)22 lb7 kg
Woman packing her backpack

How to Stay Within Carry On Luggage Weight Limits

Carry Lightweight Luggage

Don’t forget your backpack’s weight. Before you pack anything, you’re already carrying a few pounds.

Start by carrying a bag that weighs 20% or less of your airline’s weight limit. Look for travel backpacks that weigh 4.4 lb at the most. That’s 20% of the common 22 lb weight limit. Lighter is better as long as you aren’t sacrificing quality, durability, or comfort.

This rule will exclude most wheeled suitcases and wheeled backpacks. The plastic wheels and handles use up too much of your weight allowance.

Wheeled, hybrid backpacks are lighter than suitcases but still weigh 4.5-8.5 lb (2-4 kg).

You would be wasting 20-40% of your carry on weight allowance just on your bag. Good luck packing it for more than a day or two without tipping the scales.

Get a Luggage Scale

Buy a scale so that you aren’t playing luggage roulette. Show up to the airport knowing exactly how much your luggage weighs. Don’t wait for the ticketing agent to tell you it’s overweight and has to be checked.

With a luggage scale, you can weigh your bag as you’re packing so you know if you need to make any changes.

I use a $20 Balanzza digital luggage scale so that I can accurately weigh our backpack samples during product development. But any cheap luggage scale on Amazon should work well enough for most travelers.

Buying the scale is cheaper than checking a bag once. It will more than pay for itself every time you fly.

That’s a great return on investment.

Wear Your Heaviest Clothes

If it’s heavy, wear it. Don’t pack it.

Wear your heaviest clothes onto the plane, even if you aren’t cold. Wear your coat then stash it in the overhead bin. If you pack your coat, it counts against your weight allowance. If you wear your coat, it doesn’t.

The same rule applies to shoes. Wear the heaviest pair of shoes that you’re bringing.

Wear your boots; pack your sandals.

Depending on where you’re traveling from and to, you might look silly all bundled up on the plane. Don’t worry. Most people dress for their flight like they’re going to a sleepover. No one will notice what you’re wearing.

Leave It Behind

You’ll find that some absolute must-haves are easier to buy when you land than to carry with you. Toiletries, for example. You can find all the basics that you need at your destination.

You don’t need to pack extra socks and underwear on longer trips. Find a local laundromat or wash-and-fold, or use a sink or bath tub. Washing clothes is cheaper than checking luggage.

I had a week’s worth of clothes laundered for me in notoriously expensive Hong Kong. The price: $3.87. Or you could spend $25 to check a bag and lug around more clothes. Your call.

Swap Out Heavy Items for Lighter Ones

Reducing weight doesn’t always have to mean subtracting gear. You can also substitute lighter alternatives.

Take a second look at your packing list.

What can you swap out for a lighter-weight alternative?

Swap out a book for a Kindle.

Swap out your laptop for a tablet. Or a smartphone. Or nothing.

You should already be wearing your heaviest shoes, like boots or sneakers. If you’re packing a second pair, bring the lightest ones you have.

Distribute Weight in Your Personal Item

Your personal item should be a purse, messenger bag, laptop bag, or small daypack. Think “bag” or “pack,” not “luggage.”

Most airlines don’t publish weight limits for personal items. So load it up.

Pack your personal item to your advantage. Pack your heavy electronics or books in your personal item to keep the weight of your carry on down. Use your main bag for your lighter clothes and toiletries.

The ticketing and gate agents probably won’t weigh your personal item. So take advantage of it for your particularly heavy items.

Conclusion

Check your airline’s carry on weight limits before you fly. Most likely, you’ll be able to carry 15-22 lb. Choose a travel backpack that weighs 20% or less of that limit so that you’ll have 80% of the limit for your stuff. When you start packing, remember to wear your heaviest stuff or put it in your personal item. Then swap out or leave behind anything else heavy.

Bring everything you need without checking a bag.

Shop Travel Backpacks
x