How to Measure Luggage for Air Travel | Carl Friedrik (2024)

Air travel is a stressful endeavour. From unforeseen traffic jams to misunderstood visa rules and last-minute gate changes, there’s a myriad of potential hurdles to overcome before lift-off.

While its well-known overweight suitcases entail a hefty extra fee, one airline regulation can slip even the most frequent flyer’s mind: luggage size restrictions.

Learning how to measure luggage is a skill every air traveller should master. And that’s precisely what we’re covering in this post.

How to Measure Luggage for Air Travel | Carl Friedrik (1)

Why is it important to measure luggage?

Size matters in the aviation industry. As aircraft have limited space in the hull, carriers must set strict size limits to ensure everyone’s luggage will squeeze inside. Moreover, baggage handlers must take extra steps to safely manoeuvre oversized bags, which requires additional manpower and loading times.

Size dimensions are equally crucial for carry-on bags. Overhead lockers have minimal wriggle room, especially now that most globetrotters use carry-on to avoid check-in luggage fees. To streamline the boarding process, every cabin bag must be small enough to slide easily into its allocated space.

The same applies to so-called personal items, those tiny titbits like camera or laptop bags that tuck under your seat. Should one not fit properly and protrude into the aisle, it’ll create a major headache for the safety-conscious cabin crew.

Airlines have good reason to be concerned about size. But why should you, the avid air travel aficionado, need to worry about such trivial things? It’s simple. Failure to comply with strict airline-imposed rules may lead to an eye-watering oversized baggage fee. And yes, they do check, regardless of your preferred luggage type.

Check-in personnel initially judge a suitcase by eye. If it looks excessively bulky, they’ll break out the measuring tape to determine the size. Carry-on luggage typically gets eye-balled by a gate agent, who will force any suspiciously-large bag owners to measure their cargo in a metallic, airline regulation-sized frame.

Oversized luggage doesn’t just leave you vulnerable to fines. On small or heavily booked aircraft, the airline may refuse to transport your oversized bag. Leaving you without your everyday essentials upon touchdown.

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How to measure luggage

Avoid falling foul of hefty airline fines by following this simple, step-by-step guide.

I. Check airline restrictions

Luggage size restrictions vary between airlines and sometimes between domestic and international routes. It’s worth checking the regulations on every leg to play it safe.

Most airlines measure check-in luggage in linear dimensions, which means the sum of the length, width and height. The most common linear limit for check-in luggage is 62 inches, though it’s prudent to confirm. EasyJet, for example, allows up to 108 linear inches (275 cm) for check-in bags, while United Airlines permits 62 linear inches (157 cm) — that’s a pretty significant difference.

Some carriers, however, forgo linear dimensions in lieu of specific size restrictions for each check-in bag dimension. British Airways, for example, requires each checked bag to be less than 35 x 30 x 17 inches (90 x 75 x 43 cm).

Carry-on luggage is never measured in linear dimensions, as each bag must fit within the compact overhead locker. Although the most common carry-on size limit is 56 x 36 x 23 cm (22 x 14 x 9 inches), many airlines stray from the norm. Again, check your airline’s website before leaving for the airport.

The rule of thumb for a personal item is it must fit entirely under your seat. That said, not all aircraft seats are the same size, and many airlines set strict size limits. The most common maximum personal item dimensions are 45 x 35 x 20 cm (18 x 14 x 8 inches), though these can differ between airlines.

If you can’t find the details in your booking confirmation email, search for size restrictions on the relevant airline’s webpage.

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II. Check luggage manufacturer guidelines

Now you know the relevant size restrictions, head to your bag manufacturer’s website to review its luggage dimensions.

Don’t take all manufacturer claims of carry-on or check-in-sized luggage as gospel. While a bag marketed as a carry-on will comply with most airline size regulations, it may prove too bulky for others. Low-cost carriers typically have more restrictive regulations than full-service airlines.

If you’re sporting a soft-shell suitcase (as opposed to a rigid hard case number), the final size will vary depending on how much stuff you fit inside. Plus, less reputable bag makers may publish inaccurate dimensions, or you could unwittingly mistake inches for centimetres.

With that in mind, it’s best to take a quick measurement at home, too (we’ll get to that in a minute).

III. Pack your bags

Pack your suitcase before digging up the measuring tape. Otherwise, your over-stuffed bag might expand and exceed the standard size.

It’s also worth doing a bit of research on how to pack a suitcase first so you can maximise available space. And if you’re on a business trip (or just like to dress nice), take a few minutes to learn how to fold a shirt for travel.

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VI. Measure your luggage

Crack out your tape measure to determine the length, width, and height of each bag. As not all luggage is evenly shaped, ensure you measure from the widest point of each dimension.

Include all the dangling or protruding bits like handles, tags and wheels. However, there’s no need to factor in the full length of a retractable handle, as you can slide it back in at the check-in gate.

Jot down each dimension as you measure. Once you’ve got your baggage measurements ready, compare them with the airline’s size restrictions. When calculating linear dimensions, add the length, width and height to reach the final figure.

Repeat this process for all your luggage (carry-on, check-in, and personal items), then double-check you’re comparing each piece to the correct airline size restriction.

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V. Weigh your luggage

Size is only one piece of the puzzle. To avoid a soul-crushing fine, it’s crucial to ensure all your bags weigh less than the mandated airline weight limits.

The most common check-in weight limit is 23kg (50 pounds), while carry-on bags must usually weigh less than 7 or 10 kg (10 to 15 pounds). However, these figures vary from airline to airline and between domestic and international flights. Again, it’s essential to research the specific restrictions for each leg.

The most accurate way to weigh your bags is by using a digital luggage scale. If you don’t have one handy, weigh yourself on a standard bathroom scale, then again while carrying your bag. Subtract the first measurement from the second to determine the weight of your bag. For more detailed information on this process, see our post on how to weigh luggage for air travel.

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Researching airline size requirements and comparing them against your own luggage measurements is the only surefire way to avoid oversized baggage fees. But remember, every airline has different regulations, and most won’t hesitate to crack out the measuring tape if your bag looks overly cumbersome.

Play it safe by following the steps outlined in this post. That way, you can prevent any frustrating last-minute surprises and take the stress out of flying. And let’s face it, navigating an airport is already an anxiety-inducing ordeal.

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How to Measure Luggage for Air Travel | Carl Friedrik (2024)


How to Measure Luggage for Air Travel | Carl Friedrik? ›

Use a tape measure to determine the width, length and height of your suitcase. Always measure from the widest point of each dimension, and include the wheels, handles and tags. There's no need to factor in the full length of a retractable handle, as you can slide it back in at the check-in counter.

How to measure luggage size for airlines? ›

The calculation is easy; just add the total of the length plus the width plus the height of the case to calculate its size in linear inches. You must include wheels and handles in your measurements.

How do I know if my luggage is 62 inches? ›

Once you've gathered all three data points, add them together. For example, if your bag is 24 inches tall, 20 inches long and 18 inches wide, its total linear length is 62 inches.

Is a 28 inch luggage too big for checked? ›

Generally, a luggage piece must not exceed 62 linear inches. Size allowance plays a crucial role in determining whether or not your baggage makes it onto the aircraft.

What is the size of baggage for flying? ›

As a general guide, carry-on baggage should have maximum length of 22 in (56 cm), width of 18 in (45 cm) and depth of 10 in (25 cm). These dimensions include wheels, handles, side pockets, etc. Some airlines also enforce weight limitations, typically starting at 5kg/11lbs.

Is a 28 inch suitcase 62 linear inches? ›

Most airlines seem to have a 62" linear limit (L x W x D) on checked luggage before incurring additional fees. Suitcases seem to be sold in 20", 24", and 28" sizes. The 28" bag comes the closest to the 62" limit but almost every 28" bag I've looked at had linear measurements of between 64-65".

How do you measure luggage accurately? ›

Place two hands on the scale and slowly raise the luggage for 5-10 seconds. Keep the luggage as still as possible to encourage an accurate measurement. Raising too quickly or erratically will lead to inaccuracies.

Do airlines enforce 62 linear inches? ›

Checked Luggage Sizes and Restrictions

This means the total length + width + depth must equal 62 inches or less. RELATED: Our luggage size guide takes the guesswork out of measuring your bags before you get on the plane. Some airlines have different size restrictions, but that 62-inch rule is pretty standard.

Does 62 inch luggage include wheels? ›

Most Airlines / carriers state that their baggage size limit is 62". And it is calculated by adding the 3 dimensions, including handles and wheels (often explicitly stated in their rules). 28" Spinner: Packing Dimensions: 28” X 19” X 12.2, Overall Dimensions: 31” X 19.8” X 12.6”, Weight 8.7 lbs.

What is the size of checked luggage in Europe? ›

You can check in any size of luggage, but the most common checked bags are larger than typical 55 x 40 x 23 cm bags. The most popular size check-in luggage is 63 to 69 cm tall and various widths. Medium-sized check-in luggage measures 63-64cm tall and around 45 cm wide.

Are 29 inch suitcases allowed on planes? ›

Checked Luggage

The most common maximum size bag allowed is 62 linear (total) inches. A common size bag for checking through is: 27" x 21" x 14". Airline carriers will allow overweight, oversize or additional baggage for additional fees.

How to measure luggage size 28 inch? ›

Measure the length, height, and depth of your bag, including handles and wheels. Add those three measurements together. The total is your linear measurement, in either centimeters or inches. Measure from the wheels to the top of the handle for height.

What is the most common size for checked luggage? ›

You can check in any size luggage, but the most common checked bags are larger than typical 22” x 14” carry-on bags. The most popular size check-in luggage is 25- to 29-inches tall and various widths.

What if my checked bag is 2 inches too big? ›

One outcome is that the airline may have to charge an overweight or oversize fee, in which case the bag will need to be placed on a separate conveyor belt than the majority of bags that are normally allowed to be checked in. This fee can generally range from $50 to $200, depending on the airline.

What if my carry-on is 1 inch too big? ›

If the bag does not fit in the sizer, it will need to be checked. American Airlines will charge a checked bag fee for oversized carry-on, which costs between $30 to $200 depending on your destination and how many bags you have already checked.

Does a purse count as a carry-on? ›

What is considered carry-on baggage? Technically, any piece of luggage that you “carry on” to an airplane is a carry-on bag. Most airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage or “hand baggage” that can fit in the overhead bin, plus a “personal item” (a smaller purse, computer bag, diaper bag, small backpack, etc.

Do wheels count when measuring luggage? ›

Yes, wheels do count when measuring your baggage. It automatically makes your wheeler case about 5 cm bigger in high. Airlines measure the luggage with wheels, handles, and other protruding parts. Luggage manufacturers know that and measure cases without wheels to make you buy the bigger one.

How big is 28 inch luggage? ›

28” Case - Height 28" (70cm) x Width 18" (45cm) x Depth 10" (25cm) approx. Approximate internal dimensions: 21” Case - Height 17.5” (44cm) x Width 11.5" (29cm) x Depth 6" (15cm) approx. 24” Case - Height 21" (53cm) x Width 13" (33cm) x Depth 7.2" (18cm) approx.

Do the wheels count when measuring luggage on American Airlines? ›

American Airlines carry-on dimensions should be no more than 22 inches X 14 inches X 9 inches (56 cm X 36 cm X 23 cm), including handles and wheels. All carry-on must fit the sizer at the departure gate.

Can I check in a 32 inch luggage? ›

Most domestic airlines anyway have a linear size limit for checked baggage of 62 inches overall, meaning length+width+height. So one length of 32 inches won't put you over the limit if the width and depth keep you under 62 inches total.

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