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Airline Baggage Restrictions: Oh Wait, There Aren't Any

Updated on April 3, 2018

I used to love the thought of traveling by plane, it was such a luxury and really an almost relaxing experience providing the weather was nice and the pilot was having a good day. I am sad to say I no longer experience the same rush of pleasure when I know I have to fly, but it isn't the fault of the crew or the plane, it is the rudeness and lunacy of my fellow travelers.

It all seems so peaceful from this view!
It all seems so peaceful from this view!

Baggage Size Restrictions

At every stop along the way from the check-in before security through to the checking before boarding there are signs and little stands that are supposed to allow passengers to check the size of their luggage. If the luggage is too big for the stand, it won't fit on the plane. Really, that is such a simple concept but one that seems beyond the intellectual capacity of the average airline passenger.

The airlines list the dimensions allowable for carry on luggage. Why they don't enforce them I'm not sure, but I believe it is to protect their sanity and to avoid the tantrums I have seen when people are told their bags have to be checked.

The following are directly from the websites of the major airlines:

  • American Airlines – no larger than 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, 9 inches high
  • United Airlines – length + width + height of bag must be 45 inches or less
  • Delta Airlines - length + width + height of bag must be 45 inches or less
  • Southwest – 10 x 16 x 24 inches
  • Continental - length + width + height of bag must be 45 inches or less

Personal Items

In addition to the carry on luggage each passenger is also allowed ONE carry on item. This includes a purse, briefcase, planner, laptop computer, camera or other smaller sized device, purse or backpack. For passengers with children strollers, baby bags, diaper bags and small toys are considered personal items again, providing they meet the criteria.

Most people have personal items, I always have a laptop but it fits under the seat in front of me. However, in the attempt to get everything on the plane for free, people (mostly women I hate to admit) have taken to carrying huge purses and shoulder bags jammed full of stuff in addition to their carry-on luggage. These so called purses, which are typically bigger than the durable sports bag I check, are huge. They don't fit into the overhead with the carry-on and they certainly don't fit under the seat. They end up being shifted down to another overhead bin a few rows ahead or behind the passenger. She, again I hate to say that, spends half the time in the air jumping up and retrieving weird items from the bag, completely annoying everyone in the surrounding rows.

Another trick I have been noting is that people are grouping bags onto the retractable handle thing of their roller luggage and counting that as one bag. Really, did you think we didn't notice when you push the handle down you are standing in a pile of separate bags?

Luggage Limitation Poll

Are you annoyed by passengers with oversized bags, too many bags or no common sense about their luggage?

See results

Some Basic Suggestions To Control The Problem

Ok, so in my travels this last month I have had time to ponder what could rectify this situation. The following are my list of guidelines, well actually absolute rules, which I would like to see enforced by every airline. Not only would this save time getting on and off the plane, don't even get me started on that, but it would also make travel a lot more pleasant for everyone aboard.

  1. If you can't lift your bag over your own head into the bin above you it has to be checked. And no you can't stand in the middle of the aisle and cry or look helpless until some big, strong man helps you out.
  2. If you can't count to one, as in one carry-on and one personal item, you shouldn't be able to fly on your own without additional adult supervision.
  3. If your bag is too big for the overhead bin you will be charged double the cost of checking your bag before you got on the plane. (Now that's $50.00 easy money for the airlines!)
  4. If your baggage is not directly in the bin above you and you have to move forward or backward more than one row in the cabin you have to wait until everyone else is off the plane to make your move to retrieve your bags.
  5. If you give the airline attendants any trouble about checking baggage you are off the plane until you can show a more cooperative attitude.
  6. If your bag won't fit through the security x-ray machine, it won't fit on the plane so just check it on the spot.
  7. If you can't afford the $15 to $25 to check your bag you probably shouldn't be going anywhere anyway. Stay home until your financial status is a little more elevated and then really fly in style.
  8. If you have kids, you have to buy all the seats in your row or at least sit between your child and the other passenger. (Ok, that’s not about baggage but it is a great suggestion!)

I know this isn't extensive or exhaustive, so please feel free to add your helpful suggestions as to how carry-on baggage can be managed more effectively. I am sure the airlines are just dying to know!

Seinfeld On Plane Travel


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    • Mardi profile imageAUTHOR

      Mardi Winder-Adams 

      8 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      It is absolutely crazy here as well 2uesday. The other day I was on a flight and it was full, took almost 35 minutes to board and at least the same amount to get off the flight. It must drive the crew insane - I know I couldn't handle it.

    • 2uesday profile image


      8 years ago

      Anyone travelling on one of the budget flight companies in the UK has to stick to the cabin luggage rules which are strick - one piece of cabin baggage to the dimensions they say or less. Ladies have to put their handbags inside that piece of luggage to board the plane and any duty free items purchased at the airport also have to be put in the single piece of luggage as do laptops etc. . They also weigh your case sometimes to check it is below the 10kg limit. As most of the flights are short haul and short stay many people do not check- in any luggage at all. The scramble to get everyones bags into the overhead lockers on some flights is epic.


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