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How to comply with Airline Carry-on Regulations after 9/11

Updated on August 17, 2013

What liquids, gels, creams or cosmetics can I include in my Airline Carry-On Luggage? This is a relevant concern today, if you don't want your articles confiscated. Not to mention the unnecessary delays that you can experience upon passing through TSA (Transportation Security Administrations) Airport Security.

There is no doubt that 9/11 changed our world in many ways. Airline security measures are now in the forefront, as you would expect. Most of the airline carriers are charging for checked luggage, so it comes as no surprise that more travelers board with carry-on luggage. However, the airlines are quite strict with regard to enforcing their new carry-on regulations.

By now, even the infrequent traveler has heard of the new 3-1-1 rule regarding the carry-on of liquids, gels, creams, and other cosmetics. If you choose to carry-on versus check your cosmetics, the contents must all fit in nothing larger than 3.4 oz. bottles; Each of those 3.4 oz. containers must fit in a clear plastic bag (such as a zip-lock) that is no larger than a 1 quart size; Finally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow only one compliant sized clear plastic bag per passenger. If the passenger exceeds any of these regulations the TSA agent will confiscate or discard the non-compliant articles. Most TSA checkpoints allow the passenger to pass through with an empty water bottle, if the passenger chooses to fill it up with water after clearing the security checkpoint. I recommend buying the bottled water after clearing the checkpoint, to speed up the process.

Not all airlines have precisely the same carry-on regulations. However, in general most of the domestic airline carriers allow each passenger to carry-on one suitcase that does not exceed 45” in total length x width x depth. The common size configuration offered in most luggage brands is 22” (h) x 14” (w) x 9” (d). However, we have now seen a growing number of products that are 20” (h) x 16” (w) x 9” (d). This configuration of suitcase seems to fit vertically in the overhead bins. The threshold of 45” is inclusive of all extremities, from the bottom of the wheels to the top of the handle. Consequently, I advise all consumers to be aware of these regulations before you make your next purchase of ‘carry-on luggage’. There are some airlines that allow slightly larger carry-on luggage, yet if you have cause to travel multiple airline carriers, I suggest that you make your selection based on the stricter 45” allowance. Beware if you are the last boarding group, as the flight crew will have you ‘gate check’ your suitcase once the overhead bin space is filled up. Fortunately, if your suitcase is taken from you at the time of boarding, you are issued a claim check and your baggage is waiting for you in the jet way as you are leaving the plane in most instances. Please keep in mind that international carriers are stricter on size enforcements and you should check with the carrier before you travel!

In addition to your one airline compliant carry-on described above, you are allowed only one personal bag. Chances are you memorize their announcement that your second bag must be small enough to fit under your seat. The most common personal bags that are designed to fit under the airline seat are handbags, travel totes, small duffels, satchels, slim computer & business briefs, or a small backpack. A practical option is packable nylon duffel that zips back into itself in the closed position. This duffel is almost weightless, and easily fits into the front pocket of your wheeled carry-on. Obviously, this duffel is in lieu of your business case, and may be better suited for the vacation traveler. It is ideal to carry a few magazines, travel snacks, a blanket, sweater or pillow. Plan ahead and travel safe!


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