PREPARING BAGGAGE FOR FLIGHT

  • Security regulations now require that each checked bag must have external identification with the ticketed passenger's name for cross-checking against the passenger manifest. It is also a good idea for each bag to have identification on the inside, as well, in case the external identification is lost or torn off during handling/transit.

  • Remove any airline destination tags from previous trips. They only risk confusing baggage handlers and possibly causing your bags to be loaded onto the wrong plane. At check-in, make sure each of your bags is correctly tagged with new destination tags, and verify that the baggage tag receipts are inside your ticket envelope before leaving the counter.

  • Itemize the contents (and their value) of your baggage, especially if you are packing anything of significant value. This documentation will greatly assist you if the need to file a claim for lost or damaged luggage should arise. Don't forget to include the bags themselves.

  • After packing your bags, weigh each of the bags. Checked baggage fees vary by airline, but there is usually an extra fee for "overweight" bags. Airlines description of overweight bags can vary, so check with your airline. If you have to, redistribute the contents among your bags either to avoid overweight bags, or to limit it to one overweight bag to save as much as you can on baggage fees.

  • When packing your carry-on bags, keep in mind the limits on the amount of liquids you can carry onto the airplane. If you have any questions about the TSA regulations for carrying on liquids, we review them here.

BAGGAGE FEES

  • Check the web site(s) of the airline, or airlines, on which you are traveling, to verify whether or not they charge any fees for checked or carry-on bags. Yes, some airlines have started experimenting with a charge for carry-on bags. Multiple checked bags, a possible fee if your bag is "overweight", a fee for your carry-on bag and airline baggage fees can add up quickly. Don't forget, baggage fees are usually charged each way. You will incur the fees again on your return home, and they may be higher if you have purchased lots of souvenirs while traveling.

  • Keep all of these baggage fees in mind when booking your trip. Some airlines advertise lower air fares to win the air fare competition, but make up for it with their baggage fees. Baggage fees can vary depending on the type of air fare you purchase, first class versus economy. Also, there may be a discount on baggage fees if paid when you book your air fare, or prior to arriving at the airport for check-in.

  • Weigh your packed bags and re-distribute contents to prevent incurring overweight baggage fees. For longer vacations for which you may want to bring lots of gear, clothing, etc., seriously consider shipping your bags ahead of time using your favorite package delivery service. It could save you lots of money and make your trips through the airport and security much more pleasurable.

CARRY-ON BAGGAGE

Make sure you check your airline's carry-on dimensions

Make sure you check your airline's carry-on dimensions

  • In general, carry-on baggage must fit under your airline seat or in the overhead compartments. Keeping your carry-on bag measurements within the total dimensions of 9"x14"x22" should allow it to fit in either of those places on most commercial planes. (Many airlines are starting to utilize "sizing windows" on the security screening machines to control the size of carry-on bags.) It is also a good idea to keep the combined weight of all carry-on items to under 40 pounds to avoid possibly having to check any of them.

  • The type and number of bags allowed as carry-on varies by airline. (See chart below.) Plan for carry-on of no more than one bag along with a personal bag (your purse, briefcase or small daypack) and you will usually be okay. Most airlines also retain the right to limit carry-on baggage even further if a flight is unusually crowded. Airlines do determine their own rules for acceptable carry-on baggage size and they can change at any time, so if you are planning to carry-on something unusual, it is always a good idea to check ahead of time with the airline on which you are flying.

  • Finally, recently a few airlines (Spirit Airlines, for example) have announced charges for carry-on bags. We recommend that you check the web site(s) of the airline, or airlines, on which you are traveling, to verify whether or not they charge any fees for carry-on bags. If so, there may be a discount for paying baggage fees prior to getting to the airport.

AIRLINEMAXIMUM NUMBER OF CARRY-ONSBAG SIZECOMBINED WEIGHT OF BAGSADDITIONAL NOTES
Alaska Airlines1 + personal item10" H x 17" W x 24" L (25 x 43 x 61 cm)unspecifiedOne item must fit under seat in front of you
American Airlines1 + personal item45 in/115 cm (carry-on) No larger than 22 in/56 cm long, 14 in/36 cm wide, and 9 in/23 cm high; Personal item: 36 in/91 cm (total dimensions)UnspecifiedMust fit under seat or overhead bin
Delta Airlines1 + personal itemmay not exceed 45 linear inches (or 114 cm) in combined length, width and height, including any handles and wheelsunspecifiedBaggage must fit easily in the Carry-on Baggage Check (approximately 22" x 14" x 9" or 56 x 35 x 23 cm)
Frontier Airlines1 + personal itemCarry-on:10" height x 16" width x 24" length; Personal Item:18" x 14" x 8" 35 poundsMust fit under seat or overhead bin
Southwest Airlines1 + personal item10 x 16 x 24 inchesunspecifiedMust fit under seat or overhead bin
United Airlines1 + personal itemCarry-on bag: 9 x 14 x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm); Personal Item: 9 x 10 x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm)unspecifiedMust fit under seat or overhead bin
US Airways1 + personal item45 in/115 cm (14 x 9 x 22 in or 36 x 23 x 56 cm)40 poundsMust fit under seat or in the overhead bin
British Airways1 + personal itemCarry-on: 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in); Personal item: 45cm x 36cm 20cm (18in x 14in x8in)52 poundsCarry-on must fit in the luggage gauge at the gate and personal item must fit under the seat. You must be able to lift your bags into the overhead bin
IcelandairEconomy: 1 + personal item; Saga Class 2 + personal item55x40x20 cm22 pounds per bagMust fit under seat or in the overhead bin
LufthansaCoach: 1 item, First and Business Classes 1 + personal item55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm8 kilogramsRules may vary by country
Quantas AirlinesFirst/Business/Premium Economy: 2 ; Economy: 11 x 115cm (45in15 PoundsGarment bags may be taken in place of a carry-on item. Must fit under seat or in the overhead bin

Created with the HTML Table Generator

CHECKED BAGGAGE

Currently, most U.S. domestic airlines allow each ticketed passenger to check two bags.  Each piece of checked baggage must have the name of the ticketed passenger secured to the outside.  Each bag should generally not exceed a linear dimension (length + width + height) of 62 inches.  Also, each bag should have a maximum weight of 70 pounds, or 31.8 kilograms.  (Most airlines have lowered this maximum weight to 50 pounds.)  Any allowed additional pieces of checked baggage often have smaller size and/or weight restrictions.

Most airlines are now charging baggage fees for checked bags.  The fee amount depends on the type of air fare you purchased (e.g. economy versus first class) along with the number and size of your bags.

Airlines generally allow oversized or overweight baggage, and extra baggage, for an additional cost.  These allowances and additional costs vary with the airline, the type of plane and the situation.  Any bags or items that weigh over 100 pounds (63.6 kilograms) or that measure more than 62 linear inches (157 cm.) will probably have to be shipped via air cargo or package delivery service.  It is always a good idea to check ahead of time with the airline on which you are flying, if you are planning on taking oversized or extra baggage.

Keep in mind that if you are flying on smaller planes within a foreign country as part of your trip, baggage size and weight limits are often much lower.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

International flights generally have the same size and weight allowances for baggage, but reduce the number of pieces that can be checked.  Baggage allowances may also differ depending on the destination country for the flight.

DAMAGED BAGGAGE

Airlines have become stricter about enforcing the policies regarding the types of baggage damage for which they are responsible.  Baggage damage the airlines will not usually cover include: normal wear and tear, minor cuts, scratches, dents, or soiling, loss or damage to parts protruding from the bag (e.g. wheels, feet, pull-handles, straps, flaps, etc.), damage resulting from over-sized or over-packed bags, and damage resulting from manufacturers defects.

Most airlines will not accept baggage damage claims unless they are made within a reasonable time frame, usually within 24-48 hours of your flight.  It's best to check over your baggage upon pickup and file any claim with the airline immediately with regard to any damage that you discover.

Airlines have improved baggage handling over the past several years and the majority of damage now occurs with poorly manufactured bags that literally break, tear and fall apart through normal usage and handling.

AIRLINE BAGGAGE LIABILITIES

There are some general baggage liability guidelines that most airline carriers abide by:

  •   On domestic U.S. flights, liability for loss, delay, and damage to baggage is limited to $1250.00 per passenger.

  •  On international flights, liability for loss, delay, and damage to baggage is limited to       $9.07 per pound ($20 per kilo) or a maximum of $634.90 perpiece of checked luggage.

  •   Liability for unchecked baggage is limited to $400.00.


As a reminder, almost every airline specifically states that they cannot be responsible for any valuable items (e.g. jewelry, cash, computers, electronic equipment, camera equipment, etc.) in checked or carry-on baggage.  Federal rules limit passengers' claims to a maximum of $2500.00 for permanently lost baggage.  So, baggage insurance should be seriously considered if you are traveling with baggage contents of any significant value.