Airline Luggage Restrictions

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Airline luggage restrictions vary by airline and change frequently. You should always check with the airline before departure to find the current policies for baggage.

General Airline Luggage Restrictions

Airlines, both domestic and foreign, set their own restrictions for the amount, size and weight of baggage. To further complicate matters, these restrictions may vary based on:

  • Class of travel, such as first class or coach
  • Special airline memberships, such as frequent flyer clubs
  • Individual needs, including wheelchairs and infant car seats
  • Final destinations, such as the Middle East or South America, where the fees may be waived

In general, travelers are allowed at least one bag and one personal item, such as a purse, to bring as carry-on baggage. In addition, most airlines allow passengers at least one checked bag, although a fee may apply for this service.

Airline Luggage Weight Limits

Recent trends in airline travel have down-sized the allowable weight of bags an air traveler may check at the counter. Previously, passengers were allowed to check bags weighing up to 70 pounds. However, now the general weight limit is between 44 and 50 pounds. If you consider that an empty suitcase can weigh up to 20 pounds, this reduction leaves little room for the contents of the bag. If you must take a heavier bag, the airline will charge an overage fee.

The size for checked baggage also varies greatly. In general, the common allowable size for checked baggage is 27 inches by 21 inches by 14 inches or smaller. Oversized items are subject to an additional fee.

Airline Luggage Fees

Just as the weight and size restrictions vary, so do the fees for checked baggage. Some air carriers, like Southwest Airlines, allow two checked bags per passenger for free. JetBlue Airways allows one free bag per passenger. Most airlines, however, charge between $15 and $35 for the first checked bag and $25 to $55 for the second bag. Additional bags may cost as much as $100 each.Some airlines offer a discount on the fee if passengers pays the fee online, rather than at the airport. This discount can be as much as 25 percent off.

Carry-on Baggage Restrictions

The Federal Aviation Administration limits carry-on luggage to one bag and one personal item, such as a purse or laptop bag, on all domestic United States flights. The airline luggage restrictions on the size and weight of carry-on bags varies, depending on the size of the plane and airline policy. In general, the bag must be able to fit under the seat or in an overhead compartment. Weight restrictions vary from 11 pounds to 45 pounds, with 40 pounds being the most common.

In addition to the carry-on luggage requirements, many airlines allow passengers to carry on:

  • A coat
  • A small bag of food
  • Reading material
  • Diaper bag and approved safety seat for a ticketed or lap child
  • Assistive devices, such as a walker or cane
  • A pillow or blanket

Prohibited Items

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a long list of items prohibited from checked and carry-on luggage. Some items, like baseball bats, are permitted in checked baggage, but cannot be carried on an aircraft. Others, like fireworks, are prohibited for both types of luggage.

Liquids are also restricted in carry-on baggage. Passengers are allowed to carry-on liquids in bottles containing no more than 3.4 ounces. These bottles must be placed in a quart sized plastic zip-top clear plastic bag. Each passenger is allowed only one zip-top bag. The bag should be presented during the airport screening process in order to be x-rayed separately. Some items, such as medications and infant formula or milk, are exempt from the liquid rule, but should be declared during the screening process.

Alternatives

If you have a lot of luggage, but don't want to pay the airlines baggage fees you have other options. You can ship your items ahead of time with either an air cargo service or a ground transportation service, such as FedEx or UPS. In some cases the cost may be significantly cheaper than the airline luggage fees. However, if you are shipping in advance, it's a good idea to check with your hotel about their requirements for holding your items until you arrive.

Airline Luggage Restrictions