Carry-on luggage can be a huge relief in many ways when you’re traveling.
It’s one less thing to worry about, and it means you don’t have to check any bags that might get lost or damaged.
But before you start packing your carry-on, you need to know:
- the carry-on luggage rules of the airline you are flying with for what is and isn’t allowed as carry-on luggage; and
- the carry-on luggage rules of the airport you are flying from for what you can and cannot pack into your carry-on bag.
In this post, I will outline the carry-on luggage rules and regulations for major US airlines so that you know exactly what to expect before you fly.
And I will cover the sorts of things that the Transportation Security Administration TSA allows (and forbids) passengers to pack in their carry-on.
(The TSA is the US government agency that is responsible for screening passengers and their luggage for safety and security reasons at nearly 440 US airports.)
So, whether you’re packing for a business trip or a vacation getaway, or if you are making a domestic or international flight, read on for everything you need to know about packing your carry-on!
Carry-on luggage rules – key terms you need to know
- What is carry-on luggage?
- What is carry-on luggage rules?
- What size is carry-on luggage?
- How is carry-on luggage measured?
- What is the weight limitation for carry-on rules?
- What type of carry-on luggage is best?
Rule 1: Major US Airlines rules
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Rule 2: TSA Carry-on luggage rules
Table of Contents
Carry-on luggage rules - key terms you need to know
There are so many US airlines if you consider domestics and international carriers. However, in this review, we are going to cover the luggage rules of the 11 major ones.
But before we do that, there are some important carry-on luggage terminologies and details you should know about first.
So let’s get right to it.
Carry-on luggage is any piece of luggage that you can take along with you into the plane cabin, meaning that such a bag fits into the overhead bin and/or under the seat in front of you.
You should know that along with a carry-on, most airlines allow you to board for free with one personal item. Although some airlines will charge for one of the above.
A personal item could be a purse, laptop bag, backpack, tote, or any other small bag.
However, for a bag to qualify as a personal item, it must fit under the seat in front of you easily, so be sure it’s small enough for this occasion. Usually a personal item bag should not exceed 16 x 12 x 6 inches in dimension as this is the most common under-seat bag restriction size for most airlines.
Carry-on luggage rules of airlines are essentially the required size, number (and sometimes weight) of the carry-on and personal items that passengers can take onto the plane.
If your carry-on luggage does not conform to the required specifications, there is a risk that you will have to check it in the plane haul for a fee.
To avoid any surprises at the airport, you can make a selection from these well rated carry-on luggage in 2022.
Even though each airline has its own size restrictions, the most common dimension of a carry-on bag is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Keep in mind that this includes the handles and wheels, and not just the measurement of the case itself.
As mentioned earlier – in addition to the carry-on luggage – many airlines allow passengers to board the plane with a personal item or an under-seat bag. The most common dimension of a personal item is 16 x 12 x 6 inches.
However, remember that every airline has its own carry-on luggage size restrictions, and it is always good to check their website if in doubt.
The dimension of carry-on luggage is the measurement of the height X width X depth of the suitcase. To get the right measurement, it’s very important that the wheels, handles or any other protruding part of the suitcase be factored in as well.
So how do you measure?
Once your bag is packed, simply take a tape measure and keep your luggage upright. Then measure the height (from top to bottom), width (left to right) and depth (front to back).
And voila, you have your measurement!
What should you know about the weight limit for carry-on luggage?
Airlines differ in their policies on this topic, but usually there is no specific restriction, unless the company has a specific policy regarding bags.
However, you should be able to lift your carry-on above your head into the storage bin and if an airline lists a specific pound or kilogram maximum online then you may assume that they’ll check over bags once at ticket counter since safety regulations require them to.
For smaller commuter planes such as Southwest where packed sizes are important due to limited space inside the aircraft – remember these tips:
1) Pack light; and 2) don’t overload yours with heavy items.
What type of carry-on luggage is best?
Which carry-on luggage is the best?
For me, the Away The Carry On is the best carry-on luggage in 2022.
I’ve heard nothing but great things about this travel brand over the years. The Carry On case from Away:
- is relatively lightweight and fits most airline compartment so you shouldn’t worry too much about meeting airline requirements;
- is fitted with four spinner wheels that makes gliding through the airport an absolute breeze;
- is made of high-quality, durable materials, which makes the suitcases almost entirely scratch-proof and dent-resistant so you don’t have to worry about it being damaged; and
- has other benefits which I have discussed in my article on the best carry-on luggage in 2022. What’s more , if you are not a fan of Away luggage, there are a number of other good options in the article for you to consider in finding your next travel companion!
Major US airlines carry-on luggage rules
This section details the carry-on size requirement for major airlines.
The requirement usually include carry-on size limit (which includes wheels and handles), weight limits as well as the personal items specs.
The bags in my review of the best carry-on luggage in 2022 meet the size requirement of most US airlines but always check your airline’s website if in doubt.
The Alaska Airlines flight allows you bring a carry-on and a personal item for free.
- Carry-on luggage size: 22” x 14” x 9”/ 45 linear inches (including wheels and handles)
- Carry-on luggage weight maximum: not specified
- Personal item: one personal item such as a purse, briefcase, or laptop bag
Note: You can find more information on the fees, restricted items and other requirements on the Alaska Airlines website.
Allegiant Air allows passengers one free personal item, while fee applies for the carry-on luggage.
- Carry-on size: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55.9 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm); fee applies
- Carry-on weight maximum: not specified
- Personal item: 15 x 16 x 7 inches (40.6 x 38.1 x 17.8 cm). One personal item such as a purse, briefcase, or laptop bag.
Note: You can access more information about their carry-on luggage rules on the Allegiant Air website.
The American Airlines flight allows passengers take one carry-on as well as one personal item. It’s mandatory that your carry-on must fit in the sizer at the airport, and also fit in the overhead bin or under the seat, otherwise, they may need to be checked.
- Carry-on luggage size: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters). This includes the handles and wheels.
- Carry-on luggage weight maximum: not specified
- Personal item: 18” x 14” x 8”; must fit under the seat in front of you
Note: You can access more information about carry-on luggage rules on the American Airlines website.
Each passenger flying with Delta Airlines can bring one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge.
- Carry-on luggage size: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm)
- Carry-on luggage weight maximum: not specified
- Personal item: one purse, briefcase, camera bag, or diaper bag.
Note: You can learn more details on carry-on luggage rules as well as the exceptions for specific locations on the Delta Airlines website.
The Frontier Airlines flight allows passengers take one carry-on as well as one personal item. This includes
- Carry-on luggage size: 24 x 16 x 10 inches (including handles, wheels, and straps)
- Carry-on luggage weight maximum: 35 pounds
- Personal item: 8 x 18 x 14 inches
Note: You can get more carry-on luggage rules and relevant information on the Frontier Airlines website.
Each ticketed guest is permitted one carry-on bag and one personal item.
- Carry-on luggage size: 9 x 14 x 22 inches (45 linear inches)
- Carry-on luggage weight maximum: 25 lbs
- Personal item: a laptop bag, briefcase, purse, or backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you.
Note: You can get more insight on carry-on luggage rules on the Hawaiian Airlines website.
Travelers are permitted one carry-on bag and one personal items, except for Blue Basic Fares customers who are only allowed a personal items (purse, small backpack, briefcase, laptop, etc.).
- Carry-on luggage size limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55.88 x 35.56 x 22.86 cm)
- Carry-on luggage weight: Not specified
- Personal item limit: 17 x 13 x 8 inches
Note: You can learn more about their carry-on luggage rules on the JetBlue Airways website.
Customers are limited to one bag plus one smaller, personal-type item on the Southwest Airlines.
- Carry-on luggage size: 24 x 16 x 10 inches or 62 inches
- Carry-on luggage weight: Not specified
- Personal item: a purse, briefcase, camera, food container, or laptop (case included) and must fit under the seat in front of you.
Note: You can learn more about their carry-on luggage rules on the Southwest Airlines website.
Most travelers can bring on board one full-size carry-on bag and one personal item for free. However, there are exceptions.
- Carry-on luggage size: 22 x 14 x 9 inches 62 inches (22 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 56 centimeters).
- Carry-on luggage weight: Not specified
- Personal item: 17 x 10 x 9 inches and must fit in the seat in front of you
Virgin Atlantic allows one carry-on bag and one personal item.
- Carry-on luggage size limit: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (23 x 36 x 56cm).
- Carry-on luggage weight limit: 22lb for Economy and Premium and 35lb for Upper Class.
- Personal item: handbag, small backpack/rucksack, pocketbook or purse
Note: You can learn more on the Virgin Atlantic website.
TSA carry-on luggage rules
Aside from the airlines, airports in form of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have carry-on rules and regulations on what you can and can’t bring on a plane in your carry-on bag.
This includes dangerous and restricted items. Other restrictions may be in place, so contact your airline directly if you have any questions.
Knowing what you can take and what you can’t will save you a lot of grief at the security checkpoints.
Below is a checklist of what is allowed in a carry-on bag.
They are quite detailed. So, I’ll write the major ones. For a compressive detail, you can head out to their website.
It’s a no-brainer but you should always carry your valuables like money, credit cards, jewelry, ID, and important documents in your carry-on. This is to ensure that there is no theft, loss or mishandlings of any kind. You’ll feel more relaxed knowing these things are safe and easily accessible to you.
- Liquids, Gels, and Aerosols
TSA allows travelers to carry nonflammable liquids, gels, and aerosols—including food, drinks, and toiletries— in their carry-on bags when going through security checkpoints.
However, all of these items must be in 3-ounce containers, weighing no more than 3 ounces, in a quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Each traveler must remove their quart-sized, zip-top, clear plastic bag from their carry-on bag and place it in a bin or on the conveyor belt for X-ray screening.
Liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 oz are not allowed in carry-on bags.
There are exceptions to the above procedures for baby formula, breast milk, and other essential liquids, gels, and aerosols, including prescription and over the counter drugs.
TSA rules that laptops, e-readers, cell phones, pagers, batteries, chargers, and personal data assistants are all okay both in checked and carry-on baggage.
But I’d recommend you have them in your carry-on because they are fragile and you wouldn’t want them damaged. Also, The X-ray screening equipment for checked bags will damage undeveloped film in camera equipment, so you should take it in your carry-on bag.
- Small Tools
You may carry-on or check: tools (if seven inches or less in length), screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. Items that you can check but not carry-on include: axes, hatchets, cattle prods, crowbars, hammers, drills, saws, and tools.
Other things you can take
- Matches and lighters
- Knitting needles, disposable and electric razors
- Expensive items
- Wedding dress
- E-liquids, electronic cigarettes, and vaping devices (but you can’t use them on the plane)
- Small pets
TSA also has a list of items that you are not allowed to pack in your carry-on luggage.
Knowing what these items are would help you make a decision on whether you leave them behind, look for alternatives to these items if they are very important or just have them in your checked luggage.
- Sharp Objects
Do not carry box cutters, ice axes, knives, meat cleavers, razor blades, sabers, scissors, or swords. Most airlines don’t allow sharp objects or anything that could be used as a potential weapon. At the very least these items will be confiscated, and you may find yourself being questioned in a back room at the airport instead of boarding your flight.
- Sporting Goods and athletic equipment.
Baseball bats, bows and arrows, cricket bats, golf clubs, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, pool cues, ski poles, and spear guns are all prohibited on-board.
- Guns and Firearms
Each individual airline has their own policy on weapons, so it is a very good idea to call the airline before your trip.
The only items that cannot be carried on or checked are: flares, gun powder, and percussion caps. The items that you may check but not carry-on include: ammunition, BB guns, compressed air paintball guns, firearms, gun lighters, pellet guns, replicas of firearms, and starter pistols.
- Martial Arts and Self Defense Items
You may check but not carry-on the following items: billy clubs, black jacks, brass knuckles, kubatons, night sticks, nunchakus, stun guns, and throwing stars.
- Explosive Materials
You may not check or carry-on the following items: blasting caps, dynamite, fireworks, flares, hand grenades, plastic explosives, and plastic replicas of explosives.
You may not check or carry-on the following items: chlorine, gas cartridges, fire extinguishers, bleach, spray paint, tear gas or other potentially dangerous chemicals.
You can head to the TSA website for a more conclusive list.
Can a 24inch luggage be a carry-on?
The size allowed for a carry-on bag can vary based on the airline.
This is because most airlines only rent out small overhead bins for your personal items or have strict limitations on what you are allowed to take with you in terms of weight limit.
So always confirm by yourself because even when a bag is described as a ‘carry-on’ by the seller, it doesn’t mean it’s really a carry-on.
What carry-on size is best for international travel?
If you’re flying domestically in America, 22″ by 14″ by 9″ (22 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 56 centimeters) is what I recommend as your limit- if not smaller!
Mind, this includes handles and wheels as well.
If you’re often flying internationally, opt for a 21-inch sized suitcase instead of the standard 22 x 14 dimensions required of US-based airlines’ passengers.
This will help ensure that there are no issues when boarding because international carry-on luggage rules have stricter rules about what can be carried on board and still fit within their size requirements!
What is not allowed in a carry-on bag?
In this article on carry-on luggage rules, I have itemized items you are not allowed in a carry-on bag.
Still, I’d advise you always check the website of the particular airline you’ll be traveling with and always make your findings with the airport, to be very sure.
By informing yourself of what is allowed (not to mention what is courteous to other travelers) you can avoid a lot of headache at the airport and on the plane.
Liquid rules by TSA
What Can I Bring by TSA
Carry-on baggage by United.com
Although these carry-on luggage rules can often seem like a pain, the restrictions and regulations are in place to protect travelers.
It’s important that carry-on luggage rules be followed.
All airlines will provide, upon request, their carry-on luggage size rules and restrictions. In fact, most have them listed prominently on their websites. The best way to avoid any troubles with your luggage at the airport is to be informed of the carry-on luggage rules well in advance to your trip.
Another way is by traveling with only well rated carry-on luggage that are durable, comfortable and most importantly, within the size limits.
By simply taking a few steps to stay informed about current carry-on luggage rules, you can ensure that your journey is safer, easier, and quicker.
Also, this list is by no means conclusive, so I’m open to hearing your recommendations, questions, or experiences with carry-on luggage rules.
Let’s chat in the comments!
This article is not sponsored in any way by any company. Any recommended products have been independently selected by myself and my team. And the only thing I receive is a small commission from our affiliate program if you buy any of them through the links and buttons on this page. It doesn’t cost you a penny. But it really helps me out as this money goes to paying for maintaining the website, editing software, my time, team and everything else that goes into preparing this post.