Why 24 inch Carry On Luggage Is A Really Bad Idea For Most Travelers

Last Updated on September 22, 2021

Thinking of buying a 24 inch suitcase that you’ll use as a carry on?

Woah! Slow down buddy… you might be making a mistake.

I’m going to show you why for most people 24 inch carry on luggage doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Let’s jump in.

A 24 Inch Suitcase Is Usually Considered To Be Small Checked Baggage

When you look at standard luggage sizes 24-inches usually thought of as check-in luggage.

It’s not an exact science, there are only 2 airlines worldwide that permit a 24 inch suitcase as a carry on.

That’s Southwest and Cayman Airways. Feel free to check our database of international carry on sizes to confirm for yourself.

Even when a bag is described as a carry-on by the seller it doesn’t mean it’s really a carry on.

Consider this example of a 24 inch bag and it’s dimensions:

It’s outer dimensions are 24 x 16.7 x 9.8 inches. It’s an AmazonBasics and they are calling it carry-on luggage but it’s even too wide for Southwest and Cayman.

So there is currently no airline in the world where that 24-inch bag is under the carry on size limit.

And this TRAVELKING suitcase is an even worse offender:

The description calls it a carry-on…

But with 18″ x 9.8″ x 25.4″ exterior dimensions it doesn’t qualify as carry-on luggage for any airline on the planet.

Not everyone is guilty. Check this 24-inch Samsonite Spinner:

That’s better. It’s 24” X 17.5” X 11.5” and this time they correctly advertised it as a checked bag!

Airlines count the wheels and they count protruding handles. So if you have a 22-inch spinner carry on and the wheels make it 24 inches then it’s oversize.

You need to do your own research.

24 x 16 x 10 Carry On Bags For Southwest

But what about Southwest I hear you say…

Yes, a southwest maximum size carry-on is 24 x 16 x 10 inches. That’s a whopper of a carry-on. It has an estimated luggage capacity of around 57 liters.

Maybe you’ve checked the southwest website.. you’ve seen they allow 24-inch carry on bags and you’re in the market to buy yourself a big fat carry on.

Hold on…

You’ll only be able to use your 24 inch bag as a carry on with Southwest or Cayman.

What if your southwest flight got cancelled and you had to find an alternative airline?

A more common carry on size for US airlines is 22 x 14 x 9. You could use this bag with Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, United, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue. It’s almost becoming an industry standard. You can use it on Southwest too of course, and on Frontier and Spirit if you pay the carry-on fee.

This more conventional 22-inch “standard” carry on size has an estimated capacity of 40 liters.

The big southwest bag was 57 liters. Suppose you are a heavy packer that wants to bring a lot of baggage… You want that extra 17 liters right? I know you do…

But even in these circumstances when you are flying Southwest and want to take more than 40 liters you don’t need to buy a jumbo 24-inch carry-on.

There is an even better way to bring more stuff as cabin luggage.

How To Beat Carry On Size Capacity Restrictions

If you want to fly carry on but want to take as much stuff as possible the solution is almost always to make full use of your personal item allowance.

Most airlines allow you to bring 2 bags into the cabin. The carry on and the personal item.

Many just assume that the personal item is a small handbag or similar small bag and disregard it as a place to pack clothes.

Here is the trick, the Southwest personal item can be 18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches. That gives you an extra 31 liters if you bring two bags.

A standard size carry-on plus a personal item can hold more than a jumbo carry-on that only works with Southwest.

Pilots and Air Stewards know this is the best way to bring a lot of stuff. That’s why you’ll see them in the airport with 2 bags:

So the combined capacity of a regular 22 x 14 x 9 carry on and a Southwest personal item would be 71 liters.

The smart option is to own 2 bags. One bag that is under 22 x 14 x 9 and compliant with most of the US airlines.

The second large personal item bag can be used to either increase capacity if you are going for a long trip or it can be used as a carry on for budget airlines like Spirit or Frontier if you are going for a weekend break.

The Verdict

A 24 inch carry on makes virtually no sense unless you fly with Southwest exclusively or want to start owning multiple carry-on bags for different airlines.

And yes maybe you’ll get away with it. If you are a maverick that likes to push the rules then by all means fly with your 24-inch carry-on. Just don’t come crying to me if you are forced to check it and pay fees.

For most people, it’s a better option to own a 22-inch carry-on and boost packing capacity by using the personal item allowance if need be.

If you struggle to pack everything you need in a carry-on suitcase then help is at hand, check out our 101 packing light tips and you’ll be able to buy luggage comfortably under the size limits.

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