What Is A Checked Bag?

Last Updated on February 13, 2022

Airlines often use words and phrases that we are unfamiliar with, and a lot of people wonder what the phrase checked baggage means.

This post is all about the definition of checked bags, why they have that name, and what types of bags can be used as checked luggage.

What Does Checked Baggage Mean?

At the airport when talking about checked baggage “checked” isn’t being used in the sense of inspected or examined. Although your bag might well be examined by the TSA for security reasons.

And it doesn’t mean a bag that has a checkered or plaid pattern!

The meaning of checked baggage at the airport is that it is luggage that you hand over to the airline for safekeeping at the check in counter.

It means “checked” like what happens at a coat check when you leave your coat or jacket at a checkroom.

But instead, you are handing your checked bags over to the airline. They will transport it to the luggage hold, the ‘trunk’ of the plane. For that reason checked luggage is also sometimes called hold luggage.

You collect checked baggage from the luggage carousel after you have landed at your destination.

Checked luggage is usually compared to carry-on luggage, cabin baggage, or hand luggage that you’ll store in the overhead bin or under the seat in front you of on the plane.

With carry-on on luggage you keep it by your side, with checked luggage you give it to the airline.

Checked suitcases are usually a lot larger than carry-on bags, but they don’t need to be. You can check a small suitcase if you want.

Keep in mind that when you hand over a bag to the airline there is a small chance that it can get lost or sent to the wrong location. There’s also a chance that something might get stolen from your bag. It’s usually better not to pack valuables in hold luggage.

The rules about what you can pack in checked luggage are less strict than carry-on luggage. Many items that are banned from carry-on luggage are permitted in checked bags.

For domestic flights there are often checked baggage fees whereas hand luggage is usually free.

For international flights, or if you have elite status you might be permitted to bring a checked bag for free.

What Is Considered A Checked Bag?

Most airlines will consider any suitcase that is smaller than 62 linear inches to be a checked bag.

Linear inches means you add the three dimensions together. To measure luggage sum the height, width, and depth, or your suitcase. If the three dimensions added together are less than 62 inches your airline will accept it as your checked bag.

Your checked bag doesn’t even need to be a suitcase. It can be a backpack or any style of bag so long as it is under the airline size and weight limits.

Does The TSA Check Checked Bags?

Yes, the TSA will screen and examine checked luggage. They also frequently open up bags and take a look inside, it’s just not the reason that they are called “checked”.

The Bottom Line

A checked bag is just the name for a bag that you hand over to be stored in the plane’s cargo hold area.

Strangely it all goes back to the game of chess because the word “check” comes from chess.

Whether you are talking about checking as in examining something, a checked shirt (like the chess board), or to check a suitcase at a check in counter it’s all about control.

In the game of chess you control the game by “checking” your opponent until you can finally say “checkmate!” and win the game.

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