A lot of travelers mistakenly believe that there is a standardized carry-on luggage size limit for domestic flights in the United States.
It’s easy to see why people think that because it would make a whole lot of sense!
In fact, there isn’t a standard US carry-on luggage size.
Instead, each individual airline sets the legal size for carry-on luggage on their flights. There is no regulation size limit.
There are also two types of hand luggage. The personal item and the carry-on bag. Most full-service airlines allow you to bring a personal item and a carry-on.
Low-cost airlines increasingly only allow you to bring a personal item and ask for a fee to bring a carry-on.
The personal item is a bag that should be stored under the seat. It’s smaller than carry-on size. Again, the different airlines set their own size limits for personal items and there is no standard size common across the industry.
22 x 14 x 9 Inches – The Defacto Standard Carry-On Luggage Size
Although carry-on size limits are not regulated by any industry-wide body something of a “standard” size has emerged for carry-on luggage in the United States.
Most airlines in the United States have adopted a 22 x 14 x 9 inches size limit for their carry-on bags. It’s become almost like a standard carry-on size though it isn’t official.
- Alaska Airlines – Alaska reduced the size of their carry-on limit to bring it into line with the industry “standard” of 22 x 14 x 9 inches
- Allegiant Airlines – When you fly with Allegiant you are not permitted to bring a carry-on bag unless you pay the fee. If you do buy a carry-on bag it can be 22 x 14 x 9.
- American Airlines – AA also uses 22 x 14 x 9 inches as their limit.
- Delta Airlines – Delta also uses a 22 x 14 x 9 inches limit. However, they also allow you to measure using the linear inches method where the three dimensions of your luggage must not exceed 45 inches combined. So you could have a 23-inch carry-on with Delta if you lose an inch from either the width or depth.
- Frontier Airlines – Frontier doesn’t allow you to bring a “standard” carry-on unless you pay an extra fee. Their personal item size limit is 18 x 14 x 8 inches. If you pay for a carry-on it’s 24 x 16 x 10 inches which is larger than the typical carry-on luggage size.
- Hawaiian Airlines – Like Delta Hawaiian allow two ways to measure your carry-on bag. It can be 22 x 14 x 9 or 45 linear inches.
- JetBlue Airways – JetBlue has adopted the 22 x 14 x 9 size limit.
- Southwest Airlines – Southwest continues to buck the trend and permits a larger than average carry-on bag. Their limit is 24 x 16 x 10 inches. However, there will be little sense to buy a bag this large unless you exclusively fly with Southwest.
- Spirit Airlines – Spirit is another low-cost carrier that doesn’t allow you to bring a standard-size carry-on bag. Their free personal item can be 18 x 14 x 8 inches. If you are willing to pay extra you can also bring a 22 x 18 x 10 inches carry-on bag.
- United Airlines – Carry-on bags on United can be 22 x 14 x 9 inches. However, if you are flying on a basic economy fare you are not allowed to bring a carry-on at all and must make do with the personal item.
Remember, when you measure luggage you should include the wheels and handles.
If you typically fly on domestic flights in the United States then you should probably buy a bag that is around 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
The approved carry-on luggage size very much depends on which airline you are flying with. It’s really a case of checking with your airline what is acceptable.
Even when flying with the same airline you can have different hand luggage allowances depending on your fare class. Yeah I’m looking at you United Airlines.
International carry-on sizes are different and they also often have weight limits. If you only want to own 1 carry-on bag that will work with a lot of airlines around the world then I recommend looking at bags that are 21 x 14 x 8 inches.
A bag this size will get you a long way even if traveling internationally. However it won’t help with those airlines that don’t include a free carry-on bag.