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21x14x9 Suitcases That Aren’t

Hello Travel Hive Mind! I could use your advice/suggestions. I need to purchase a hard side 21x14x9 carry on for an overseas trip…flying Delta. I’ve found lots of “The Best Of…” articles talking about favorite 21” carry on suitcases. When you actually look into the specific cases, they are all bigger than 21x14x9! Most are listed as 22x14.5x10 or something like that. If the airline is being really strict, I don’t want to have my bag taken and checked. It’s been a while since I’ve flown overseas. Do I have any wiggle room? Anyone have a suitcase that they like that truly fits the dimension? TIA!

Posted by
7060 posts

Unfortunately with a hard side suitcase there isn't much wiggle room. If you're asked to put it in a 21x14x9 sizer and it doesn't fit, you're OOL and will be asked to gate check it. With a soft sided bag you might be able to 'squish' it to fit in that sizer so it does give you a bit of wiggle room. I don't know for certain that Delta always uses the sizer box but they might.

Airlines are getting pickier and pickier about carry ons lately so to be absolutely sure you're ok with a hard sided bag you need to get one that actually fits within those dimensions.

I don't have any specific suggestions for brands or styles because I always use soft sided bags for carry ons.

Posted by
44 posts

That’s what I’m afraid of, Nancy! I knew the airlines are more picky that they used to be. Hoping I can find that perfect case!

Posted by
8586 posts

Heather you might take a look at Consumer Reports who I think did a report on carryons a while ago. And I believe they actually reported the true handle+wheels dimensions.

Are all your flights on actual Delta equipment, or are there some code-shares flights?

Posted by
44 posts

Thanks, Stan! I didn’t even think of Consumer Reports even though I use them for a lot of things. Our flights are actually on Delta, not a partner.

Posted by
2853 posts

Rick Steves luggage is true to size, 21x14x9 including wheels. Have you looked at the Ravenna carry-on? The description says it has a soft top and is expandable but the sides and back are hard. I don’t have the Ravenna but my rolling carry-on is true to size unless I overpack. I had no problems carrying it on Delta and United.

https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/ravenna-hard-case-luggage

Posted by
302 posts

21.7" x 14.4" x 9" is the size shown on the Away website for their hardshell smallest carryon, which includes its wheels.
I have one of their originals and it's typically at the top of the "Top 10" lists. Expensive!! But mine still looks new.
I was surprised it actually fit in the carryon sizer for Iceland Air, although I still checked it.
I don't think you're worried about weight although for international carryon that can be an issue. Mine is almost 5 lbs before packing and the new version is 6! That said, it's super lightweight and I love it.

Posted by
7389 posts

I just checked the Delta site, and here’s the size it’s listing as the carry on maximum:

Individual length, width and height measurements may not exceed 22” x 14” x 9” (56 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm) respectively.

The 22” may give you some additional options.

(I’ve done a soft-sided 2-wheel bag in the past and now do a backpack, instead, so I can’t help you with any specific recommendations.)

Posted by
15532 posts

Since you are on Delta, you are allowed 22 x 14 x 9. (The 21 x 14 x 9 dimensions claimed by Rick Steves are the size of his bags and he's trying to sell them.)

The previously mentioned Away smaller carry on fits your requirements.

Also look Samsonite and Travelpro. They have bags that might interest you.

Any reason why you insist on a hard shell?

Posted by
14157 posts

I went through this last year. I found that it was often better to look at the metric measurements instead of the inches. (And I don’t think in metric!!)

BTW if you have a nonstop to your destination on Delta their measurements work fine. If you connect to one of their European partners you should buy based on the partner’s size/weight requirements.

Posted by
904 posts

I am curious about others’ experiences with bags forced into gate check even though size/weight compliant.

I have gone to paying for early boarding on domestic flights if I am not in a fare class or status level that automatically receives it. Too many traveling with large carry-ons these days leaving last boarders with full overheads.

Internationally, I was quite surprised that ANA staff was roaming the gate area and tagging compliant 21” bags for gate check before my flight. Tagging all bags, no matter fare class of passengers. I’m returning to Tokyo this month. I would love to pack my 21 “, but may stick with the 20” that missed their scrutiny last trip.

Posted by
8586 posts

ORDTraveler, yes this is a big source of frustration. When people ask about meeting the allowed dimensions, I'm always thinking that that doesn't mean you'll actually have a space to put it in. I'm now much more inclined to check a bag and board with only a personal item, if they don't have an early boarding option. Lots of people seem to be showing up with oversized bags expecting them to be gate-checked for free, rather than pay the checking fee. One of those "hacks" Im sure social media is spreading.

On recent domestic trip on Delta, they offered to let anyone willing to gate check their carryon, board early. I thought that was a fair offer. Some people got their bag tagged for it and then took it on board anyway.

I used to fly American to ORD monthly on regional jets. They would announce that due to small overhead bins, carryons that didnt fit underseat would be gate-checked to your *final** destination*. The gate agent confirmed that that would apply to overseas travelers. Since then, I try and avoid connecting flights that use regional jets because of the bin space issue.

Posted by
2853 posts

I too pay for priority boarding so I have room for my carryon in the overhead. Because I fly Economy and pay for seat upgrades, I would be in United’s group 5 to board. Priority moves me up to group 2.
I always stress packing my suitcase small enough to be compliant. And I’m always surprised how much smaller my carryon is than many passengers’.

Posted by
2140 posts

horsewoofie--That is me to a "T" as well. I also have the RS regular rolling bag and find it to be true to size. It even actually fits in the Icelandair sizer, which really surprised me since their size allowance is smaller than most.

Posted by
904 posts

Thanks horsewoofie, mikliz97, and Stan. It really is a frustration to those of us that follow the rules.

Stan - how disgusting that some would take advantage of early boarding without gatechecking as agreed to! I would have written the airlines or included that observation in the ubiquitous "How did we do" surveys that my carriers send after every flight. I am lucky that I don't have to contend with domestic connections for any of the overseas travel I've done. I do have a US relative accessible only by a small plane with those tiny overheads. I now fly to a larger airport and rent a car to get to the destination.

Posted by
2764 posts

Well, if you’re flying Delta, it won’t matter. I fly Delta routinely I don’t think I’ve ever seen them check luggage size anywhere. Now thet might matter coming home because it’s often a contract crew doing the work, but going to Europe if you can figure out a way to get it in the overhead Delta will let you bring it on. I know one of my carry-ons is entirely too big. I’ve never even gotten a raised eyebrow. And now I would say it’s probably only a couple of inches too big it’s not like I’m trying to bring on a 25 inch bag (but I’ve seen that ) I did quit using it va- not because it was too big just because I bought a Briggs and Riley that I like a lot better

The problem is your fellow travelers also have oversized bags or multiple bags so if you’re boarding late you can discover your carry-on has to be checked.

Some Delta agents are very good about limiting customers to two bags and some just don’t even look as they carry on everything they can strap to their body. I got on a plane last week behind a man who literally had five carry-on bags. Agent didn’t say a thing.