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Airline strictness on carry-on size

I am excited to be taking my first RS tour in June - Best of Eastern Europe. My question is how strict are the airlines on carry on size? I will be going over on Delta & back on Hop! & Air France. I have always traveled with just a carry-on in US, but larger than the international requirements. Will I have an issue if I have a 23x15x10 bag, you think? (never had issues with that size in US) Or do I need to comply and buy a 21x14x9?

Thank you for any insights you might have!

Posted by
5849 posts

In general, Us airlines (except the few budget ones) care little, European main carriers at least tries to enforce, even are somewhat strict, European budget airlines are strict and nearly always check. Hop being an Air France affiliate is probably closer to Air France in strictness than say RyanAir.

My recommendation though is to not worry about it, Take your carry-on as you would in the US, Delta will allow it. On the way back, just check your bag. It will be nice to not have it, put your valuables and a few essentials in a day bag. Even worse case, if your bag is delayed, you will be at home waiting for it.

Posted by
175 posts

Our family of three had our 21x14x9 bags gate checked by Air France. We've been to Europe 6 times since then and now check the same bags. I'm not sure of the reason why but when I stated they were the correct dimensions as posted on the website at that time they were not interested. Knock on wood, we've never had the bags get misplaced because we checked them.

Posted by
13484 posts

Don, could it have been that your bags + personal items (if you had those) were over the combined carryon weight allowed?

Posted by
13532 posts

There is no "International" carry on size. Each airlines has its own rules. #YES, you should comply

Air France
HAND BAGGAGE DIMENSIONS
The maximum dimensions of your hand baggage are: 55 x 35 x 25 cm / 21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8 in. (including pockets, wheels, and handles).

YOUR HAND BAGGAGE WEIGHT
If you are traveling in the Economy cabin, your hand baggage and personal item cannot exceed 12 kg / 26.4 lb. If you're traveling in the Premium Economy, Business or La Première cabins, the combined weight of your hand baggage items and accessory must not exceed 18 kg / 40 lb. Your travel cabin is shown on your ticket.

Delta
Carry-On Size Restrictions
Combined length + width + height of baggage must not exceed 45 linear inches (114 cm)
Individual length, width and height measurements may not exceed 22” x 14” x 9” (56 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm) respectively
Carry-On Weight Restrictions
No maximum weight applies to carry-on baggage, except in the following locations.
Singapore, Beijing, China, Shanghai, China

Additionally you may bring a "Personal Item". Delta does not identify a size, but Air France does:

AUTHORIZED PERSONAL ITEMS
In addition to your hand baggage, you may bring 1 personal item. This item cannot be bigger than 40 x 30 x 15 cm / 15.7 x 11.8 x 5.8 in.*

You may bring:
1 bag
or satchel,
or 1 bag for your computer, camera, or any other electronic device.

You must place your personal item in the seat in front of you, unless you are seated in an exit row. If you are seated in an exit row, your personal item must be stored in the overhead compartment.

Posted by
180 posts

The carry-on weight was my problem with Air France. Only airline (out of 4 I flew on) that checked it after my bag fit inside that form they have at counters to accept or reject carry-on(s).

Posted by
2133 posts

I have been size-checked by Delta, Air France, Egypt Air, Condor, WIZZ Air, and Lufthansa.

I would not suggest traveling with bags that large - you just never know. I travel with a bag that fits the airline dimensions for my trip and then I don’t stress about it. Delta lets you do a smaller additional item with their 21x14x9 and there is no size rule for that one, so I tend to bring something a little bigger for that bag and it gives me a little wiggle room.

Delta has no weight limit but Air France does - so keep an eye on that. Depending on your ticket class - for Economy you get 26 pounds as a combined total for your bigger carryon on your personal item. For Premium Economy you get 40 pounds.

Posted by
13532 posts

Delta lets you do a smaller additional item with their 21x14x9 and
there is no size rule for that one, so I tend to bring something a
little bigger for that bag and it gives me a little wiggle room.

There is a size rule, it has to fit under the seat in front of you. Delta just doesn't tell you what that is. Use the Air France limits and you will be fine.

Posted by
5541 posts

Over the years I have seen most airlines undertake bag size and weight checks, so it’s not worth the risk. It’s much cheaper to check a bag in advance than have to pay at the gate.

Posted by
2910 posts

Your bag is 3” over the 45” maximum. You should follow the rules and not carry it on so that other people who follow the rules can carry their luggage on without having to gate check it due to lack of bin room. That being said, with a few simple checks, you are unlikely to have a problem checking your bags and it will make the airport experience easier.

I do pack in a carryon bag, but I usually check it (and I was a regular international traveler until Covid). There are things you can do to help the airlines get your luggage from point A to point B…but that’s not the topic so I won’t list my systems here. And frankly any excuse I can find to purchase a new carryon or personal item makes me happy. I am sure you will have a great trip no matter what you decide!

Posted by
192 posts

It is a given that issues may arise with a bag that doesn’t comply with the guidelines both for carryon and checked bags. Identify the requirements for each of the carriers that you will be using to determine what your options are. You’ll probably have a more enjoyable experience if you don’t have to face the challenges associated with non compliance.

Posted by
13063 posts

I have seen so many stories and warnings about enforcement of the 55 cm carry-on limit by European airlines, I would definitely not risk it—-especially with a 23” bag. Note that 55 cm is less than 22 inches, as James E pointed out—-it is 21.6 inches. Isn’t the RS wheeled bag now down to 21” to comply with that?

The only European airline I know that will even allow a 22” bag is British Airways—their length limit is 56 cm, not 55.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for the quick replies. Great info & so appreciate the input. Looks like I will be buying a new bag! I am not a big shopper, so its more of a chore than a pleasure for me! ;) Any bag favs, besides the RS bags, as I see they have good & bad reviews, but know we would get that on any bag.

Thanks again for the input!

Posted by
2910 posts

I have had the RS bag for 6 years now. It looks and works like new. Nonetheless, I felt the need to buy another Eagle Creek Tarmac slightly smaller for no particular reason...but due to Covid I have not used it. It seems my EC Tarmac has been discontinued so happy I purchased it when I did. Figure out what you want in a bag and go from there. We all have our differing favorites and systems. I like the exterior pockets on the RS bag...one for my liquids, one for my change of clothes at the hotel first night, and one for my jacket. With the Tamrac, they have a coat holder so I let go of one pocket. I also like to hang my personal item on a J hook type gadget so the bag has no weight to pull, rather than hanging it on the handles, which makes it much heavier. So you need to think about what you prefer for a bit because there is no wrong bag, but also, I don't know that there will ever be a 'perfect' bag...at least for me.

On the side, I'm so happy we are discussing packing on the forum these days!

Posted by
2077 posts

I vote for two wheels, as usually the wheels are tucked inside the structure somewhat, and not adding as much to the size. Those four wheels really stick out and add length and weight. And of course, two wheels are easier on cobblestones. Safe travels!

Posted by
386 posts

Good decision to buy a new bag, and not just to ensure the ability to carry it on the plane! I think you'll appreciate the lighter weight and convenience of the smaller size. We've been on two RS tours, and on each of them, we had hotels with no elevators and the need to carry our bags up 2 or 3 flights of stairs. Most of your fellow tour members will likely have bags sized in compliance with RS tour conditions. Those read: "Each tour member is advised to bring just one airline carry-on-size piece of luggage (approximately 21" x 14" x 9") plus a small day pack or shoulder bag." I believe those size dimensions used to be worded as a mandatory rule. Now it's phrased as "advice."

Before we went on the first of our RS tours, I didn't know how I'd possibly get two weeks worth of clothing in a bag that size, but now that I've seen how do-able it is, I never travel with anything bigger, regardless of destination, length of trip, or tour vs. independent. I love my RS Rolling Carry-On, so much so that I just bought the same bag for my spouse. If you've never used packing cubes, buy a set with your new bag. You'll be amazed at how much you can pack in a bag of this size when using them.

Posted by
6 posts

Again, great info. Thank you! Thinking of going w roller bag for sure. I had been advised to go 4 wheel/spinner, saying it was easier on the cobblestones, but logically would think 2 is better. And agree the 4 wheels do add to the size. I am starting my research shopping today!

Posted by
192 posts

I’ve had great success with TravelPro. It wears very well and handles being tossed around if gate checked. My RS bag is my go to when I want the lightest possible suitcase. My PacSafe bag is like armor. But it is a heavier bag than most.

Posted by
4 posts

We are taking a RS tour of Italy in July and prior to that we are in Paris for 4 days, then on an 8-day river cruise and then on to the RS tour. We will be traveling a total of 24 days. I bought the small carryon per requirements for the tour and airlines however I believe, there is no way I can live out of a 21" suitcase for three weeks. (I am a notorious over packer) I looked into shipping an additional suitcase back to Reno NV from Budapest and the best price I could find is over $300. Any suggestions would be extremely helpful. Jim

Posted by
21050 posts

It is absolutely not true that 4-wheeled spinner bags are better than 2-wheeled bags on cobblestones. That's ludicrous. However, many people really like the 4-wheeled bags on smooth surfaces.

If you decide to go with a 4-wheeled bag, consider that the likeliest point of failure is the wheels. Even on a 2-wheeled bag, the wheels will likely de-laminate eventually, but dragging a 4-wheeler over rough surfaces is especially hard on the wheels. The cheapest of the 4-wheeled bags may not last terribly long. Nonetheless, I'd expect just about any bag to make it through a 3-week trip to Europe. The first wheel on my spinner bag died on Day 91 of use (possibly due partly to airline mishandling). The second wheel died on about Day 120. That's pretty doggone inconvenient when it happens in the middle of a trip.

Another decision you need to make is whether you want a bag that opens right around the middle ("clamshell" style) or one with a traditional opening around the top edge. I wouldn't want the former, because you need to open the bag flat to have access to all the contents, and European hotel rooms can be very, very small. But it's clear that plenty of folks are happy with the clamshell bags (or think they will be), because there are a lot of them in stores. The clamshells are usually hard-sided. I assume hard-sided bags are waterproof, which certainly would be a nice feature.

Posted by
5129 posts

I chuckled when I read Wray’s post about welcoming any excuse to buy a new bag. I can relate to this😀.

Posted by
3184 posts

I bought the Travel Pro MaxLite in the International Size and really like it. On the same Air France flight, my husband's carryon, given to him by Delta when he became a million-miler, had to be checked and he was not a happy camper.

Posted by
724 posts

I just purchased a smallish carryon bag from my HomeGoods. The bag has 4 wheels which I like in airports. I can use it on 2 wheels on cobblestone streets and it is so lightweight I can carry it like a suitcase if needed. I want to say it boasts of weighing 2 kg which is just a bit over 4 pounds. I plan to bring a large packable backpack with me so I can check this new bag on the way home when I fill it with goodies :)

You are going to love the BOE tour. It was our first tour in 2015 and we spluged thinking it was going to be our "once in a lifetime" trip. We are booked on our 5th RS tour this May. You have been warned, lol!

Posted by
5618 posts

For bag faves, you could get dozens of very personal opinions on this forum. For me: súper lightweight, pretty durable, and inexpensive, Delsey Helium. The Delsey Website even has a 25% Valentine’s day sale on today!

More expensive, heavier, but extremely high quality and absolutely durable - built like Fort Knox, with a guarantee to match, Briggs & Riley.

Posted by
2077 posts

jmdtcarr,
The big questions is-
Can you handle all those bags yourself up/down hotel stairs [no elevator] and out to the RS buses?
Either way, have a great trip!

Posted by
21050 posts

When shopping for luggage in person, always take a tape measure with you. Many manufacturers label their bags with size measurement that exclude the handle and wheels. That is not the way airlines measure. For example, I see one of the Delsey bags is called 25" on the Delsey website, but it is 27.5" long. That sort of thing is very, very common, and in a store you'll probably see only the 25" on the label.

Posted by
175 posts

Kathy-United States
There may have been a weight issue of our combined baggage but they never mentioned that. They just looked at all of us when we got to the gate, pointed, and told us to leave the bags at the door. I questioned their decision but the "discussion" was short as I could see there was no point in looking for an answer.

Posted by
11238 posts

When looking for a bag, don't just look at the dimensions. Look also at the weight. Remember, European airlines have weight limits and the weight of the bag counts toward that weight limit.

Whether it's two or four wheels is a personal choice. Don't buy the cheapest no-name four wheel bag you can find because it will give you problems. Look for wheels that are attached directly through the wheel housing and not little balls that are attached to a metal plate that is screwed into the bag.

This is the bag I have:

https://www.selfridges.com/US/en/cat/samsonite-airea-spinner-four-wheel-suitcase-55cm_R00120368/#colour=BLACK

The bag is 55 x 35 x 22cm expandable to 25cm. It weighs 4 lbs. I've taken it all over the world without a problem. The bag is not available in the USA but you can buy it from Selfridges in the UK and for $30 they will express ship it to you. I got mine in 4 days.

I just did a major declutter of bags. I kept this one, it's sister bag of the same size in gray, a two wheeled version and a 75cm check in size version. All light weight.

Addendum.....Rick's own version of a spinner is on sale this week. I have no experience with this bag so I can't comment on it.

Posted by
13532 posts

When looking for a bag, don't just look at the dimensions. Look also
at the weight. Remember, European airlines have weight limits and the
weight of the bag counts toward that weight limit.

I fly Turkish Air a lot and their limit is 8kg. That is 17.5 lbs. Not much but I overcome the weight limit by shifting the heavy stuff to the personal item. Other airlines put the limit at 12kg (about 25 lbs) or even more. Even with my bag which is a tad less than 6 pounds i couldn't fit 19 lbs of clothes in it if i wanted to.

Whether it's two or four wheels is a personal choice. Don't buy the
cheapest no-name four wheel bag you can find because it will give you
problems. Look for wheels that are attached directly through the wheel
housing and not little balls that are attached to a metal plate that
is screwed into the bag.

Sure but you dont have to spend a bunch of money either. My soft sided spinner bag has made no less than 36 trips to Europe over the last 10 years cost about $40 at Target. Still in perfect working order. I did buy a replacement this year. A hard sided spinner. Just never used all those zipper pockets on the cloth bag and got tired of them hanging up on everything when trying to stuff it in the overhead. This one glides in and out like stuff through a goose. But i spent about $130 for it (extravagant) to get the lightest one possible. Not really sure I needed to do that though ... cause weight really has never been the issue.

Posted by
6 posts

I love this forum - such great info! I bought the RS spinner bag today, as I did see it was on sale. Will let you know how it works out! (Before I saw the RS sale, I had already bought a TravelPro Crew Versa at Macy's - big sale there too). But in comparing the 2, RS wins out on capacity and price, even tho my guess is the TravelPro might be better quality. Thanks all!!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you Kathy for the warning! I so hope I am going on my 5th RS tour in the next few years too! ;)

Posted by
847 posts

All the advice given thus far is excellent.

One thing when buying new bags--don't just trust the website vendor's numbers. When you receive the bag, measure all three sides including handles and wheels. Often, the stated dimensions are different from the actual ones. I learned that mistake with one Eagle Creek bag. The agent at the boarding gate made me place the bag into the sizer and it didn't fit. I was forced to check it in and pay for it.

Posted by
184 posts

For me one of the greatest frustrations of flying is people who “travel light” and flout the carryon size restrictions. If you are going to travel light meet the carryon restrictions, not view them as a rule to fudge. Embrace them and restrict yourself to them.

Enough of a rant, but I watched people use up all the overhead room with oversized bags so they can say they did carryon.

I wish the airlines would enforce the rules before a person gets on the plane. If the bag looks oversized, do not let them get to the jetway. Make the. Step aside and have their bag measured while those of us that meet the rule board.

Posted by
2077 posts

Bob, the European Airlines are much stricter, and often weigh carry-on luggage. I have experience both weighing and measuring by European airlines, even when departing from US airports. I agree with you that the American carriers need to enforce their own rules. Safe travels!

Posted by
1067 posts

Do regular 2 wheels, not spinners. They break more easily and are awful on non-smooth surfaces. What are the dates for your tour, we are on that one in June as well?

Posted by
292 posts

I think it's a good idea to comply with the size restrictions. I, too, am frustrated with overburdened people struggling through the aisles and searching for overhead space for all their stuff.

For international travel, I have a RS carry-on wheeled backpack which looks a lot like a suitcase. While it needs to be packed carefully to avoid it falling over, it holds a lot, is easily organized and is versatile. I like the profile. My sister bought a more backpack-y looking brand at the same time and her zipper has already broken. When it's wet, it's nice to use it as a backpack so you're not going through puddles. I'm not particularly tall but my last wheeled backpack didn't have a long enough telescoping handle and wasn't comfortable to pull. This one is good.

Generally, I check my bag. I don't like having a lot of stuff with me on a plane or if I have to run between gates or terminals. I've also realized that the whole carry-on thing was giving me a lot of anxiety. It seems there's never enough bin space anymore. Instead of jockeying for position and worrying about space for my bag, it's just nice to check it. I feel freer but that's me.

Posted by
128 posts

I love carry-on luggage only travel and have happily used the RS 21 inch 2 wheel bag for multiple trips. I was able to do a three week trip with a bag well under the 23kg limit for two bags. But, my next trip is a hiking trip in Greece which requires hiking poles. Those have to be checked per TSA. I was thinking of renting them in Greece but haven't found a venue for that. Has anyone?

Posted by
1817 posts

Watch out if you are booked on two different airlines on your one ticket.
For example, last time I went to Europe, Air Canada to Europe did not measure or weigh my carryon suitcase.
On the way home, Lufthansa was very strict and said the case did not meet carryon requirements, and it had to be checked.
Thankfully, they did not charge me, but they were not happy.
Both airlines within the Star Alliance group.
All airlines are different.

Posted by
940 posts

You will have to pry my 4-wheel TravelPro Maxlite 22" carry-on spinner from my cold dead fingers. When I have to sprint from one end of the airport to another to catch a flight (like I recently did at MSP), it is so much easier than lugging a 2-wheel behind me. It's light enough that I can easily pick it up over cobblestones, if needed, but it travels more on smooth surfaces than cobblestones so it's worth it.

Having said that, I now check my bag instead of trying to carry it on for a multitude of reasons. I like not having to deal with it during long layovers; I hate having to rush to get on first so that I can make sure there is room in the overhead bins; and I don't have to worry about it not fitting and paying excess baggage fees. And quite frankly, I think that checking it is better for everyone. I hate it when there's not enough room for large carry-on bags and the airline starts pulling bags. It delays everyone. Of course, if the airlines in the US would enforce the carry-on rules, this probably wouldn't happen.

Posted by
13532 posts

Do regular 2 wheels, not spinners. They break more easily and are
awful on non-smooth surfaces. What are the dates for your tour, we are
on that one in June as well?

Not necessarily true on either count.