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carry on bags size enforced?

My carry on bag is the correct size, 9" x 14" x 22". I bought it from this Rick Steves site in 2015 and it rolls as well as back straps.
My question is my other bag. United airlines calls it a personal item. I have an oversized shoulder bag with a broken zipper. It was perfect until the zipper failed.
I do have a back pack but it measures 9" (expandable) x 12" x 17" which is slightly larger than the 9" x 10" x 17" United airline requirement. Has anyone had issues with their backpack being just too big? What did you do? I would prefer to not have to buy, yet again, another piece of baggage.
Thanks.

Posted by
5687 posts

I've never had a problem with my bag being "too big" for a regular-sized jet. I have a 22" TravelPro roller bag that fits vertically in the overhead bin of most 737-size jets. The only airline in Europe that's ever hassled me about carrying it on was Iberia. I've taken it to Europe on Delta and AA numerous times without complaint. Even in Europe, on small jets and prop planes, I've managed to carry it on (not Ibera with their larger jets; I think they just like to hassle people).

Are you saying you have roller bag AND this 9x10x17 bag you want to carry on as well as a "personal item?" It would have to fit under the seat in front of you - and I doubt at 17" it would.

Posted by
23472 posts

The personal bag is suppose to be able to fit under the seat. If it does you are probably OK but it looks a little big. Are you trying to get by with two carry on size bags?

Posted by
112 posts

I'm not sure where the confusion is in my question. I looked up Carry on baggage on United airlines website. See following:

Carry-on bag
The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.

Personal item
The maximum dimensions for your personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm). If you are traveling on a Basic Economy ticket, your personal item will be the only item you can bring on board.

My backpack measures slightly larger than the Personal item maximum dimensions as listed above. I'm just wondering if anyone has had any trouble with their backpacks as a Personal item?

Posted by
23472 posts

I think you always have to be prepared to adhere to the rules. No answer is definite. Most of the times carry on bags are never checked for size and weight and even less so for the personal bag. BUT -- over the years have hit a couple airlines that checked to the last mm. And it wasn't United. So you "probably" are OK but have a plan B in case they do.

We follow the requirements because I don't what the hassle. Years ago my wife had a green, carry on bag that fit the size box but the bag looked big. It looked fat because of the design. Half dozen different times she was stopped and made to put it in the sizing box -- always passed. We finally dumped the bag because it wasn't worth the hassle.

Posted by
2768 posts

I have never had a personal item measured. Carry on for overhead bin, yes. But not the under seat item. But it does have to fit under the seat. Backpacks are usually squishable so if it’s not full you should be ok. You are 2 inches off on one dimension - just plan to squeeze it down.

Posted by
16926 posts

British Airways does enforce the size restrictions for their "personal item" carry on. They look at the bags and give you a green tag to attach if it is OK. If not, you can only carry it on if it is your only item.

Your backpack appears to be 2" too wide, so if the back has a rigid frame and is not squishable, it may not fit under the seat. Some planes have seat supports that restrict the width of that space.

What is interesting to me is that the British Airways personal item size limit it 16 x 12 x 6. Our next trip will be all carry-on, and I need a daypack as we are doing a lot of hiking. I thought I would have to pack my empty backpack flat in my suitcase, which would not only take up space there but would mean I could not use the backpack to hold things Inwant accessible on the plane. It I finally found an Osprey woman's 22L daypack which is only 15" high ( and 12" wide). So as long as I don't fill it up and make it more than 6" thick, I should be fine.

Posted by
6788 posts

OP: The answer to your question is simple, but it will not provide you with clarity.

The rules may or may not be enforced. There's no way to know for sure. It depends on the whims of the gate crew, possibly influenced by how full the flight is, how blatant the 10 people ahead of you were in their own violations of the rules, if the gate crew person had a fight with their wife last night, if they had a bad morning, etc.

Plenty of people exceed the rules and get away with it. Some don't. If your bag exceeds a stated limits, you may get away with it, you may not. There's no way to know for sure.

Ask yourself these questions:
How bad would it be for you (what would be the consequences) if they do enforce the rule?
Are you feeling lucky?

Posted by
5687 posts

I'm not sure where the confusion is in my question.

Now that you've edited your original post to clarify, it is not confusing anymore!

Posted by
112 posts

I do appreciate the responses on this post.
I added "United airlines calls it a personal item," after the first response.
I did post the actual language from United Airlines as a separate and later post in order to clarify where I was getting the dimensions.
Perhaps some people are unaware that laptop style backpacks are 17" tall. This post may help with awareness.
Since airlines are making travel more and more difficult, I was simply trying to ascertain as to whether anyone has had issues with their backpacks.

Posted by
156 posts

From what I’ve learned from this and other forums, the adherence to carryon rules appears to vary widely between US airlines, but international carriers tend to be more strict. In my experience, I’ve rarely been asked to put a carryon bag in a sizer, and have never had a personal item measured.

I travel with a wheeled carryon for the overhead and a backpack that fits under the seat in front of me. I’ve used all sizes of backpacks (not the framed “hiking” ones) and have always been able to fit them in. The key is not to pack it too full. If you can “squish” a bag to fit under the seat, you should be good to go. Some backpacks are more rigid than others, so it’s a smart idea to carry one that isn’t too stiff and bulky (a la Travelpro and most Samsonite backpacks). Another alternative is something more a daypack size such as the RS models sold here.

I carry my Dopp kit and 3-1-1 bag along with anything I want close at hand during the flight such as my IPad in the backpack. I also carry a small packing cube with a change of clothes just in case the overheads are full and the carryon has to be checked (which hasn’t happened, but I understand that it’s a bit more common in the smaller regional jets). So far, so good.

Posted by
3521 posts

You mention United. I take that to mean that is the airline you will be flying.

United has sizers next to the boarding door at every airport for every flight I have ever taken with them. It is both for the carry on and the personal item. As long as your items slide easily into the sizer you will not have any issues. Note the word "easily". If you have to put your entire body weight on it to get it into the sizer, it is too big. I would believe that unless you stuff the backpack to splitting, it will fit in the sizer and under your seat with no issue.

The thing is will United enforce sizing? It depends. I have seen this mostly on their regional jets where practically nothing fits into the overhead anyway. On their international flights on the 777 jets, never.

Goodluck.

Posted by
6788 posts

You will want to confirm that your ticket actually entitles you to a carry on item. The new "basic economy" tickets now being sold generally do not include a carry-on, that's extra. And some people are being sold "basic economy" tickets without realizing that.

Posted by
83 posts

We have an int'l trip coming up on Delta. Because they code share with Air France and I don't like surprises, my carryons are going to conform to AF's stricter guidelines just. in. case. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

I once saw Lufthansa gate agents checking carryon weight and sizes with the template, when the bulk of the passengers that day seemed to have lots of massive carryons and backpacks. Most of the carryons got gate-checked, that day.

Posted by
8245 posts

Size and weight checks are hit and miss. We went to ultralight 21" swivel wheel bags, and Norwegian Air Shuttle picked me out of a line once to make me an example. With the wheels, it was 22" and their standards are 21" maximum. When I got on the plane, half the people on it had much larger bags stuffed into the overhead. Cost me $50 a bag.
The big legacy North American carriers seem to be more lax than the budget European airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet.

Posted by
995 posts

HI Doc,

I fly United extensively for both business and personal travel. In general, if the flight is a United flight (and not a code share), you should be fine. However, there is always a possibility that they they will measure. That is most likely if you are actually on the plane and your bag is taking up bin space that is for roller bags or if you put it under your seat and it does not fit completely. They are most stringent on the issue of not fitting under your seat (as it is a safety issue). I have seen passengers being asked to store larger personal items bags in the overheads if that occurs. Only once have I seen someone have to check their roller bag to accommodate their personal item fitting into the overhead.

Sandy

Posted by
156 posts

We're flying Norwegian LAX-Paris in November and I've been trying to keep up with comments regarding their enforcement of baggage rules. From what I'm seeing, they're pretty strict, so we're going to make sure to bring size-appropriate bags. On the other hand, I did the same thing flying from Atlanta to Amsterdam a couple of years ago on KLM and no one that I saw was subject to having their bags measured or weighed. You never know, I guess. Better to be safe than sorry, though, particularly with the high fees some of these carriers charge to check a bag.

Posted by
2765 posts

It honestly makes no difference what anyone on here tells you. The airline has posted their requirements. If your bag is too big they may tell you no. A defense of “posters on Rick Steves Travel boards told me it was ok” doesn’t carry much weight.

Posted by
73 posts

Be aware that the increasingly large electronics boxes underseat take up much more space than in years past. What you could stash underseat before may no longer fit. Had this problem on Icelandair a few months ago. I'd prefer more underseat room for my personal item, but in flight movies seem to have priority these days.

Posted by
112 posts

I do appreciate all the responses.
I knew that there would be a variety of opinions about carry on baggage which is why I'm asking.
I especially hoped to hear from people who have traveled overseas in the past month or two since the rules seem to change daily. The last time I flew was in 2015 and I noticed then that the under seat space was smaller. My old oversized shoulder bag fit and would probably still fit today but as I said, it's not usable anymore. That's why I'm thinking about the backpack.

Posted by
15709 posts

If you can tell me exactly what the weather will be at 3 pm on Oct 26 then I can tell you if the airline will be strict on bags.

And remember, if the plane is full and they foresee storage problems on the flight, they can insist you check the bag even if it is below their stated carry on dimensions and weight.

Posted by
930 posts

Don't pack your personal item to the its fullest. Unless it is a rigid framed pack, it will fit in their sizer, if you are even asked.

Posted by
503 posts

Doc, can the zipper be replaced on your shoulder bag? Sometimes shoe repair shops or dry cleaning services are able to replace zippers even on pieces of luggage or tote bags. That would help with the situation.

Posted by
112 posts

David is giving very good advice. I did check about the economy class restrictions. As of last week, if it's an international flight, you can still have a carryon bag and a personal item. However, if it's a national flight, then only the one bag is allowed.
It's an old phrase but it applies today; 'they get you coming and going.'

Posted by
1317 posts

Ryanair are just waiting to cane you with additional costs if your bag is overweight or oversize - and bear in mind their carry on size is smaller than everybody else's, so be warned so they can't clobber you for huge additional costs!

I'd read the t and c's re baggage for the airlines you are travelling on and stick to them. I regularly weigh my bag and check it in the sizing bins at our local airport before most trips, especially those in Europe where I'm going carry on only.

Ian

Posted by
3262 posts

If it is a soft bag, only pack it to the personal item measurements accepted; i.e., 10" instead of 12". That should be easy enough to do. Also, my PI is 16" long. I don't see that 17" would be much different as far as comfort is concerned, unless you have very large feet...

Posted by
12193 posts

My experience is the American carriers let passengers get away with a lot, then ask people boarding later to gate check their bag.

You're right that you can have one carry-on bag (although 22" may not fit if they actually measure it) plus a personal item. The personal item is supposed to fit under your seat so it doesn't use any overhead bin space.

Again the American carriers often let passengers board with two carry on size bags and put them both in an overhead bin, or put both the carry on and personal item in the overhead bin. I even see people boarding with a carry on, (too) large personal item and a very large purse.

European carriers are much stricter about your bags and personal items. When it says one carry on it means one carry on, not one plus a personal item. They will measure and weigh your bags and charge you an additional fee to check something you planned to carry on. They'll also enforce personal items going under the seat rather than overhead bins.

The trend is toward being much stricter, even for American carriers, so I'd be prepared and not count on airlines to let you slide.

Underseat space is always a question mark. I have been on planes with generous space and Alitalia where the underseat space was nonexistent due to electronic box as mentioned above. Your backpack is about the size of the RS Appenzell. It can be squished-down. Don't pack it to the max. If you can compress it - you can use it. Consider using 1-2 luggage compression straps to help. (Web Nylon military style belt from men's section). Another compression aid is a backpack rain cover tightened-up or a ditty bag stuff sack.

Posted by
156 posts

We just returned from the trip to Paris via Norwegian Air (see above post from September). Having read the carryon rules and with a lot of feedback from forums like this one, I got really anal retentive about what we could and couldn’t get away with. So I carefully selected the bags and weighed before we left.

From LAX to Paris, our shared checked bag was weighed, as were our wheeled carryons. But as Norwegian has a “combined carryon and personal item” weight limit, I fully expected the personal items to be weighed. They weren’t. My wife had a large purse and I carried a RS Veloce shoulder bag as the personal item. The CSR didn’t even look at them, from what I could tell.

On the return trip, DeGaulle back to LAX, the agent again only weighed the wheeled carryons and the checked bag.

I generally fly Southwest domestically (wife is a frequent flyer and I have a companion pass) and have never had any item questioned. Then again, I don’t try bringing golf clubs or scuba gear into the passenger cabin, either. From what I hear from frequent international travelers, the non-US carriers are a lot more strict about the baggage limits, particularly the budget airlines. I had a few negative issues with our Norwegian experience, but thankfully the baggage wasn’t one of them.