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Carry on size for flight originating on United transferring to Lufthansa booked on one ticket?

This is my first time posting, but I've been reading the forum for years. You helped me plan a trip to Ireland last year, so thanks for that. I have another trip planned in 30 days. My flight originates at a small regional airport on United to Dulles and then to Frankfurt where I transfer to Lufthansa going to Zurich. This is booked on one ticket. I want to do carry on only so I can be more flexible if there are any problems with connections. When I realized that I had been so focused on Lufthansa's carryon restrictions and hadn't factored in United's, I spoke to United via a chat agent who "guaranteed" my United approved carry on would be accepted on Lufthansa. I know there are no guarantees when flying and whether the carry on is allowed will be determined by the circumstances of the day and the gate agent. I bought a Travelpro Max lite International carry on spinner which will fit Lufthansa sizing but not United. I've now ordered a compact Travelpro Max lite carry on spinner which fits United's sizing (22 x 14 x 9) but not Lufthansa. I'm trying to decide if I really need a 21 5/8 x 13 3/4 x 9 bag to fit both United and Lufthansa. I've looked but can't find one that I like as much as the Travelpro Max lite. I'm thinking of going with the 22x14x9 Travelpro Max lite. So all of that to ask, how much of a chance is there that I will get on Lufthansa with the 22x14x9 bag? What has your experience been? If I have to gate check it with Lufthansa, do you have an idea of the fee? Thanks

Posted by
3189 posts

That United agent has never flown Lufthansa methinks.
They are way more fussy in Europe.
I’ve experienced Lufthansa being particular!
Go with measurements that are the smallest of all the airlines you are flying with.

Posted by
1238 posts

Hi ladybug. I've flown several times on a similar itinerary; i.e. United flight connecting with a flight with another airline. Note that there are at least 5 separate topics here that are easy to think of as 1, but are really separate.

1. whether you can bring your bag aboard a given flight as carryon
2. whether the bag needs to be checked at ticket counter.
3. whether bag can / needs to be checked at gate
4. if not carryon, whether you will pick up at plane as you disembark, or in terminal at baggage claim
5. what fee, if any, you will pay for your bag.
5 is the easy part - baggage fees. Look at your receipt / ticket info from United. It will state the charges for baggage. These rules about bag charges apply to all legs of your flight, regardless of airline. All of the other items 1-4, like you said, are somewhat unpredictable / at the whim of the ticket agent / gate agent. My advice is to not try to predict / overanalyze. Just make your best guess as to what will happen, but roll with whatever happens. In general, in my opinion, it's overkill to measure / buy your bag down to the inch, because so much of it is out of your control anyway. Have a great trip!

Posted by
4972 posts

You haven't even discussed weight. Is it 8kg ( 17+ lbs.) In my experience, you also have the chance of your bag being weighed. I think the weight is harder to stay under than the size. Good luck!

Posted by
1157 posts

your problem isn't going to be size, it's weight. United doesn't have a weight limit. For Lufthansa it's 8kg which is about 17.5lbs. I've been on several Lufthansa flights where they look at boarding passengers and pick some who they invite to the desk so they can weigh their luggage; maybe they get a spiff for catching a bag that has to be checked ;-)

Posted by
373 posts

Are you concerned about only doing carry-on because of a tight connection time, not
wanting to pay baggage fees, or something else?

As Bob points out, there are a variety of potential conditions under which you might not
be able to bring your bag onto the plane. But the rule is that baggage fees are set by
the originating carrier, so if you meet United's carry-on requirements, Lufthansa cannot
charge you an additional fee for their flight.

However, they may require you to gate check the bag, which usually means you collect
the bag outside the plane after landing. But they should not charge you for doing this.

If all you care about is not paying the baggage fee, your existing bag should be fine. If
you want to be sure of having the bag with you at all times, then the newer bag may be
worth considering.

Posted by
4420 posts

It is my understanding that the major US carriers allow larger carryons without major weight restrictions than do most European airlines. If I were flying a European airline at any point, I would assume the lesser size and the weight restriction. However, if you're flying a smaller United plane from your regional airport, you may have to gate check your carryon.

Posted by
4595 posts

they may require you to gate check the bag, which usually means you collect
the bag outside the plane after landing

No it doesn’t usually mean this. Gate checked bags usually are checked to the final destination, but not always.

Posted by
18491 posts

Lufthansa told me, in writing, that unless something contrary is printed on my booking confirmation (indicating a special arrangement between carriers on that route) you must conform to BOTH carriers' requirements.

Everything else you read is speculation, hopes and wishes.

Lufthansa does indeed check size and weight and the requirement is smaller than United. They have clever little size/weight checking gizmos at the gates and I watched them getting used on 4 out of 4 Lufthansa flights this year. Random selection of people, but every flight.

Posted by
8201 posts

I would just go with a 21" ultra light carry on with swivel wheels and be done with it.

In our dozens and dozens of international flights carrying on our luggage, we've only had to pay to check a bag once--Norwegian Air Shuttle. Lufthansa and United are not budget European airlines, and you'll do fine with your luggage.

Many of the airports of today have self check in kiosks, and no airline employee ever even sees or weighs carry on luggage.

Posted by
4535 posts

I think those sizes will be fine and would not sweat it. I have had Lufthansa weigh by bag and gate check it, which was done for free. So I agree, weight is more important that a centimeter or two.

Posted by
4516 posts

However, even with "self check in" terminals, often the machine only confirms your reservation and prints out a luggage tag and THEN you have to stand in a line to see a human and have the bag weighted and scrutinized. Happened to me coming and going on a recent Delta domestic flight. Kinda defeats the purpose but I suppose it speeds things up, but only a little.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all for your replies. I've realized that I may have been overthinking the bag size issue and defintiely overlooking others!

The reason for wanting to carry on is my regional flight to Dulles. I have a 1 1/2 hour connection and want to be more flexible if I miss the Dulles to Frankfurt flight. I asked about fees because I've spent so much already, but any fee would be a very small percentage of what I'm spending for the whole trip. So now I'm going to consider fees if I have to check a bag on Lufthansa as insurance that if things go wrong with the transatlantic flight both me and my bag get to Europe together. I don't know why but that seems better somehow. If I'm boarding the flight in Frankfurt I'm only an hour away from my adventure!

I'm going to take the bag that meets United guidelines and will be very careful with the weight. Thanks for the heads up on that! In case things do go awry and I'm separated from my bag and it goes on its own adventure. I have a plan. I'm taking a small backpack that I will use as a packing cube in my carry on for the essentials necessary to enjoy my trip. I can pull it out of my carry on, keep it with me and will have what I need to enjoy my trip, just with fewer wardrobe changes. Thanks again for your help!

Posted by
311 posts

I had to gate-check my US-sized carry-on flying ORD-FRA once. The gate agent said it was too big and then weighed it and said it was also too heavy. Since then for international travel I use a travel backpack that I've confirmed meets the size requirements for the European carriers.