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Pleasing both United and Lufthansa?

We are are going to Europe this summer, flying RT on United for the transatlantic portion. Midway through the trip we are flying one way on Lufthansa (Air Dolomiti) from Geneva to Milan. Tickets are all already bought.

We are hoping to travel light and only take carry-ons, preferring to take rolling carry-ons over a soft backpack based on some guidance we've gotten here. However, coming up with a rolling carry-on that meets the requirements of both United and Lufthansa is proving tough! Ideal would be one that is lightweight, (especially with that Lufthansa weight limit) as capacious as possible, sturdy, etc.

  • Here's what I've seen in terms of requirements:

United: 22x14x10
Lufthansa (55x40x23 cm) 21.65 × 15.7 x 9 inches
Weight limit: 17.6 lbs
So it seems United is okay with taller and narrower, and Lufthansa wants slightly shorter and wider.

Other than the RS rolling carry-on, closest I've seen in mainstream brands is the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Int'l Expandable Carry-on Rollaboard, which is a lovely 5.4 pounds, but is 21.75 x 15.75 x7.75 with handles/wheels, which makes it too wide for United and maybe a hair too tall for Lufthansa.

I guess my questions are these:
--how likely is it I could get away with this bag on Lufthansa? On United?
--Are there other recommendations people have of rolling carry-ons that come under both those limits?
--Obviously the RS bag is an option and it seems to get generally good reviews except complaints from folks about zippers breaking--any thoughts?

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
379 posts

Unless your flight is extremely full, you're very late in boarding, or your carry-on
is visibly very large, I would not expect a gate agent to make a stink about an
inch difference in the size of the bag or weigh the bag arbitrarily.

Boarding early will give you a better chance at space in the overhead bins.

Cabin crew are even less likely to flag your item.

Posted by
100 posts

I have an uncoming Lufthansa flight for one direction to Europe and to meet the carryon weight limit I have to use a backpack. That 5+ lbs you mention for lightweight rolling cabin bags (my Away brand is almost 6 lbs) becomes a challenge, depending what your needs are, do you do laundry on your trips, etc.
That said, if Lufthansa is only a one-way, are you directly going on to somewhere else or staying at least a day or two if the bags do get delayed? I ask because if it's a regional flight and also, is it a smaller plane (?) it may be less of a risk to check your "United-no-weight-limit" carry ons.
Lufthansa's personal under seat allowance isn't included in the 17.6 lbs but it's not that big. (I'm struggling!)

Posted by
1434 posts

I haven't flown United internationally for years so can't help you there. However, I have flown Lufthansa regional jets recently and have seen the gate agents eye the carry on bags carefully. Whether they will actually put a bag in a sizer or weigh it is anyone's guess. At least in Milan if the agent does think that the bag is too big don't expect to sneak on with it by handing it to baggage personnel on the jet bridge. The baggage handler will be standing next to the gate agent waiting to whisk the bag away.

Edit to add: @Bonvoyage: At Milan I saw a number of personal items which were clearly larger than Lufthansa's limits. The gate agent required those passengers' carry on bag to be gate checked (whisked away by the aforementioned baggage handler) and the over large personal item was carried on in the overhead bin. There was no way those personal item bags, which were the approximate size of a college student's backpack for books, would fit under the seat in front.

Posted by
4441 posts

I have never flown either of those airlines However, The TravelPro Maxlite 5 International size is the bag of choice for many people on this forum and I know from personal experience that it (unexpanded) is ok for AirFrance(they didn't even put it in the sizer),so I would expect it to be fine for Lufthansa. The US legacy carriers are usually less strict than the European carriers.

Posted by
58 posts

Just back from a United/Lufthansa return trip thru Milan. LFT on the international portion and regional in Europe. United is easy. LFT did have agents eying bags in Frankfurt for the regional connection but I didn’t notice anyone getting tagged. We were flying business so on LFT we actual were allowed 2 carry on size bags. Luck of the draw on getting a strict agent.

The issue you may not have taken into account is that it looks like you are not actually flying LFT in Europe, you are on an Air Dolomiti ? plane, which means THEIR baggage restrictions, not LFT. They fly Embraer 190/195 jets, which are quite nice but small. They will fit a “standard” ( well, there really is no standard, so let’s say typical) rollaboard but I’ve avoided flying AD due to traveller comments noting they have a habit of being tough on carry ons. Business class vs economy will also affect your limits.

On the luggage question, I recently bought Briggs and Riley ZDX 21” spinner bags for my wife and I. It’s not particularly light at 7.2 lbs but I love the bag. Fits all carrier regs, packs easy and a lot. Rolls smooth as butter in terminals. We have managed to pack under 18 lbs and the diminutive looking size never gets questioned. We pack our toiletries in our smaller accessory bags (also B&R ZDX) and travel for 18 days easy, doing laundry once or twice at hotels (never been able to come to grips with sink washing clothes).

I would recommend you check Air Dolomiti website for their specific baggage specs.

Safe travels.

Posted by
228 posts

I am very consistent in my position. People who try and do carryon with over size bags should be subject to a penalty. Meet the size requirement or check your bag.

Why do people try and scam the system.

We pay the fee to check a bag. It is frustrating to see people lug on board oversized bag, clog the overhead bin and generally abuse the system,

If you wish to travel with carryon only great. Howev er then meet the requirements.

Posted by
4619 posts

We are hoping to travel light and only take carry-ons

Many of us check carry-on sized bags. You can still travel light and check a bag.

Posted by
549 posts

People who try and do carryon with over size bags should be subject to a penalty.

I guess I have to disagree, to some extent. If a plane is packed to the gills and such people jeopardize others being able to put their stuff in the overhead bins, yeah, off with their heads (figuratively). But if there's enough room to fit everyone in with a minimum of fuss and delay, what's the problem?

The airlines have brought most of this about themselves with their a la carte, nickel and dime approach to pricing airfares. Every rational flyer wants to minimize their cost to get from Vancouver to Helsinki, and the rational, deregulated airlines want to maximize net revenue, using misleading price advertising and hidden costs to generate their profit. It's a challenging setting for both flyers and airlines.

Posted by
14175 posts

I’ll just add that when you are looking at bag sizes look at the metric measurements not the measurement in inches. When I was on the hunt for a very light bag 2 years ago I realized bag manufacturers rounded up or down from the metric measurement which was totally confusing.

I finally went with an Osprey Ozone which came in at 4.5#. I weighed every item I packed and it was 16.1# when I walked out my front door. That was for a 3+ week trip to Italy. I’ve done 2 subsequent trips, one for 5.5 weeks and the bag was 18#.

I have not flown on Lufthansa or Air Dolomiti. My flight leg where I worried about the weight was on Air France.

Posted by
848 posts

We fly United frequently out of San Francisco for connecting flights out of Frankfurt including Lufthansa. We both have RS Rolling Ravenna bags which we carryon going over along with 24L backpacks. No problems over the last 8 years with the bags. No zipper breakage, either after 12+ trips.

Posted by
4867 posts

Here is an article about United's position on luggage dimensions:

https://www.sfgate.com/travel/article/United-luggage-sizers-dimensions-bags-15045784.php

My summary (not the article's and not United's) is that within the last several years, they have removed luggage sizers from their gates, relying on passengers to know whether their bags will fit in United bins. They do still have sizers near their checkin areas, which customers are free to use before stepping in to the checkin line.

My opinion is that they are intentionally not out to catch passengers for minor size infractions - if the bag will reasonably fit in their overhead bins. However, if they see a bag that they expect won't fit, even if just overstuffed, then you may get scrutiny.

My experience, having flown United hundreds of times, is that I've never had a United agent question my bags. Not even my longish structured backpack which squishes to fit their sizers.

Having said that, I also fly United internationally - 2 or 3 times per year - and generally with a connecting flight on Lufthansa. I pay close attention to the Lufthansa size and weight requirements and will check my bag if needed for their flights.

When United eliminated their gate sizers, I read numerous articles. The sense I got was not that it was a free for all, but that they were trying to distinguish their policy from one of strict compliance to a more relaxed approach that bags within reason would still fit in their overhead bins.

I would guess that the slightly too-wide bag, if not overstuffed, may squish just fine into United sizers. I will further guess, but not promise, that unless you overstuff it, United personnel are not likely to do more than glance at your bag.

And since United has removed sizers from their gates, they won't ask you to put your bag in them.

Posted by
18567 posts

I guess my questions are these:
--how likely is it I could get away with this bag on Lufthansa? On United?

Absolutely possible until they reject it. Both airlines have checked my carryon size in the past. Some of the Lufthansa sizers at the gates have built in scales too. If they dont check, great. If they do check you, not so great. Then there is the little issue of your word when you purchased the ticket and the pissed of customers in line behind you that left things at home so they could legal

--Are there other recommendations people have of rolling carry-ons that come under both those limits?

When I need a new bag I take a tape measure to Walmart and Target.

Posted by
15577 posts

We are hoping to travel light and only take carry-ons

Many of us check carry-on sized bags. You can still travel light and check a bag

I travel light. I definitely meet the baggage size requirements for some airlines.

Some airlines. Not all.

Sometimes the airline is stricter than others. Other times, it's a small turboprop where "regular" carry on size bags can' be brought onto the plane.

So I check it. Like I did yesterday. Air Baltic.

When we landed, I made a quick pit stop to make myself lighter, and by the time I got to baggage claim, there was my bag. I had to pass by baggage claim anyway to get our of the airport.

I understand there are some who will take less for an entire trip because they refuse to check a bag on a short intra-European flight. That is their right to do so. I'm not so picky.

Posted by
4293 posts

Well, first, I applaud you for actually checking and trying to follow the rules of each airline. It’s not easy.

I can understand the choice to do carry on when you have connections (or are headed to Europe), although I usually check. However for those short small intra-European flights, I don’t get it. It’s fine if you fit the requirements (although I was on a short BA flight the other day and they took away all rolling carryons from Groups 4-9 and made them gate-check; but I guess those people - who were luggage-compliant - saved money). But if you know you won’t meet the weight or size requirement, just buy the slightly more expensive ticket or pay to check. That way you aren’t hit by last-minute surprises or fumblings at the airport.

Posted by
18567 posts

My last four flights have been a carryon circus, so I am getting a bit thin skinned on the subject. It holds up the line to the point one flight left late. The bags just were not going to fit and the passenger didnt want to hear that. It deprives other passengers of the ability to carry on legal size bags .... yes, one 1.5" too long can be the difference between your bag going in wheels frist or sideways. Sideways means that all the bin can hold is the one bag. This isnt rocket science. Read the rules, if you dont like them buy a ticket from a carrier that has rules you do like.

Here is a legal bag. They sell it on Amazon. https://www.brics.it/eu/bric-s-b-y-ulisse-expandable-hard-shell-carry-on-trolley-43958.html?color=055 Under six pounds. Legal size on your flights. Mine has held up pretty well the past 4 years and 20 flights. But Walmart and Target have just as good at a fraction of the price.

Posted by
4 posts

I recently returned from the Adriatic tour ..... 2 flights over, 3 flights back in business class. The only issue was with a Lufthansa
gate agent in Athens. I was slightly over in weight, and even though I was allowed 2 carry-on suitcases, she checked the bag. On 2 earlier Lufthansa flights and a Aegean flight earlier that day, the bag was accepted. Moral of the story, you are at the mercy of the gate agent. Lufthansa seems more focused on weight, not size. My carry-on was small. On the regional carrier, those planes are nice but small. They normally check all carry-ons at the plane and you retrieve them as you exit the plane.

Posted by
6850 posts

I agree with Jim Dur that you need to check the requirements for Air Dolomiti as that is who you will have to get your carry-on past. Luckily, their size requirement is the same as Lufthansa. They do have some other requirements that you might want to look at, though.:

For Economy Class fares only one item is included; the hand baggage allowance in Business class fares includes two pieces of carry-on baggage, each up to 8 kg.

We have adapted our baggage regulations for you so that every piece of hand luggage can now be checked in free of charge – even if you have booked an Economy Light fare.

So if you are not in Business Class, it looks like you can carry on one piece of hand luggage. But since checked bags are free, I would certainly take advantage of that.

I really don't understand this desire for carry on only. I love having the freedom to get rid of my large bag at the airport. And in all my decades of travel, I have never lost a bag and only had one delayed (in Denver, early 90's). And now baggage claim is usually so quick that I'm never held up for more than few minutes. The only time I would do carry-on is if I had a very tight connection. Otherwise, I'm team Check Your Bag. :-)

Posted by
8597 posts

I have seen Lufthansa check size and weight of bags in the gate area. The gate agents went around and picked up any they thought looked too big (really only wheeled bags were selected). Yes they had a whole cart loaded with bags that needed to be checked and not for free.

But that was one experience. It would be harmless to get away with oversized bags only if everyone actually had space enough. As it is, the first boarders have space and the last sometimes have nothing. It doesnt screw the airlines to et away with it, just your fellow passengers. Even if you do meet the airlines' restrictions, it doesnt mean there will actually be space.

Posted by
18567 posts

Moral of the story, you are at the mercy of the gate agent.

You said you were overweight. You were at the mercy of the contract you had with the carrier. But even if in spec, the gate agent can be more restrictive if in their opinion the situation warrants it. Less likely to happen if you follow the rules.

Posted by
12 posts

Mardee, I had read the Air Dolomiti requirements and am actually quite confused by them. They state that you can have one piece of “hand luggage” and if you have a piece of hand luggage it can be checked in free (as long as it meets the dimensional/weight requirements). But they say nothing about a personal item. Does this mean that passengers in Economy Light (which we are) cannot have a personal item? I’m going to try and call the airline and get more clarity about that.

Posted by
18567 posts

You got me curious so I looked. Seems like no personal item is permitted. Lufthansa owns Air Dolomiti and in one reference I found they specifically said that with Lufthansa and Air Dolomiti you get one carry on bag, and with Lufthansa you get a personal item too.

Posted by
15577 posts

Please share the date of your flight.

The only flights I'm finding for Geneva to Milan on Air Dolomiti include a change of plane in Munich.

Posted by
12 posts

Flight is on August 8th, and yes does have a change of planes in Munich. Meanwhile, I did find this on flyertalk:
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/lufthansa-austrian-swiss-brussels-lot-other-partners-miles-more/2156658-air-dolomiti-carry.html

Q: Has anyone had experience in traveling with Air Dolomiti? I’m looking at flying Lufthansa into Munich and connect to Air Dolomiti for travel to Palermo. I usually travel with one 21” roller-board and a small tote bag. Air Dolomiti’s website states “1” carry-on. Do the mean one carry-on, such as the roller-board, and one personal item that will fit under the seat, or do they absolutely mean one item?
A: For what I know, and I flew with them 2 days ago, plus other 4 times in the last 6 months, the used policy is 1 carry on / trolley + 1 personal item (handbag, computer bag, backpack) that fits under the seat in front of you.
The overhead bins are on the small side, so the carry on must be as well.

But it's all a bit vague on the airline website.

Posted by
4 posts

When I flew from Dubrovnik to Athens on Aegean, I was in the same position. I read Aegean's baggage policy and it sounded very restrictive. I wasn't sure what I was allowed to bring. I prepared myself for trouble. When I checked in, they were great. No problems with my carry-on or my personal item (backpack.)

Posted by
15577 posts

With a change of plane, you get to deal with two different gate agents.

Why am I getting the feeling that you are hoping someone will guarantee that you can carry on both of your bags? Well, we can't. Even if you are within the limits, and the plane is full, your bag may still get checked. (It's in the fine print.)

So, plan for the best but be prepared for the worst. That's travel.

Posted by
37 posts

In my experience, Lufthansa tends to be more strict than United. I have never seen United use the sizer bins at all. Lufthansa rarely does, but they do in San Diego, my home airport. They have a sizer bin at the gate to weigh and measure your bag. Other places, they don't seem to care as much.

The TravelPro Maxlite 5 International bag is compliant with Lufthansa's sizes - and also very light weight to allow you to meet Lufthansa's weigh allowance. I would go with that bag, or a similar one. United most likely won't flinch at that one at all.

My son actually did that on a trip to Egypt. He had mixed United and Luthansa flights, and the bag worked out very well for him. That was all that he needed.