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RS Carry on didn’t pass KLM sizer- UPDATE: 10-yr old RS bag with 22” length.

Hi, I know the question comes up whether airports check suitcase or weight sizes. We are in the Madrid airport and had to go to the check-in desk because they want to check passports.

They also required all carry on luggage to be weighed and placed into the metal sizer box. My husband has this RS bag, and it was rejected and forced to be checked for free to Seattle.

Just sharing as an FYI for your planning.

https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/rolling-carry-on

UPDATE: Stefanie from the RS office confirmed (Feb. 21) this bag’s dimensions changed 10 years ago, so the length will now fit in the European sizers of most airlines at the airports.

Posted by
6788 posts

Interesting!

According to KLM's website, their limit for carry-ons ("hand baggage") in Economy class are:
55 cm x 35 cm x 25 cm, including handles & wheels
(21.65" x 13.75" x 9.85")

Not too long ago, we bought two of those bags (the Rick Steves Rolling Carry-on). I've measured mine, both "filled but not bursting" and also "half-empty, minimal height for the thinnest profile possible."

When "filled but not bursting" (not bulging either) mine are 21" x 13" x 9" so they should meet KLM's stated limit.

Jean, can you elaborate? What exactly exceeded their sizer? Was his bag filled to the point where it was bulging at all?

I do note that on their website, there's a note sayiing "Allowance for your route - Make sure to check the exact baggage allowance for your specific route, as it might differ from the regular allowance. (link to "Calculate my allowance")"
You enter your departure and destination airports and Class (I'm assuming in your case, MAD, SEA, and Economy). When I enter those, it says the standard dimensions apply.

It would seem that your husband's bag should qualify (and I would assume it would fit the sizer). What's up with this?

PS: We just flew with this same bag for the first time; our trip included two legs on low cost airlines in Colombia (LATAM and Avianca). Nobody batted an eye at our bags (they did officially fit the requirements). We liked the bags and look forward to using them again.

Posted by
19118 posts

Yes, please tell is in what way it failed, was it fitting in the sizer or the weight?

The length limit is 21.65 inches and the RS website says it is only 21 inches long, including wheels. It shouldn't have fail by length.

The width limit is 13.75 inches, the RS website says it it 13.5 inches wide. That would be the height in the sizer, probably not there, either.

However, the thickness, the width into the sizer is 9.85 inches. The RS website says the bag expands to 2970 cu in, which is 10½ thick, too big for the sizer. In fact, at 10½ inches, it probably wouldn't even get into the sizer.

Did you have his bag expanded? Even if a bag is not expanded, but overpacked, it would also be easy to exceed the thickness limit. And, using the outside pockets make it even easier to exceed the thickness limit.

Posted by
8178 posts

Most of the legacy air carriers are flying Airbus and Boeing jets, and their overhead compartments will just about always handle your bags. So most of them are not big on taking the time and effort to put bags into The Rack. They see those bags all day, every day.

But the KLM of today is not the KLM of yesterday. And if they are going to be that picky over 1 inch, they're being unreasonable.
The last KLM flight into Amsterdam from the U.S. was the flight from hell. It was on the end of the pandemic, and the flight attendants were staying in the kitchens and not out servicing the customers. We returned on Delta, and that flight was fantastic. They just about floated us with drink after drink--and friendly service.

Often the problem with exceeding the size is the height of the wheels--not the size of the bag. I've been called out a couple of times on budget European airlines, but I argue long enough and the agent passes me on through as I was holding up the line.

Posted by
1350 posts

KLM doesn’t have a direct flight from Madrid to Seattle. This itinerary would require a change in Amsterdam. The flight from Madrid to Amsterdam is usually operated by a narrow-body plane like the Boeing 737. The transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Seattle will be operated by a wide-body plane like a Boeing 777 or an Airbus 330 or similar.
Narrow-body airplanes have much less space in the overhead luggage bins. When the flight is full, it’s not uncommon that passengers with carryons that are on the larger size are kindly asked to check in their hand luggage free of charge. My guess is that something similar happened here.
I hope Jean comes back to this topic to give some more details.

Free checked bag to Seattle? 👍. Sounds good to me if that’s your final destination. If the plane overhead bins were filling up - the airline may have done this for space reasons.

Posted by
2749 posts

This is why I tell people just because "people tell you they got away with it" does not mean you will. "Unreasonably picky" is not really true. If your luggage does not meet the size/weight limits than it's completely reasonable for an airline to say "no" and a defens of "I heard on Rick Steves travel forum it was OK" has never worked.

Posted by
206 posts

Jean,
I’m sure we all know how much experience you have with various bags: what will go in the overhead bin, and how to make sure it will “pass muster.” So it will be interesting when you rejoin this thread.

Checking a bag is not my preference, but I have done it at times. The bag usually comes back scuffed and sometimes misshapen. Might be partly my fault for stuffing it to capacity.

Like others, I wondered if the thickness of the bag was the issue, or just simply that the flight from Madrid to Amsterdam was on a type of aircraft without the larger size bins.

Did you have your Cotopaxi? No problems with that because it’s smaller in all dimensions, right?

Did any other rolling bags get selected for check-in, as far as you know?

Interrogation is now over. 😅

Posted by
6788 posts

For clarity:

Sometimes when a flight is full, and passengers who have boarded before you have already filled up the overhead bins, airline staff will announce they need others (those boarding later in the process) to gate-check their bags (IME this happens on most domestic flights nowadays). But according to the OP, that is not how this went down - it was not the general case where "sorry folks, the overhead bins are already full, starting now all your large carry-ons gotta be checked". In this case, the OP says the bag was rejected because of "the metal sizer box":

They also required all carry on luggage to be weighed and placed into the metal sizer box. My husband has this RS bag, and it was rejected and forced to be checked...

Weighing bags is nothing new (extremely common in Europe and on low-cost airlines everywhere). Placing it in the "sizer" is nothing new, either.

What would be new (at least to me) is there being a "sizer" that is actually smaller than the airline's stated carry-on bag size limit.

I have two of the RS Rolling Cary-on bags ("RSRCOBs") in question. I have measured them - carefully - and IME these bags are true/accurate to the size claimed on the RSE website (yes, including the wheels, handle, and any other protruding bits). Moreover, their actual dimensions (as stated on the RSE website, and verified by my own very OCD measurements) are clearly within the limits that KLM specifies on their website - with even some room to spare (almost a full inch in each dimension).

So there's some mystery here.

The only explanations I can think of are the following, all of which seem like a stretch:

  1. OP's DH had his RSRCOB in the expanded configuration (you can unzip a long zipper which allows the bag to expand in depth, increasing that dimension by over an inch); and it was full enough (or filled with "hard" stuff) that there was not enough "give" to squeeze it into the sizer. This seems like the only reasonable explanation to me.
  2. OP's DH had stuffed his non-expanded RSRCOB beyond all reason, resulting in bulges - bulges that were significant enough to exceed the design specifications and the sizer (note that this would take some effort, but could be possible).
  3. Gate staff were inadvertently using the wrong "sizer" box for their aircraft (one that was actually for a different, smaller aircraft).
  4. Gate staff were just looking for ways to mess with all passengers. We're all human, and have bad days/evil thoughts.
  5. There was a game-day aircraft swap, and the OP was put on a much smaller aircraft, with smaller bins and tighter requirements.

My guess is the bag had been inadvertently left in "expanded" configuration, and was pretty full, too, and in that case it did slightly exceed the allowed specification (though if not stuffed quite full, and not with "hard" stuff, it should still be able to squeeze down enough to pass muster). As they say in the business, "operator error."

As the owner of two of these bags (I like 'em) I'll be curious to hear how this turns out.

Posted by
753 posts

As someone who mostly checks their bag, I see you get a free checked bag out of this. Of course others had to pay for their checked bag. So take that as a freebie for yourself.
It seems that carrying on is a better deal as the last many times I have flown there is almost always announcement about free gate check due to fear of not enough spaces by the flight crew.
You win either way when doing a carryon. Excepting for the part where you bring your bag all through the airport.

Posted by
14067 posts

Jean! Well, by the time you read this you'll be back in Seattle, so Welcome Home!!

I'm glad it was on the way back.

Can't wait to find out the details but tend to your flights and self first. Rain/snow mix today but the good news is it's up to 40 here in CdA, hahaha!

Posted by
101 posts

Yikes, sorry to hear that. I flew KLM from LAX-AMS, AMS-FCO, FCO-AMS and AMS-LAX back in November 2023, but I was not asked to weigh my bags or fit them in the sizer. Was super stressed as over-head space was limited on all my flights, though.

Posted by
7347 posts

Okay we’re in Seattle now waiting for our last flight to Spokane. I have time to elaborate now. This was not at a gate. This wasn’t a flight attendant rejecting it.

We had to check in at Madrid as we entered the airport at Terminal 2. The sizer was at the main desk labeled “KLM/Air France”. There was no distinction between airplanes, flights, etc. It easily passed the weight, the width and the depth. Some of my obsession of packing very light has been adapted by him, too. ; ). He doesn’t use the expansion zipper. But the bar next to the wheels at the bottom of the bag would not go into the box - the length was the issue. He packs light; it wasn’t bulging as he placed it in the bag.

Our first flight was a 737-800. We knew his suitcase would fit in the plane; it’s the first time it was rejected at a gate or main check-in area. Just wanted to warn others because sometimes you need sufficient time to move important stuff into a smaller backpack.

When people ask about whether suitcases are inspected for size, etc. I thought you would appreciate a first-hand current witness.

Posted by
14067 posts

Jean, glad you have touched down and are on the last lap home!

I do appreciate knowing first hand accounts of luggage issues with carry on. It matters to me and I just assume my bag will be checked for size and weight. I was sure you had him light packing too, lol!!

Welcome back to the gray NW and yes, it's pouring rain now.

Posted by
6603 posts

Jean, welcome back and thanks for the bag info! I generally check my bags but I know there are many people here who are glad to have this info. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by
7347 posts

Pastelholic, yes, I was using my Cotopaxi 35L backpack. The checkin agent asked me to put my luggage on the scale, first, and as soon as she saw it as I was placing it down, she said I was fine.

Slightly off topic, but wow, I love my Cotopaxi even more each time I use it!

Posted by
2089 posts

Jean--That is surprising! It fits in Icelandair's sizer, so you would think it would fit in the KLM one. Good to know!

Posted by
9705 posts

Dang, it sounds like they were being very strict and it stuck out length-wise because of the bar on the bottom (if I have understood correctly )?

(Although it also seems like it's very possible, based on David in Seattle's observations, that KLM's own box sizer didn't actually meet the airline's own stated size guidelines!!!!)

I would have been annoyed, knowing that that half-inch or whatever wouldn't have made any difference in getting it in the actual overhead bin. It would have gone in fine. But we are at their mercy on these things. Thanks for sharing your experience. Hope your last legs home - flight and drive - go smoothly.

Posted by
7347 posts

My husband is easy-going, so it wasn’t a big deal after grabbing a few items out of the suitcase ….except that he left the car keys in the suitcase! We have an hour drive from the Spokane airport, so we were very glad the bag showed up at the SeaTac airport!

Posted by
18167 posts

They are being too strict? Maybe their real size was a half cm smaller but they rounded up on the published size so as to not be so strict?

Of course if the KLM sizer box was under sized that's not fair. I checked mine in a Lufthansa sizer once, I know I am a little large by 1/4 inch in one dimension but it still fit. That was nice. But I did it when no one was looking.

Posted by
19118 posts

It fits in Icelandair's sizer, so you would think it would fit in the
KLM one.

This is why people who pack to the "legal" limit should know the limits for the airlines they will be flying.

Both KLM and Iceland allow 55cm (21.6") length, but Icelandair's width and height are 40cm and 20cm whereas KLM's are 35cm x 25cm. So if the width of the bag (height in the sizer) was more than 35cm but less than 40cm, it might have fit in Icelandair's sizer but not KLM's.

Posted by
7347 posts

It was the length that didn’t fit in their sizer - collapsed handle-to-bottom of the bag. The width & depth of his bag were fine.

Posted by
14067 posts

except that he left the car keys in the suitcase! We have an hour drive from the Spokane airport, so we were very glad the bag showed up at the SeaTac airport!

Oh my! Add to the topics for discussion list for our CdA/Spokane meet up group!

Years ago here on the forum someone mentioned being stuck in Atlanta when his luggage (and car keys) were mis-routed. He could see his car from his hotel room! I realized I needed to have a plan so I fasten them inside my personal item or tech cube. I also take my keys even if I’m not leaving a car at the airport. You never know!

Posted by
9705 posts

I thought of just that example, Pam. it's a regular Forum contributor (a Dave or a David maybe?), who often makes the point on carry-on only specifying the two-day wait he and his wife had in Atlanta for his car keys to arrive in his bag. Jean, I am sorry ! So glad the bag showed up and you didn't have an issue getting home.

Posted by
1223 posts

Curious. KLM length is 55 cm or 21.65 in. Rick Steves rolling bag length advertises as 21 in.

Suggest that you tape measure your bag to confirm.

Is it possible that the bag became deformed? For example, if the back of bag (handle side) deformed upwards and front of bag (legs side) deformed downwards, the side profile of the bag would become trapezoidal instead of a perfect rectangle. That would possibly explain the increase in the overall length.

The only other possibility is that the KLM sizer was not to spec or incorrect.

Do we have to start carrying tape measures with us so that we can argue with the bag checkers?

Posted by
6788 posts

Do we have to start carrying tape measures with us so that we can argue with the bag checkers?

Wait - you mean, some folks don't?

(Sheepishly raises his hand to admit he always brings a portable luggage scale and a tape measure...yes, really.)

Posted by
2089 posts

Lee--I understand that, I was just saying that Icelandair is notorious for their small size bag allowance, so if one did not check they could be in trouble.

Posted by
729 posts

(Sheepishly raises his hand to admit he always brings a portable luggage scale and a tape measure...yes, really.)

We had an incident once at CDG 8 years ago where we received a rather stern warning because our combined weight was an ounce over the limit. Since that time we've always carried and used a very small lightweight luggage scale - you can switch it easily between pounds and kilograms. We've never had a weight issue since.

Posted by
7347 posts

We measured the length this morning with our two jet lagged engineering brains. It measures 22”. His suitcase is 10 years old. It’s never been handled by baggage handlers and looks in very good condition. Did the RS store reduce the length during that time period?

Posted by
16415 posts

I had one of the 22” RS bags, bought around 2005. I last used it on our 2013 trip to New Zealand.

I believe the size of the RS bag was recently reduced from 22” to 21” to conform to the Euro airlines’ 55 cm requirement, but do not recall the exact year.

Posted by
18167 posts

From time to time “Euro” size carry on bags come up. There are at least five size standards that I have had to deal with.

1) British Air and Easy Jet 56 x 45 x 25
2) American, Delta and United 56 x 36 x 23
3) Air France, ITA and KLM 55 x 35 x 25
4) Lufthansa, Swiss and Turkish Air 55 x 40 x 23
5) Ryan Air, TAP and Wizz Air 55 x 40 x 20

The only bag that meets all is no larger than 55 x 35 x 20 (21.65 x 13.77 x 7.87). So that must be “Euro” Size.

Stay off Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish Air, Ryan, TAP and Wizz and you can do 55 x 35 x 25 (21.65 x 13.77 x 9.84) for all other flights.

I have also noticed that on at least one airline (sorry, dont remember which) while the website had the dimensions in cm, the ticket receipt email listed it in inches and it was rounded up to the next full inch, so the 55cm became 22 inches.

But, my list is a few years old, so don’t rely on the fact that nothing has changed. Then there are at least three weight limits depending on which airline and sometimes which class of service.

As for the tape measure and the weight scale. If the desk agent says its too big or too heavy, then you arent getting on. What you can do is hold up the line behind you by arguing.

Posted by
6788 posts

I think we have a plausible explanation: older bag versus newer bag.

Jean says:

We measured the length this morning with our two jet lagged engineering brains. It measures 22”. His suitcase is 10 years old. It’s never been handled by baggage handlers and looks in very good condition. Did the RS store reduce the length during that time period?

Lola says:

I believe the size of the RS bag was recently reduced from 22” to 21” to conform to the Euro airlines’ 55 cm requirement, but do not recall the exact year.

I say:
I have a nearly-brand-new Rick Steves Rolling Carry-on Bag, right here (two of them, actually), purchased December 2023 at RSE HQ in Edmonds, during their holiday sale. It is in absolutely pristine condition (it just came home from its first trip, where it never was checked, never was handled by anyone but us).

I just measured it oh-so-carefully and very precisely.
Its length is definitely under 21 inches - it's just a smidge over 20.5".

Since we have two of them, I measured both. There's no discernible difference in length between our two bags.

To measure it's length, I placed it flat on the floor, bottom end butted up against the base of a flat door, and placed a tape measure on the floor underneath it, showing the tape measurements. I placed a thin, flat piece of wood across it's top - this should replicate any "sizer" that's true to square. The length comes in between 20 1/2 inches to 20 5/8 inches, depending how you wiggle and square it up, but in any case it's under 20.75", so true to it's claim of "21 inches".

Unless there are some pretty extreme variations in size due to manufacturing tolerances (which would need to be more than a full inch, which I find hard to imagine), it seems pretty clear:

If you have an "old" version of this bag, it may not pass muster at KLM (or equivalent 55 cm) bag sizers.

If you have a "newer" version of this bag, you should be able to smugly breeze through the size check and roll that thing right onto the plane.

The real question is, When was the manufacturing specification changed?
Perhaps a question for Edmonds on a Saturday...

Posted by
3211 posts

An older version of this bag, older than 2015 (because that is when I had to get the newer one as my older version was actually greater than 22") would not fit in the international size box. My 2015 bag, still looking perfect, fits in the international box. So that would explain the issue.

Posted by
6788 posts

David, does this post shed any light on that?

Yes, but it also throws some obfuscation, too - but thank you! 😎

An older version of this bag, older than 2015 (because that is when I had to get the newer one as my older version was actually greater than 22") would not fit in the international size box. My 2015 back, still looking perfect, fits in the international box. So that would explain the issue.

Useful info - thanks!

Looks like even the new version is too large for Lufthansa, Swiss, Turkish Air, Ryan, TAP and Wizz.

Don't know about the others, but last time I checked for Lufthansa, this bag should indeed pass muster for carry ons:

Lufthansa Economy Carry On Limits:
Maximum dimensions 21.5" x 15.5" x 9" (checked December 2023)

Rick Steves Rolling Cary-on Bag ("RSRCOB" Late 2023 Edition):
Maximum dimensions 21" x 13.5" x 9" (verified just now)

Things change. Airlines add extra rows of seats, squeezing seat pitch (and your knees). They apparently are also in a race towards achieving "singularity size" for carry-ons, and may continue squeezing the baggage limits/sizers from time to time. Bag vendors and bag manufacturers need to try to keep up with constantly changing standards/expectations. It seems evident from this thread (and others) that the RSRCOB has evolved and changed over time - maybe more than once (maybe like cars, every year a new model?). It's a tough business, with moving targets.

So far, I really like our RSRCOBs (after just one trip, so not definitive). I bought them specifically for upcoming trips where I knew we would be on multiple low cost airlines, in Europe and elsewhere (they worked out great on two South American airlines that appear to be following typical European LCC models that we flew, Avianca and LATAM).

I specifically checked the Lufthansa limits carefully before buying these bags (we have a flight on Lufthansa in September), so I hope they haven't/don't change theirs anytime soon (but life has few such guarantees). On my next trip to Europe, I've also got a flight on an ultra low cost carrier whose stated limits are 21.5" x 15.5" x 7.75", so I'm going to need to squeeze my RSRCOB down to just 7.75" thickness, which should be possible as long as I don't fill it. We'll see.

Ah, the thrill of international travel...

Posted by
9705 posts

And now we know why it didn't fit in the sizer ! (by that tiniest little bit ) phew !!

I am still thinking about the person above who got slammed by Air France for one ounce over the 12-kilo limit. I don't honestly know that my luggage scale is so precise that it wouldn't be off by an ounce anyway !!??

Posted by
14067 posts

I think I got my RS roller in 2015 as well so I agree with Wray on when the measurements were changed.

Posted by
58 posts

I can confirm that we used to sell a 22-inch rolling bag, which we discontinued approximately ten years ago, as it no longer fit the carry-on standard for most airlines. Our current Rolling Carry-On bag replaced the discontinued version.

Posted by
7347 posts

Thank you, Stefanie! I will update the title to remove the confusion..

Posted by
6788 posts

Thanks, Stefanie, for confirming what many of us were suspecting: the old-version versus new-version of this bag made the difference.

Let's hope the "standard" (or what passes for a standard) doesn't "evolve" (that is, shrink) any further for another 10 years (hah, dream on!). If I can get 10 years out of these new (to me) bags, I'll be delighted.

Posted by
7347 posts

Guess this is the year for my husband to buy a new bag! …..although I know he’d rather buy a new golf club, instead! : )

Since his current one still looks nice, we can donate this one to a local women’s shelter and include some helpful items inside it.

Posted by
729 posts

I am still thinking about the person above who got slammed by Air France for one ounce over the 12-kilo limit. I don't honestly know that my luggage scale is so precise that it wouldn't be off by an ounce anyway !!??

I thought that too at the time. AF at CDG checked the combined weight of our bags. How could anyone be that confident in such a big clunky platform scale with 2 carry ons and 2 personal bags lying on it? They were checking if we exceeded the combined limit of 24kg. I'm sure their checker was in a mood. I can't imagine anyone would take the time to reprimand every person over an ounce. We were actually scolded "don't do that again!".

We now have a fairly accurate scale and we also travel premium - sometimes the weight limit is much higher depending on airline.

It's a completely different experience when we board AF in Detroit - they just wave us through. It's a very small operation - lol.

Posted by
15276 posts

It's a completely different experience when we board AF in Detroit - they just wave us through. It's a very small operation - lol.

More than likely, they are not Air France employees but a company contracted for their services. You won't know the difference.

Posted by
729 posts

More than likely, they are not Air France employees but a company contracted for their services. You won't know the difference.

Yes, I'm aware that happens really often everywhere. For instance Icelandair's new service in Detroit would not maintain their own work force for flights that only leave and arrive once several days a week. AF's daily schedule here is not intensive either. I won't wander too much farther from thread's topic.