TSA Carry-On Size Requirements To Know and How To Avoid Bag Fees

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Airports at any time, but especially during busy seasons, can be stressful to navigate. It seems like every time you book a trip, some new rule or regulation has popped up — not to mention, when they remove a rule or regulation you planned around before you arrived, only to be told you didn’t have to worry about it. Airports can be chaotic and many things can be outside of your control such as flight delays, interruptions or cancelations.

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With a majority of airlines charging for checked bags, some people opt to avoid this additional fee and not check their luggage. Whether you are looking to save money on your trip, or just travel lighter and avoid hold-ups at baggage claim, you should be aware of the restrictions and fees each airline has for carry-on bags and personal items. Unexpected airport expenditures can add up, so planning ahead can save you both time and money.

Some people also avoid checking bags altogether to alleviate worry about lost, stolen or misplaced luggage. When this is the case, carry-ons are the only option so it is best to know what is the proper carry-on size, and what are its limitations.

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What Are the TSA Carry-On Size Requirements?

The Federal Aviation Administration stipulates that a carry-on piece of luggage may not exceed the measurements of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high, including wheels and handles. It is a horrible feeling when you get to the airport with your luggage that you think is carry-on size, but then it doesn’t fit in the reference size check display located at ticket counters and gates. Depending on which airline you booked your ticket through, these carry-on restrictions could vary.

To avoid this added stress to your trip, make sure to get the measurements of your luggage before you purchase it or before you pack. Knowing what you can take with you on the plane ahead of time will save you a headache upon arrival at check-in. 

Carry-On Restrictions for Domestic Airlines

Airline-specific regulations for carry-on luggage can vary, so be sure to check this information when you book your flight, otherwise, you may have to check your bag. Here are the carry-on restrictions for top-rated airlines in the United States.

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Delta Air Lines

Delta allows each passenger one carry-on bag and one personal item. Measurements for a carry-on bag may not exceed 22 inches in length, 14 inches in width and 9 inches in height. These measurements do include any wheels or handles. There are no weight restrictions except for some international travel. Personal items must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest has a little more wiggle room with carry-on size. Only bags exceeding 24 inches in length, 16 inches in width and 10 inches in height would have to be checked. They allow one carry-on of this size or smaller and one personal item. If you wish to bring your pet, pet carriers are counted as either your carry-on or personal item.

United Airlines

United has the standard carry-on size allowances of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high. Carry-ons must be able to fit in the overhead compartment. Your allowed personal item cannot exceed the measurements of 17 inches in length, 10 inches in width and 9 inches in height to ensure it safely fits under the seat in front of you. Personal items can include but are not limited to a small purse, diaper bag, jacket, reading material or a camera.

American Airlines

American Airlines has the standard size for carry-ons that cannot exceed 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high. You could also have a soft-sided garment bag up to 51 inches as your carry-on. If your carry-on luggage does not fit in the sizer at the airport, chances are it will not fit in the overhead compartment, which means you will have to check your bag. American allows one carry-on bag and one personal item per customer.

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Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines recommends that you measure your bag carefully before you fly so your carry-on does not exceed the dimensions of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high. You are also allowed one personal item that fits under the seat in front of you such as a briefcase or laptop bag.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines restricts carry-on sizes to the standard size which they qualify as 9 inches long, 14 inches wide and 22 inches high. It is also important to note they have a weight limit of 25 pounds per carry-on bag. In addition to this carry-on, you are also allowed one small personal item that can fit safely under the seat in front of you.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue allows you one carry-on and one personal item for all their fares except for their Blue Basic fares. For regular fares, you are allowed a standard-sized carry-on with maximum dimensions of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high. For Blue Basic fares you aren’t allowed any carry-ons except for one small personal item to be stored under the seat in front of you.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines has a unique system for carry-on luggage. You are only allowed one small personal item that cannot exceed 8 inches long, 18 inches wide and 14 inches high. For carry-on bags, it depends on when you book your ticket and claim which bags you will be bringing. This is their Awards Redemption program where you check or redeem your bags with the Bag Price Checker for how much you will owe for your carry-on — which size cannot exceed 10 inches long, 16 inches wide and 24 inches high. The redemption range is as follows:

  • 180 days or more before travel your carry-on is free
  • 21-179 days before travel your carry-on is $15
  • 7-20 days before travel your carry-on is $50
  • Less than 6 days before travel your carry-on is $75

Allegiant Air

Allegiant allows one personal item for free and prices other carry-ons by what trip you have booked. Essentially it’s by route so it can range anywhere from $10 to $75 if you pay for them beforehand. Any bag fee paid at the airport is a standard $50 fee each way per bag, per passenger. Carry-on size is not to exceed 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit allows one personal item for free which is not to exceed the dimensions of 18 inches long, 14 inches wide and 8 inches high. Carry-on bags cannot exceed the dimensions of 22 inches long, 18 inches wide and 10 inches high. There is a fee for carry-ons which is $41 if you pay during online check-in, or $55 if you pay at the airport.

How To Avoid Bag Fees

Unless you have certain status or allowances within certain airlines, chances are you will have to pay for a checked bag. However, if you know the sizing limitations for carry-ons and feel like you could scale back and not check a bag, it could save you some money at the airport. 

If you don’t exceed each airline’s specifications for allowed carry-on dimensions and weight limits, you’d be able to take your bag for free through most domestic airlines. Make sure to look into what your airline allows, and charges for before you book. Measure and weigh your bag beforehand so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare.

FAQ

  • Is a 24-inch bag considered a carry-on?
    • The standard allowed measurements of a carry-on bag as per the FAA is 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high. Certain airlines such as Southwest Airlines or Frontier Airlines do allow a 24-inch bag, but most airlines have the cut-off at 22 inches long. If your carry-on is 24 inches make sure to check with the airline you've booked as to their measurement stipulations.
  • What size is considered the carry-on size?
    • Carry-on bags typically measure with the dimensions of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high. Though some airlines have different allowances for carry-on size, these are the TSA approved carry-on measurements.
  • What is the standard size of a carry-on bag?
    • The standard size of a carry-on bag as per the FAA and TSA is 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high.
  • Are airlines strict about carry-on bag sizes?
    • Airlines do strictly enforce carry-on bag sizes. If your personal item does not fit under the seat, or your carry-on does not fit in the overhead compartment, you will have to check your bag which could result in an additional fee.
  • Which airlines charge for carry-on baggage?
    • Of some of the main domestic airlines in the United States, there are a few that charge for carry-on luggage. Sprint Airlines charges for any carry-on outside of the one allowed personal item. JetBlue Basic Blue fares do not include a carry-on. Frontier Airlines and Allegiant Airlines both have varying rates of baggage fees depending on when you booked your trip, and where you booked your trip. When booking your trip online it is always best to look into the carry-on policy of that specific airline.

Information is accurate as of Oct. 26, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

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About the Author

Caitlyn Moorhead has written content for a variety of businesses and publications. After graduating from Central Michigan University cum laude, she moved to NYC where she wrote columns, articles and plays for several years before relocating to Austin, Texas in the fall of 2020.
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