What If My Carry On Is One Inch Too Big?

carry on luggage one inch too big

For travelers both at home and abroad, carry on luggage is crucial. Everything you need while you’re on the plane (or bus for that matter) and directly upon arrival to your destination is in it.

Carry on is always a matter of the utmost importance while traveling. Regardless of how many checked bags you have (or how much you pay), your carry on luggage is an equally vital pre-flight consideration.

While flying, your carry on will have to pass through both airport security and airline regulations before making it onto the plane. 

That said, each airline has it’s own restrictions concerning carry on size. But what if you’re carry on is just one inch too big?

Carry On Luggage 101

Is one inch too much a deal-breaker when it comes to carry on luggage?

To answer the question above, first, you must understand the basic rules of carry on luggage; carry on luggage 101.

Today, carry on luggage is more popular than ever. Thanks to the rising prices of checked baggage, people are packing more into their carry on bags than ever before. 

With storage space limited in the cabins of commercial passenger jets, each airline has individual restrictions concerning how many carry on items you can board with as well as how large they can be.

For this reason, it is crucial to check with the airline you’re flying with ahead of time. Typically, carry on bags are allowed to measure 9 inches by 13 inches by 22 inches.

That said, keep in mind that the softer your carry on bag is, the better. Harder carry on luggage may have a hard time fitting in the often over-packed overhead storage above your seat on the flight.

Most of the time, an additional carry on is also permitted per passenger. However, this second carry on must fit underneath your seat. 

Again, it is vital to be aware that each airline has its own restrictions and policies regarding carry on limits. Also, some airlines have much smaller luggage compartments than others. So, a little bit of planning for a hassle-free carry on experience is necessary.

Failure to adhere to an airline’s carry on policy may result in fines or denial to board the plane with the luggage in violation of carry on policy.

Size Restrictions for Carry On Luggage

Carry on luggage restrictions are more strictly enforced today than they were in the past. This is in part due to economic inflation over the past decade and the need to recuperate more money per passenger (the more luggage you carry on, the more you pay the airline in most cases). It is also due to the small storage compartments in many modern passenger aircraft.

Regardless of the why, it is one hundred percent necessary to follow carry on policy. Doing so gives all of the passenger’s equal storage space, less tension, and therefore a calmer atmosphere in the cabin during the flight.

Even if you are able to sneak an over-sized carry on onboard the plane, you really wouldn’t want to. Taking up extra room, and limiting the space available to other passengers is entirely unacceptable and is seen as rude and troublesome by both the airline staff and other passengers.

All of the above taken into consideration, packing light is a consideration all travelers should make. Sure, it isn’t always possible. But when it is, one should take advantage of the benefits of traveling light.

Here are a few of the official size restrictions for carry on luggage as listed by major airlines operating in North America (listed in inches and pounds):

  • Air Canada: 21.5 inches, by 15.5 inches, by 9 inches and 22-pound weight limit.
  • Air France: 21.7 inches, by 13.8 inches, by 9.9 inches and 22-pound weight limit.
  • Air New Zealand: 46.5 total linear inches and 15-pound weight limit.
  • AirTran Airways: 24 inches, by 16 inches, by 10 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Alaska Airlines: 22 inches, by 14 inches, by 9 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Allegiant Air: 16 inches, by 15 inches, by 7 inches with no max weight limit.
  • American Airlines: 22 inches, by 14 inches, by 9 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Delta Airlines: 22 inches, by 14 inches, by 9 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Frontier Airlines: 24 inches, by 16 inches, by 10 inches and a 35-pound weight limit.
  • Icelandair: 21.6 inches, by 15.7 inches, by 7.8 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Japan Airlines: 22 inches, by 16 inches, by 10 inches and a 22-pound weight limit.
  • JetBlue Airways: 22 inches, by 14 inches, by 9 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Korean Air: 21.6 inches, by 15.7 inches, by 7.8 and a 25-pound weight limit.
  • Norwegian Air: 21.6 inches, by 15.7 inches, by 9 inches and a 22 to 33-pound weight limit. 
  • Philippine Airlines: 45 total linear inches and a 15-pound weight limit.
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines: 45 total linear inches and a 19.8-pound weight limit.
  • Scandinavian Airlines: 22 inches, by 16 inches, by 9 inches and an 18-pound weight limit.
  • Singapore Airlines: 45 total linear inches and a 15-pound weight limit.
  • Southwest Airlines: 24 inches, by 16 inches, by 10 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Thai Airways: 22 inches, by 18 inches, by 10 inches and a 15-pound weight limit.
  • United Airlines: 22 inches, by 14 inches, by 9 inches with no max weight limit.
  • Virgin Atlantic: 22 inches, by 14 inches, by 9 inches with no max weight limit.

The above carry on restrictions are valid as of the publishing date of this article; they are subject to change. Be sure to check with the specific airline you’re traveling with before you pack your bags!

What Happens If My Carry On is One Inch Too Big?

So, you’re all packed up, just arrived at the airport, and are getting ready to board the plane. When it’s your turn to show your ticket, have your carry on measured and weighed, and make your way to the boarding area, you’re told that your carry on luggage is one inch bigger than the size restrictions allow. 

What do you do?

If you’re thinking forward when packing and contacted the airline about their carry on rules, you won’t be in such a situation, to begin with. However, if for some reason you do find yourself with a carry on luggage one inch too big, you may have a couple of options.

If your luggage is constructed of soft material, you may be able to repack the contents of it and compress things down to pass the size restriction. Harder luggage won’t be able to pull off this trick.

Worst case scenario, you may be able to purchase a smaller carry on bag and repack it before your flight boards. There is also the possibility that you could mail the entire luggage to the destination which you are flying too instead of leaving it behind.

Your options of what to do if your carry on is one inch too big also have a lot to do with the specific airline you’re flying. Not to mention the employees who are working when you’re boarding.

Carry On Packing Tips

If you find yourself in the predicament of needing to reduce the contents of your carry on, or you simply want to pack as smart as possible, to begin with, here are a few tips for packing the lightest carry on possible: 

  • Wear as much clothing as possible (including your heaviest shoes)
  • Tie your jacket or sweater around your waist if you’re not wearing it
  • Store as much stuff in your pockets as possible (including jacket pockets)
  • Pack as precisely as possible and only what you need
  • Compress clothing as much as physically possible (use compression bags if you can)
  • Makes the straps on your bag as short as possible to make it appear even smaller

Following these simple tips can save you from having to leave possessions behind at last minute’s notice. It also keeps you from being embarrassed in front of others’ boarding the plane.

Final Thoughts About Carry On Luggage Sizes for Traveling

The most accurate answer to the question “what if my carry on is one inch too big?” depends on a range of circumstances and factors.

For example, how much planning you put into your carry on, being aware of the specific airline’s carry on size limitations, and sometimes even more importantly, the individual staff members working the day and shift you travel (that may or may not deny your carry on over a matter of one inch).

Do you have an experience with a carry on luggage that you weren’t able to bring aboard an airplane due to it being too big? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

Hopefully, you’ll never need to deal with your carry on being one inch too big because you’ll remember to check each airline’s specific carry on size regulations before booking a flight!

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