Strict cabin luggage size?


Apr 26, 2018
Hello everyone,

Short version: How strict are US carriers when it comes to cabin-sized luggage dimensions?

Longer version:

I'm currently overseas in Asia, and I purchased a new cabin-sized soft-sided suitcase -- American Tourister MV+. It's a nice little thing, but upon getting back to my hotel, I looked up the dimensions and realized that it exceeds most every airline that has a strict WxHxD requirement.

The sum of all three dimensions are precisely 115cm (50 x 39 x 26 cm), but most airlines are specific about which centimetres can go where. AA's is 56 x 36 x 23, for example.

I'm wondering, is this purchase a lost cause, or can I probably get by with a smile and this slightly oversized carry-on? I've never pushed my luck with size before, so I'm wondering if you lovely travellers have any insights for me.

Thanks! :)
At this point, you have two options.

1. Check the bag when you get to the airport and the problem is solved. You will see it again when you claim your bag to go through Customs and Immigration at your first port of call in the U.S.

2. Take the bag through security and proceed to your departure gate.. If a gate agent tells you to put it in the bag sizer and it doesn't fit, the bag will be checked and sentence 2 of option 1 takes effect--you will see it again when you claim your bag to go through C&I.

Either way you and the bag arrive in the U.S. at the same time (Hopefully. If you decide to argue with the gate agent about checking the bag, you will lose that argument, and depending on how unpleasant you were, you may lose your bag. I'm not saying that the gate agent would deliberately mis-route your bag, but accidents do happen.) :rolleyes:

The measurement is not really about the size and weight of your bag. It's about the size of the overhead bin. If your bag is 40 inches long by 24 inches thick, and the overhead bin is 38 inches deep and/or 22 inches tall, your bag is not going to fit, and shoving an oversized/overstuffed bag in the overhead bin risks breaking the bin. Such an event may or may not cancel the flight, but it will reduce the number of overhead bins available by 1. And, the flight will be delayed while maintenance tapes the broken bin to keep it closed (and empty). You will not be a fan of your fellow passengers.

(Again, I strongly urge you not to argue with the gate agent. You will not win, and there is a possibility that you may be denied boarding for security reasons. If you are difficult on the ground, the crew does not want to have to deal with you at 35,000 feet.)

P.S. If an agent allows you on board with an oversized bag and it doesn't fit in the overhead bin, you will still have to check it. No, the crew will not stack the bag in a closet just for your convenience.
Why not just go with option 1 where the problem is solved at the ticket counter? AND, you do not have to lug the thing down endless corridors, or risk a ruptured disk in your neck by lifting the thing up to the overhead bin, or risk being denied boarding because you felt called upon to demand your rights to overhead bin space that fits whatever bag you decided to bring. No airline that I know of guarantees overhead bin space--not even in First Class. It's first come, first served. And, when the bins are full, they are full. ALL carryon bags not yet stowed are checked unless they fit completely underneath the seat in front of you. Got lucky and got assigned a bulkhead row seat with all that lovely leg room? Too bad, you don't have any underseat space. Save yourself the hassle, check it.

One other thing, be careful that you can lift your bag up to the overhead bin unassisted. If you can not lift it, it will be checked. Every airline I know of has a strict policy for the flight attendants that they do NOT risk injury by lifting bags. A. It's not part of their job description and B So many flight attendants were being injured by lifting bags of those passengers who just couldn't leave home without their rock collection that the airlines just decided that flight attendants do not lift passenger bags.
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Forgot to add...
"It fit on my last flight." (We're not your last flight. We're your current flight.)
"It fit on my United flight." (Doubt that, but in any case, we don't care.)
"I have valuable antiques in that bag, and I will sue the airline if anything is damaged." (Read the Contract for Carriage on the back of your ticket. The airline is not responsible for any items you packed.)

These are examples of other non-starters. Don't waste your breath. None of them will work.:)
Your class of service may also impact your ability for a carry on.
If you are flying economy and boarding late, most bins will be full and a checked bag is almost guaranteed.
Your class of service may also impact your ability for a carry on.
If you are flying economy and boarding late, most bins will be full and a checked bag is almost guaranteed.

True, but just FYI...I worked in First/Business Class the majority of the time. More than once I had to deal with irate passengers who were ticketed in First (oh hell let's just leave it at First Class) that had no overhead bin space because their fellow cabin mates who boarded ahead of them, filled up the overhead bins. We (the flight attendants) were not permitted to ask passengers to take smaller items out of the the OH bin and put them under the seat. We made announcements to that effect, but a lot of FC passengers are allergic to having anything under the seat in front of them; so they put EVERYTHING in the overhead bin. We then had to point out to the irate passenger that his/her carryon luggage could be checked to the final destination or they could put it in the overhead bin in coach. And, you would be surprised at the unwillingness of some FC passengers to accommodate the needs of their fellow passengers in FC.