Why You Must Carefully Measure Carry-on Bags

The next time you go shopping for a carry-on bag, have a tape measure handy. According to Chicago’s ABC7 News, Consumer Reports says not all bags are as small as the manufacturers claim they are. And that could cost you.

Some Carry-on Bags are Too Big

Consumer Reports measured eleven different bags (and measured each one several times with “laser precision”) only to find that nine were bigger than advertised. These included bags by American Tourister, Samsonite, TravelPro, Victorinox and more.

Don’t Forget Handles and Wheels

This is not to suggest the manufacturers are intentionally trying to mislead anyone. It just that the entire bag must be measured to meet airline size requirements, and that includes measuring the stuff that sticks out like handles and wheels.

Airline size allowances for carry-on bags vary but United’s dimensions are typical:

“9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels.

Why do airlines care? It can lead to delays as travelers try to cram too-big bags into too-small bin spaces. As a result, we’ve been seeing more and more Baggage Police at airport gates, airline reps who eyeball hand luggage and make snap decisions as to whether a bag will be allowed onboard or not.

If not, the bag is often placed in the cargo hold for free, but sometimes passengers are told to return to the main terminal to check the bag and pay a fee. Since most fees are around $50 round-trip, why risk it?

Don’t take a chance. Measure the bag before you buy.


Updated: October 28, 2015