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Guide to International Luggage Standards

International Luggage by the window at the airport

International flights differ significantly from domestic flights. For one thing, while you can often travel with only a carry-on domestically, most travelers require at least two pieces of luggage for international travel. Individual airline policies determine fees for international luggage, your international flight baggage allowance, and the luggage weight limit for international flights. Your destination and origin point also play a role in determining baggage allowance and fees, as does your frequent flier status and whether you’re flying first class, business, or economy.

A general overview of how airlines handle luggage for international flights follows. Before you travel, it’s best to contact your airline and confirm their luggage policies, as airline regulations for luggage change frequently.

Luggage Weight Limits

The luggage weight limit for international flights differs from domestic US weight limits, which can become a problem if you need to switch between domestic and international flights to reach your destination. Check airline regulations carefully, and pack with the lowest weight allowance for your carry-on and checked luggage for all flights.

Carry-on Weight Limits

Carry-on baggage weight limits for international travel differ significantly from domestic carry-on rules. Most domestic flights limit carry-on suitcases, bags, and backpacks to 35 lbs.

The allowable weight of carry-on luggage differs from airline to airline, but your carry-on luggage generally cannot weigh more than 16 to 18 lbs for international flights. British Airways is an exception and sets its carry-on weight limit at a whopping 51 lbs.

Checked Bags

The checked luggage weight limit for international flights is usually the same as for domestic flights: 50 lbs. Most airlines set 50 lbs as their weight limit to reduce the risk of injury to baggage handlers.

As with carry-on luggage, there are exceptions to checked luggage weight limits. International flights in the US and European Union set a maximum weight of 70 lbs for checked luggage, although you may have to pay fees if you exceed the 50 lb limit guideline. Individual airlines can also set lower weight allowances for international checked luggage. Once again, check with all airlines on your flight itinerary to verify their luggage weight limits. /p>

International Suitcase Sizes

International luggage size is just as important as weight limits when choosing your travel luggage. International luggage size restrictions may be expressed in inches or centimeters by height, width, and depth, or all three measurements are added for a single dimension expressed in linear inches or cms. Be aware that most airlines outside of the USA will measure bags in centimeters.

Personal Items

Most airlines allow you to board with a personal item in addition to your carry-on bag. The definition of a “personal” item is vague but usually means a handbag, laptop bag, camera bag, purse, or other small items that you can store under the seat in front of you.

The exact size limit for personal items varies from airline to airline. Most US-based airlines limit personal item size to 40 linear inches or 18 x 14 x 8 inches. British Airways allows the same dimensions, while Air Canada limits personal items to 17 x 13 x 6 inches.

International Carry on

International carry-on sizes are generally larger than the US domestic limit of 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 linear inches. Carry ons for international flights are usually between 22 and 15.7 inches tall, with varying depth and width limits. Be aware this can cause difficulties at the boarding gate as carry-on accepted by international flights are too big for domestic flights and are likely to be checked in at the departure gate.

Carry-on Luggage Sizes: International Airlines

AeroMexico 21.5 x 15.7 x 10 22
Air Canada 21.5 x 15.7 x 9 --
Air France 46.5 total linear 26
Air New Zealand 22 x 14 x 9 15
Alitalia 21.7 x 13.8 x 9.9 17.6
All Nippon Airways 22 x 16 x 10 22
El Al Airlines 22 x 17.7 x 9.8 17.6
Iceland Air 15.7 x 11.8 x 5.9 22
Japan Airlines 22 x 16 x 10 22
KLM 21.5 x 13.5 x 10 26
Korean Air 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 25
Lufthansa 21.7 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Norwegian Air 21.7 x 15.7 x 9 22
Philippine Airlines 22 x 14 x 9 15
Qantas Airways 22 x 14 x 9 15
Saudi Arabian Airlines 62 total linear 15.4
Scandinavian Airlines 21.7 x 15.7 x 9 17.6
Singapore Airlines 45.3 total linear 15.4
Thai Airways 22 x 18 x 10 15
Virgin Atlantic 22 x 14 x 9 22


Checked Luggage

Dimensions of 62 linear inches are the standard for international luggage size restrictions, similar to domestic flights' size limits. The 62 linear inch limit is not a hard and fast rule. You can travel with larger bags if you’re willing to pay an oversize fee. In most cases, international luggage size is not as important as luggage weight.

International Flight Baggage Allowance

Your international flight baggage allowance, and any associated fees, will vary depending on the individual airline’s regulations for luggage. If you’re a frequent flier, hold elite status, or traveling first-class or in business, you may be able to board with extra carry-on or avoid baggage fees. Check with your airline to see if this applies to you.

Personal Item and Carry-on

Most international flights allow you to board with one personal item and one piece of carry-on. There are exceptions, most notably Bolivia’s Amaxonas, which only permits carry-on luggage and does not allow personal items.

In some airlines, such as Royal Dutch Airlines, first class and business passengers can board with two pieces of carry-on with a combined weight of 40 lbs and one personal item.

In addition to personal items, most international airlines allow you to board with jackets, coats, and baby strollers.

Checked Luggage

International flights allow one, and often two, pieces of checked luggage per passenger. International luggage allowance is often influenced by whether the flight is intracontinental (within the same continent) or intercontinental (across the ocean or spanning different continents).

For instance, American Airlines allows passengers two checked bags when flying to or from Japan, South Korea, and China, but only one bag when traveling between the USA and Mexico. Plane size, the airport infrastructure at your destination, and how much luggage passengers typically pack for a particular flight also impact baggage allowances.

Most airlines allow you to check additional bags for a fee, with each extra bag costing more than the last. Your airline might offer an international flight baggage allowance of two free checked bags, for instance, with a $125 fee for a third bag and $200 for each additional bag after that.

For oversized, extremely heavy, or oddly shaped items, check airline regulations for luggage before flying. Some airlines have separate weight and size limits for skis, surfboards, golf bags, and other items. For heavy items, the airline will probably have a maximum weight allowance. United, for example, has a 100 lb. limit for any checked item. Necessary medical equipment may or may not be treated as checked luggage, depending on the airline.

A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

Airline regulations for luggage change frequently, often in response to fluctuating fuel costs. Check out the Travelpro Airline Guide for information on individual airline policies, international flight baggage allowances, weight limits, and accepted dimensions.

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