Carry-on luggage guide & allowances

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There’s not much worse than being the one holding up the rest of the plane as you desperately try to squeeze your rolling suitcase (which is barely passing as carry-on) into the overhead lockers. Or worse, not even being allowed on a flight because of your excessive luggage.

We’ll cut you some slack, as travelling, and particularly packing, can be stressful, with each airline seemingly going by their own rules when it comes to what you can take on a flight. As a general rule, airlines usually only allow up to 7kg of carry-on, however dimensions and weight can sometimes vary, and it can become tricky to remember all the little fine details. Luckily, Canstar Blue has you covered with this carry-on luggage guide to help you through the different rules for both domestic and international flights and airlines.

Domestic Carry-On Luggage

Man with luggage at airport

Travelling domestically should be a little easier to follow than international – or maybe it’ll be harder because you’re trying to squeeze a week’s trip to Melbourne in one carry-on (understandable). Below is a brief overview and comparison of Australian domestic airlines and their carry-on luggage policies, but it’s always best to check the website of the airline you’re travelling with before you go to board to avoid any nasty surprises at the gate.

Here are the domestic airlines we have compared:

Airline Items allowed Maximum size (HxWxD) Weight allowance (total) Fee for excess luggage
Qantas One cabin bag OR two smaller cabin bags + with one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm

OR

48cm x 34xcm x 23cm (x2)

14kg (no single item over 10kg) Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, with varied unspecified costs.
Jetstar One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, which costs approximately $65.
Regional Express (Rex) One cabin bag + one personal item. 34cm x 48cm x 23cm 7kg $16.50 per oversized item + $7.70 per excess kg.
Tigerair One cabin bag + one personal item. 54cm x 38cm x 23cm 7kg Minimum of $20 per excess kilo, depending on flight.
Virgin One cabin bag OR two smaller cabin bags + with one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm

OR

48cm x 34cm x 23cm (x2)

7kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, which costs approximately $60.

Information gathered from respective airline websites, Feb 2020. Figures based on Economy flights.

Qantas

Qantas

This Aussie airline can be pretty pricey, but you’ll reap a couple of extra carry-on rewards. According to its website, your carry-on:

  • Must not exceed 14kg total, and each individual bag must not exceed 10kg.
  • Must not exceed one bag of 56cm x 36cm x 23cm or two bags of 48cm x 34cmx 23cm (to fit in lockers) and one small item (to fit under the seat in front).

These rules do not apply for Dash 8 flights, in which carry-on must not exceed 7kg for both.

Jetstar

jetstar-logo

This airline is known for its cheap flights, but it isn’t cheap on excessive carry-on. According to its website, your carry-on:

  • Must not exceed the weight of 7kg.
  • Must not exceed 56cm x 36cm x 23cm.
  • Must be a maximum of one main item (to fit in overhead lockers) and one small item (to fit under the seat in front).
  • Can be increased if you purchase the ‘+7kg Extra Carry-On Baggage’ option, which varies in price based on when you purchase and for which flight, however no single item can weigh more than 10kg.
  • Will cost you $15 per kilo over your allocated 7kg (or 14kg if purchased).

Regional Express (Rex)

Regional Express Airlines

Rex, which stands for Regional Express, is an airline that operates scheduled regional flights from major cities, and vice versa, with most of Rex’s fleet containing smaller aircraft. As a result, Rex’s carry-on allowances are a bit smaller than some other airlines, and according to its website, your carry-on:

  • Must not exceed the weight of 7kg.
  • Must not exceed 34cm x 48cm x 23 cm.
  • Must be a maximum of one main item (to fit in overhead) and one small item (to fit under the seat in front).
  • Will cost you $16.50 per oversized item, plus $7.70 per excess kg.
  • Cannot be pre-purchased (for excess).

Tigerair

Tigerair

The airline is well-known for its budget flights, and with budgets comes tough excess fees. Your Tigerair carry-on:

  • Must not exceed the weight of 7kg.
  • Must not exceed 54cm x 38cm x 23cm.
  • Must be a maximum of one main item (to fit in overhead) and one small item (to fit under the seat in front).
  • Will cost you majorly if it exceeds the weight limit. For flights under 1 hour 45 minutes, expect to pay $20 per excess kg, or a total of $36 for 12kg or $75 for 15kg. For flights over 1 hour 45 minutes, expect $25 per excess kg or $46 for 12kg and $90 for 15kg.

Virgin

Virgin Australia

One of Australia’s largest airlines, Virgin is also reasonably priced within the market in terms of carry-on luggage. For your carry-on, you:

  • Must not exceed the weight of 7kg.
  • Must not exceed one bag of 56cm x 36cm x 23cm or two bags of 48cm x 34cmx 23cm (to fit in lockers) and one small item (to fit under the seat in front).
  • Will cost around $60 for excess luggage.

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International Carry-On Luggage

International Flight Board

Travelling outside of Australia? Check out these major international airlines and their restrictions surrounding carry-on luggage.

Aussie airlines Jetstar, Tigerair and Virgin are not included in the below table as their carry-on rules apply to both domestic and international flights, with figures based on lowest possible fares and are subject to change, meaning it’s always best to check with your airline before your trip.

Airline Items allowed Maximum size (HxWxD) Weight allowance (total) Fee for excess luggage
AirAsia One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Air New Zealand One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, which can cost between $60-205.
All Nippon Airways One cabin bag + one personal item (assistive devices and coats do not count towards allowance). 55cm x 40cm x 23cm 10kg Unclear if there are additional fees.
British Airways One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 45cm x 25cm 23kg $100 if exceeds weight limit.
Cathay Pacific One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Varies depending on departing airport, but approximately around $20 per excess kg.
China Airlines One cabin bag. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Varies based on flights, with prices starting at approximately $20 per excess kg.
Emirates One cabin bag. 55cm x 38cm x 20cm 7kg Varies based on country you are travelling to, starting at $15 per excess kg.
Etihad Airways One cabin bag + one personal item. 50cm x 40cm x 25cm 12kg Unclear if there are additional fees.
Fiji Airways One cabin bag + one personal item. 55cm x 40cm x 23cm 7kg Non-compliant bags will be removed from the flight and you will be charged a gate-check fee up to $150.
Garuda Indonesia One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Japan Airlines One cabin bag + one personal item. 55cm x 40cm x 23cm 10kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, which can cost between $150-$300.
KLM One cabin bag. 55cm x 35cm x 25cm 12kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Korean Air One cabin bag + one personal item. Total dimensions that does not exceed 115cm 12kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount, varies by destination and departing airport.
Lufthansa One cabin bag + one personal item. 55cm x 40cm x 23cm 8kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Malaysia Airlines One cabin bag + one personal item. 55cm x 35cm x 25cm 7kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Norwegian Air One cabin bag. 55cm x 40cm x 23cm 10kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, starting from $95.
Qantas One cabin bag. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 7kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Qatar Airways One cabin bag + one personal item. 50cm x 37cm x 25cm 7kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, which can cost up to $70 per item.
Scoot One cabin bag + one personal item. 54cm x 38cm x 23cm 10kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
Singapore Airlines One cabin bag + one personal item. Total dimensions that does not exceed 115cm 7kg Baggage exceeding limits must be checked in, with unspecified costs per excess kg.
Thai Airways One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 45cm x 25cm 7kg +1.5kg Unclear if there are additional fees.
Turkish Airlines One cabin bag. 55cm x 40cm x 23cm 8kg Fees apply for excess baggage – unspecified amount.
United One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 35cm x 22cm No limit N/A
Virgin Atlantic One cabin bag + one personal item. 56cm x 36cm x 23cm 10kg Unclear if there are additional fees.

Information gathered from respective airline websites and secondary sources, Feb 2020.

As you can see, it’s important to read the fine print prior to your flight, as well as checking when you get to the airport, because a lot of airlines don’t advertise how much they charge for excess baggage online. If you’re unsure about your carry-on and can’t find out specifics, sticking to under 7kg will ensure you don’t have to pay extra when checking in for your flight. If you don’t think you can fit all your essentials into your carry-on, why not check out the video below or our article on packing hacks.

FAQs about carry-on luggage

What is a personal item?

Most airlines permit a small personal item as part of your carry-on. Examples of these include:

  • Handbag/purse
  • Coat
  • Book
  • Laptop
  • Reasonable number of duty-free items
  • Small camera
  • Small musical instruments (larger instruments, such as guitars, will need to be checked in)

What if I have a baby with me?

Airlines tend be very lenient towards guests travelling with babies/infants in terms of carry-on luggage. As a general rule, passengers may carry an extra bag (on top of the already allocated carry-on) onto the plane, containing items for use in the cabin such as baby food and nappies. If you’re still unsure, check with your airline beforehand.

What items are prohibited in carry-on?

Always check your specific airline, and both your departing and destination country, but as a basic rule you cannot take these items in your carry-on:

  • Liquids and gels and that exceed 100ml
  • Weapons, firearms
  • Explosives
  • Sharp objects, tools, and other items with sharp edges capable of injuring a person
  • Flammable goods such as aerosols, perfume, matches and lighters

If you’re unsure, always put it in your checked luggage, or check with your airline.

How can I avoid fees when I arrive at the airport?

There are a few different ways you can avoid nasty penalty costs for luggage. Here are a few tips for the next time you’re looking to take a flight:

  • Always research the airline beforehand to avoid any sneaky rules forcing you to pay unexpected fees.
  • Know your limits. Weigh your bag before you leave for the airport, and always leave some wriggle room, just in case.
  • Sign up to a frequent flyer or rewards program and monitor your points. The more points you have, the more benefits you’ll be entitled to – such as extra carry-on luggage – which could be redeemed at the airport, potentially saving you a fee.

Does business and first class get more carry-on?

If you’re looking to live the high life, you can always bump yourself up a class. But does your carry-on stay in economy class? It’s fairly common across all airlines to allow business or first-class flyers extra carry-on and checked in luggage, although this is traditionally reserved for international flights, so it’s best to check before you take off.

With plenty to consider when it comes to booking flights, making your way to the airport and finding your gate, your luggage can often be packed away in the back of your mind. But with most airlines charging an additional fee, packing less, or packing smart can save you a few dollars, which would be better spent on your holiday instead!

Luggage Reviews & Ratings

Photo credits: j.chizhe/shutterstock.com, nito/shutterstock.com, David Franklin/shutterstock.com

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