The term hand luggage or cabin baggage (normally called carry-on in North America) refers to the type of luggage that passengers are allowed to carry along in the passenger compartment of a vehicle instead of moving to the cargo compartment. Passengers are allowed to carry a limited number of smaller bags with them in the vehicle and contain valuables and items needed during the journey. There is normally storage space provided for hand luggage, either under seating, or in overhead lockers. Trains usually have luggage racks above the seats and may also (especially in the case of trains travelling longer distances) have luggage space between the backs of seats facing opposite directions, or in extra luggage racks, for example, at the ends of the carriage (train car in American English) near the doors.
Commercial air travel
Hand baggage allowance is a topic frequently discussed in the context of commercial air travel. On the one hand, passengers may want to have more of their possessions at hand during flight, skip the often time-consuming baggage claim process, and avoid the risk of having their checked baggage lost or damaged. On the other hand, safety concerns, takeoff weight limitations, and financial incentives cause airlines to impose limits on how much and what passengers can take into the aircraft cabin.
Studies have found that passengers often pause to retrieve cabin baggage during an emergency evacuation, despite instructions to the contrary in pre-flight safety briefings. This is not a new phenomenon, as it was observed during the evacuation of a Boeing 737 that caught fire in 1984. At least one passenger re-entered a Boeing 777 that crashed in 2008 to retrieve personal belongings. Video of the evacuation of a Sukhoi Superjet that caught fire on landing in 2019 clearly shows passengers on the emergency slides with large suitcases, raising questions as to whether this contributed to the loss of life. Remote locking of overhead baggage bins is being considered as a solution to the issue.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sets guidelines for cabin baggage/hand luggage/carry-on luggage size. They are not mandatory, however, and individual airlines can and do vary their requirements. The IATA guideline at one time stated:
Cabin baggage should have a maximum length of 56 cm (22 inches), width of 45 cm (18 inches) and depth of 25 cm (10 inches) including all handles, side pockets, wheels etc.
The actual size and weight limits of cabin baggage can differ widely, in some cases they are dependent on the aircraft model being used, in other cases it depends on the booking class. Due to the lack of standardization a large number of different specifications were created by the airlines on the maximum permitted cabin luggage restrictions (see below). In 2015 the IATA made an effort to introduce a common smaller size for cabin luggage by introducing the "IATA Cabin OK" logo. Major airlines have expressed their interest to accept luggage of that size on their flights. This is specified as 55 x 35 x 20 cm (or 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches). There were news that the move was backed by nine airlines including Lufthansa, Emirates and Qatar Airlines. The new size restrictions were criticised widely with the introduction program to be put on hold a few days later. Consequently none of the mentioned airlines has introduced the new format (by April 2016).
|Dimensions||Airlines and notes|
|40 cm × 30 cm × 20 cm||Wizz Air free backpack/carry-on (trolley bag with payment).|
|45 cm × 35 cm × 20 cm||Japan Airlines on aircraft with under 100 seats on domestic flights|
|48 cm × 33 cm × 20 cm||Aer Lingus Regional (Stobart Air – one bag max. 7 kg)|
|48 cm × 36 cm × 20 cm||Aurigny class Regional (one bag max. 10 kg) or class Inter-Island (max. 6 kg)|
|55 cm × 35 cm × 20 cm
|IATA Proposed Cabin OK logo (2015), Flybe (+ one smaller bag, e.g. laptop)|
|55 cm × 35 cm × 25 cm||Air France (weight allowance depends on route and class), Malaysia Airlines; (one bag up to 7 kg plus one personal item). From April 2019, all Brazilian airlines adopt this standard, verifying luggage size before the security checkpoint and weight is limited to 10 kg by ANAC (Brazilian Civil Aviation Agency) regulations.|
|55 cm × 40 cm × 20 cm||Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Vueling, Ukraine International Airlines, Air China (one bag no more than 5 kg for Economy Class, two bags no more than 8 kg each for First Class/Business Class), Ryanair (not guaranteed to travel in cabin, first bag max. 10 kg;. Second bag of size 35 cm × 20 cm × 20 cm also allowed, valid for existing booking of flights before 2018-11-01 only, for other bookings see below.). Level (airline) |
|55 cm × 40 cm × 23 cm||Austrian Airlines, Edelweiss Air, Lufthansa, Swiss Global Air Lines, Swiss International Air Lines (one bag max. 8 kg or a foldable garment bag up to 57 cm × 54 cm × 15 cm) also allowed in the cabin: another item of carry-on baggage (max. 30 x 40 x 10 cm, e.g. handbag, laptop bag);, Air Canada (10 kg plus one personal item not exceeding 43 cm × 33 cm × 16 cm) , Wizz Air trolley bag with payment|
|55 cm × 40 cm × 24 cm||Aer Lingus (one bag max. 10 kg plus one personal item not exceeding 33 cm × 25 cm × 20 cm) (Flights operated by Stobart Air: one bag only 7 kg 48 cm x 33 cm x 20 cm)|
|55 cm × 40 cm × 25 cm||All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines on aircraft with at least 100 seats on domestic flights, for all aircraft on international flights, Transavia (45 x 40 x 25 cm guaranteed to be allowed on board while 55 x 40 x 25 cm may be transported in hold, free of charge.|
|22 in × 14 in × 9 in 56 cm × 36 cm × 23 cm||American Airlines (one bag plus one personal item),Delta Air Lines (one bag plus one personal item), United Airlines (one bag plus one personal item)|
|56 cm × 36 cm × 23 cm||Virgin Atlantic|
|56 cm × 45 cm × 25 cm
|British Airways (one bag plus one bag up to 40 cm x 30 cm x 15 cm, up to 23 kg each); EasyJet (one bag, no special weight limit, not guaranteed to travel in cabin); Finnair (one bag, max. 8 kg plus one personal item) Aegean Airlines (one bag up to 8 kg);|
|40 cm x 20 cm x 25 cm||Ryanair has introduced a smaller carry on size, valid for all new bookings and all flights from 2018-11-01 onwards. It is possible to take also the previous bigger size carry on by booking Priority Boarding.|
Dimensions are sometimes listed as "linear", meaning the height, width, and length are not to exceed a certain total number.
Business Class, First class passengers and holders of high level mileage club members are often allowed to carry on a second bag of the same size and weight, or a smaller size and weight.
On smaller sized aircraft, sometimes the hand baggage can be carried to the aircraft door, where it is collected by baggage handlers for stowing in the cargo area and returned to the passenger right after landing.
Following the increase in restrictions imposed on flights from UK airports and to the USA after the events of August 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, hand baggage on such flights was restricted to one cabin bag no bigger than 45 cm × 35 cm × 16 cm effective since 15 August. On 21 September 2006, the British Airports Authority advised that from the following day, the allowable size of the single item of hand baggage on outgoing flights from the UK would be increased to 56 cm × 45 cm × 25 cm (approx. 22 in × 17.75 in × 9.85 in), the IATA guideline size. Most UK airports remain to have a strict limit of one piece of cabin baggage per passenger, including business class (allowed two pieces of cabin baggage within Europe, excluding flights to and from the UK).
A common regulation for cabin baggage restrictions was introduced on 6 November 2006 in European Union and in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
- Restrictions on liquids:
- only liquids with max 100 ml per piece
- all pieces assembled in a single zippable plastic bag of max 1000ml (1 liter)
- the plastic resealable bag must not exceed 20 cm by 20 cm
- maximum of 1 plastic bag per passenger
- liquids include gels and lotions (shampoo, tooth paste), lip sticks, moist paper tissue, contact lens solution
- prescribed medicine of any size, non-prescribed medicine-only items
- baby milk and other items for infants
- nutrition for diabetes diet
- Restrictions on dangerous objects:
- weaponry, including imitations and sports utilities (e.g. archery)
- sharp objects, even small ones, including dart arrows and razor blades
- The recommendation allows for light knives and scissors with blades up to 6 cm but some countries do not accept these either (e.g. nail care items)
- blunt objects, clubs and all larger sticks, including sports utilities (e.g. skateboard)
- inflammable objects, including ethanol, alcoholic beverage above 70%, some match sticks
- toxic chemicals, including pepper spray, liquid batteries, blood samples
The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has introduced a series of restrictions effective since 26 September 2006 under the name "3:1:1" for liquids.
- Restrictions on liquids:
- 3.4 ounce or smaller of containers for liquids and gels (100 ml)
- 1 quart-size clear plastic zip-top bag holding the liquid contents (approx. 950 ml)
- 1 bag per traveler shown openly in the security bin
- the TSA guidelines explicitly accept the metricized portions of 100 ml / 1 liter as defined later in the European Union
- the list of exceptions for liquids (baby milk, diabetes diet) is identical to EU guidelines.
The TSA has additional restrictions for security searches: for example, the baggage should not be locked (except with a special luggage locks that TSA staff can open), gifts should not be wrapped, and shoes may be required to be taken off during body search with the metal detector. Food items in the luggage may be mistaken for dangerous material triggering an intensive search.
- Kaminski-Morrow, David (9 May 2019). "ANALYSIS: Superjet fire puts focus on evacuation threat". Flightglobal.com.
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- "Liquids Rule". tsa.gov. 16 December 2014.
- Carry-On Luggage Size Chart by Airline
- Allowed cabin sizes per airline
- Hand luggage size and weight restrictions by airline