Let me start with a popular joke, ‘Why did the photon pack few clothes? Because it was traveling light’. But not all of us travel light. Sometimes we travel with heavy luggage and then comes the nightmare, the oversize, overweight fees. To avoid getting charged such a ridiculous amount for a few extra pounds, it is important to measure your luggage before heading out to the airport.

When measuring luggage, the questions like, how luggage is measured, how do airlines check baggage, how to weight luggage at home, or how to measure the capacity, come usually into our head. After broad research, I have found out the answers and now I am sharing those answers with you. I have also added a luggage size chart for personal items, carry-on & checked luggage.

how luggage is measured

How Luggage Is Measured?

Airlines usually use a frame, called ‘Carry-on Sizer’, to measure your luggage. If your luggage doesn’t fit in there, your bag will be forced to check. But at home, a classic tape measure, a large ruler, body tape measure, and even credit cards can be used for measuring luggage.

To start measuring your luggage, stand your luggage upright instead of laying it down to the ground, collapse your handles as much as possible and if possible then measure the luggage when it is full.
Measure every dimension at the widest point. Height should be measured from the top of the bag down to the ground, in case of width, measure from one side of the bag to the other and measure the bag’s depth from front to back

carry on sizer
Carry-on Sizer Used by Airlines

Recommended Measurement Methods:

  • Classic Tape Measure: You can get almost accurate dimensions with a classic tape because you can lock the length and it will be super helpful when measuring the dimensions of your luggage from each side.
  • Body Tape Measure: If you can’t get your hands on a classic tape measure, then you can measure your luggage with a body tape measure. But the body tape usually bends which can give inaccurate information. So, to avoid this, stand your luggage against a wall, mark the edges of the luggage in the wall. Then measure this, it will give you almost perfect dimension but you have to check the depth by measuring the luggage body.

Non-Recommended Measurement Methods:

  • Ruler: Rulers are not very convenient when measuring luggage, you have to mark the luggage every time to measure the next section.
  • Credit Cards: This process is going to be super monotonous. But you can measure your luggage with credit and little calculation. All credit cards have an 8.5 x 5.5 cm dimension.

How Do Airlines Measure Check Baggage?

The maximum allowed checked luggage dimension for most of the airplane is 62 linear (total) inches and the weight limit is 50 pounds. However, Airlines allow additional checked luggage and overweight luggage for extra fees.

For instance, American Airlines doesn’t allow checked bags that weigh more than 100 pounds, so if your luggage weighs more than 50 pounds, you will be charged $100 but if the bag weighs more than 70 pounds, you will be charged from $200 up to $450 based on countries you’re flying to or from.

According to passengers, airlines don’t measure the dimensions of checked baggage frequently. But they put sticky tape on the wall for determining the approximate dimension of a suitcase. If any checked luggage seems larger than the allowed dimension, they measure that particular one. However, they do measure the weight of checked luggage.

Luggage Size Chart for Personal Item, Carry-on & Checked Luggage

Every airline has different luggage dimensions and weight restrictions. The maximum carry-on size on most airlines is 22x14x9 inches or a total of 45 inches and the usual weight limit is 40 pounds but many airlines like Delta, Southwest, JetBlue don’t imply any weight restrictions. On the other hand, Airlines mostly measure checked luggage in linear inches. The total summation of height, weight, and length is called linear inches.

Here’s a look at the personal item, carry-on, and checked luggage size limits for 15 major airlines.

Important Notes:

Standard checked luggage size
  • The dimension order is: Height x Width x Length and includes wheels and handles
  • The total dimension is the summation of height, width, and length
  • If the size exceeds your luggage, you will have to pay an extra luggage fee. But if your luggage is too big, airlines will deny checking.
  • Some airlines don’t allow carry-ons on basic economy classes
  • Most of the airlines charge for checked luggage and some allow up to two checked luggage for free.
  • Allowed dimension, weight change quite often, so be sure to double-check before booking a ticket
S/LAirlinePersonal Item (Each)Carry-On (Each)Checked (Each)
1American Airlines18 x 14 x 8 in22 x 14 x 9 inTotal 62 in
2Delta Air LinesNot Specified22 x 14 x 9 inTotal 62 in
3Southwest Airlines18.5 x 8.5 x 13.5 in24 x 16 x 10 inTotal 62 in
4United Airlines17 x 10 x 9 in22 x 14 x 9 in [1]Total 62 in
5Air Canada17 x 13 x 621.5 x 15.5 x 9Total 62 in
6Alaska AirlinesNot Specified22" x 14" x 9"Total 62 in
7JetBlue Airways17 x 13 x 8 in22" x 14" x 9"Total 62 in
8Spirit Airlines18 x 14 x 822 x 18 x10Total 62 in
9WestJet16 x 13 x 6 in21 x 15 x 9Total 62 in
10Frontier Airlines18 x 14 x 824 x 16 x 10Total 62 in
11InterjetNot Specified21 x 15 x 9 inTotal 62 in
12Allegiant Air16 x 15 x722 x 14 x 9Total 62 in
13EmiratesNot Specified21.7 x 15 x 7.9 inTotal 62 in
14Hawaiian AirlinesNot Specified22 x 14 x 9Total 62 in
15Sun Country Airlines17 x 13 x 9 in24 x 16 x 11 inTotal 62 in
[1] Carry-on luggage is not allowed in Basic Economy class. If you bring one, your luggage will be checked.

How to Weigh Luggage at Home?

Although airlines usually don’t measure the weight of carry-on luggage, they love to measure checked luggage. If they somehow find overweight checked luggage, they’ll start charging you from $100. So, it is always so important to measure the weight of your luggage before heading to the airport.

Recommended Measurement Methods:

  1. Handheld Luggage Scales: Using handheld scales to measure your luggage weight is both easy and efficient. You can purchase one in big box stores, airports, or online.
Handheld Luggage Weight Scale
  • If you’re using an analog scale, then move the arrows to zero by using your fingers. And if you’re using a digital scale, turn on the scale and wait for the numbers to reset to zero.
  • Your scale will either have a hook or a strap. Attach your luggage to the scale’s hook or strap and make sure that your luggage is not tilted in any direction rather the weight is evenly distributed.
  • Lift your luggage slowly, and if possible, try using both hands.
  • Wait for the numbers to stop changing. When the numbers stop changing, you will get the exact weight. See how easy this is!

If you think buying a scale is expensive, you should see the overweight charges on different airlines.

  1. Bathroom Scale: You can’t directly put your luggage on the bathroom scale to measure the weight. You have to take a different approach to measure the exact weight of your luggage.
weight scale to measure luggage
  • Firstly, place the scale in an open place, away from walls or any other big objects.
  • Lift the luggage properly, then stand on the scale. After counting ends, remember the weight shown in the scale’s display. After coming off of the scale write down the weight.
  • Now find out your weight. And write it down.
  • Finally, subtract the weight of yourself from the overall weight. For instance, if you and your luggage weigh 170 pounds and you weigh 130 pounds. So, your luggage weighs 40 pounds (170-130 = 40).

If your luggage is too heavy to carry, place a stool on the scale, then put, your luggage on top of the stool. Then, subtract the stool’s weight from the overall weight to get the exact weight.

Non-Recommended Measurement Methods:

  1. Plastic Bags: This method is pretty much guesswork. Suppose, your empty checked luggage weighs 8 pounds (Google your luggage name and brand to know the empty bag’s weight).
    Then fill one plastic bag with clothes until you fill like the bag weighs 8 pounds. Stand up on the ground with the filled plastic bag in one hand and luggage on the other hand. Now by using your sense, you can guess if the plastic feels heavier, lighter, or equal compared to the empty luggage. You want to have equal weight on both hands.
    So, if you continue the process, say 3 times, your luggage will weigh 32 pounds (8 times 3 plus the weight of empty luggage, 8 pounds. 8×3+8 = 32).

Pro Tip: If you have more than one luggage to check, send the heavier one first. Because you can always shift some items to the lighter one if the heavier one gets detected as overweight.

How to Measure Luggage Capacity?

There are two ways you can measure the capacity of luggage.

  1. Google your luggage name and brand to find out the capacity of your luggage.
  2. Use a ‘Dimensions to Capacity’ calculator.
  • Click here to use the free calculator by SensorONE.
  • Insert the length, width, and height of your luggage in the respective fields.
  • Select units of your inputs and outputs.
  • Then you will get the capacity in the ‘Volume’ field.

Usually, the dimensions, capacity are written on the manual or sticker that comes with luggage.

Travel Pro Maxlite 5 21" Spinner Luggage

Remember, the result from the volume calculator will give you the approximate capacity. You need to ask the manufacturer for the exact capacity.

Conclusion

Now you know how to measure your luggage and you will be able to reach your destination without paying extra fees. How cool is that?

Let’s do a quick recap of the important things we’ve learned about measuring your luggage:

  • Airlines use ‘Carry-on Sizer’ to measure your carry-on’s dimensions. You can measure your luggage with classic tape measures or body tap measures.
  • Airlines usually don’t measure the dimensions of checked baggage. However, they do measure the weight very cautiously. If the bag is oversized or overweight, they’ll allow it for extra fees.
  • The maximum carry-on luggage size is 45 linear inches and the checked luggage size is 62 linear inches in most airlines.
  • You can weigh your luggage at home with handheld luggage scales, bathroom scales.
  • You can measure the luggage capacity by googling or with the help of a ‘Dimensions to Capacity‘ calculator

Quick question: which measurement method do you recommend for others? Let us know in the comment section.

If you have any questions at all, you can ask me in the comment section or you can simply contact me. Peace.