What If My Carry On Is One Inch Too Big

As flyers, we are put in an awkward situation by the airlines and luggage manufacturers.

Firstly, airlines around the world don’t agree on 1 carry on size.

Secondly, luggage manufacturers don’t always make luggage that is the size they claim it is. They often don’t include wheels or handles when stating measurements. Bag makers often just bend the truth and use the words “cabin approved” or “TSA approved” when there is no such thing. If you see baggage that is labeled as a “carry on” it means nothing. There is no guarantee that your airline will agree that it is a “carry on” usually because airlines DO count wheels and handles when measuring!

Thirdly, while your airline might say their carry on size limit is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Their testing sizer might be slightly larger than 22 x 14 x 9. It depends on who you are flying with! I know that the United sizer is actually one inch bigger (23 x 15 x 10 inches) than their advertised limit (22 x 14 x 9). Some airlines are more strict than others, Alaska airlines sizer is very tight.

So it’s very common for passengers to wonder, “what if my carry on luggage is one inch too big!” What will happen!

Well, it’s possible nothing will happen… some might say probably… but you also might be forced to check your bag and pay for it!

Forced Gate Checking of Bags

Before boarding most flights there is a sizer close to the gate. This is a metal frame that your bag needs to fit inside to pass the test.

Not every passenger uses the sizer. You only need to use it if you are asked to use it by the agent.

Here’s what might happen if your carry on bag is one inch too big…

You might be forced to check your bag at the boarding gate and be made to pay a checked bag fee.

Most airlines now charge for checked bags with the exception of Southwest. Fees range between $25 and $35.

Some airlines such as United will price gouge you if they force check you at the gate for being oversize. They charge an extra $30 “gate-handling” fee in addition to the fee for checking a bag.

It’s a very confusing situation because passengers often gate check carry on bags for free.

There are two reasons carry on bags get checked at the gate:

  1. Because your bag looks suspiciously large, you are asked to test if it fits in a sizer, and it fails to fit. In this scenario, you will need to pay a checked bag fee.
  2. Because the airline has realized they are running out of space in the overhead bins and have asked passengers to check-in carryon bags at the gate. In this scenario, you might not need to pay the checked bag fee, even if your bag is a little too big. It depends if they ask you to put it in the sizer or not.

If your carryon bag is within the size limits you shouldn’t ever need to pay any fees for gate-checking your bag if they ask you to do so.

But if it’s oversized, or if you ask them to gate check it, you might get hit with a fee.

Keep in mind you can always be asked to check your carry on bag at any time, even if it is not an inch too big.

If this happens you should remove any valuables from your carry on and make sure your bag has luggage tags or something so you can identify it at baggage claim.

It’s always a good idea to have a smaller bag with you like a small backpack, or handbag. Somewhere you can put your valuables if your carryon is gate checked.

Also, it’s work mentioning that checked luggage sometimes has a habit of going missing. So if you want to avoid lost baggage don’t fly with a carry on bag that is an inch too big!

Sneaking Through Boarding With An Oversized Bag

Often bags that are slightly oversized slip through and nobody says anything to you. It depends on how strict your airline is in enforcing their carry on rules. That might depend on who is working that day, how busy the flight is, or the size of the aircraft you are traveling on.

The bottom line is if you want to be 100% sure you won’t be charged any fees you need a bag that is within the limits including the wheels and handles.

How Strict Is My Airline With Carry On Luggage?

Because each airline behaves differently in how strict they are about enforcing their policy we created a post on each of these airlines.

If you can find your airline below you can read that post if you want more information.

Tips To Avoid Paying For Oversize Bags

So you’ve measured your bag at home and realized that it’s a little oversized.

But you are the type of person that likes to take a gamble. You’re going to take that bag anyway and hope that you get away with it!

Here are our tips to avoid being caught out.

  • Avoid Bags That Are Bulging. It’s hard to judge the size of a bag by eyeballing it alone. Even the boarding gate staff can’t measure accurately by just looking. But if a bag is bulging because it’s overstuffed then that’s a red flag that might draw attention to you.
  • Shield Your Bag From View – Wheel your bag on the opposite side, shield the view using your handbag.
  • Be Polite And Smile – Check-in agents are humans. They might be more lenient if you are polite, friendly and smile. Being rude is a sure way to get them to force you to check your bag.
  • Wear Extra Layers Of Clothes – Stop your bag from bulging by wearing more of your clothes while you go through the gate.
  • Be An Inch Too Wide, Not Tall Or Deep – Because of the way bag sizers are designed it’s easier to be one inch too wide than it is to be one inch too tall or deep. Many of the airline bag sizers only have physical barriers for depth and height.
  • Avoid Hard Cases – With a soft case, you can squeeze it to make it fit in the sizer. With a hard case, you have very little flexibility.

Also to avoid gate checking, even if it’s free it’s a good idea to board early. Agents start to force gate checking once the overhead bins start to fill up.

The Verdict

The best way to avoid getting into trouble with oversized bags is to learn to travel light.

Next time you buy a carry on bag, make sure the measurements include wheels and handles and choose a bag that has some squeezability.

If you travel with a backpack or a duffel bag you can always remove contents and squeeze it smaller. Fixed-size rolling luggage doesn’t get smaller even if you pack less in it. You can also get rolling backpacks or duffels that are squeezable.

I know it’s not for everyone but if you are interested in cutting down the size of your luggage then I suggest you check out my 101 Packing Light Tips post.

Getting charged for an oversized carry on bag can be a very frustrating and costly experience for passengers.

Don’t count on the kindness of airlines. While individual employees are usually very nice Airline policies are designed to squeeze every last dollar they can from passengers.

Don’t be one of their victims because your carry on bag is one inch too big!

How Strict Is United About Carry On Size?

It’s always a good idea to know your airlines carry on size limits. Frequent fliers know that there are the officially published limits, and then the unofficial limits.

These unofficial limits tend to depend on how expensive the airline is. Are they a budget carrier? Or a full-service airline?

When you are deciding what bag to buy or if even if your old bag will be sufficient you need to know if your airline is heavy-handed or if they are hands-off about enforcing their carry on luggage policies.

This post looks at how strict United Airlines are about carryon size.

Let’s jump right in!

Taking A Slightly Too Big Carry On On United Airlines

Officially the United Airlines carry on size limit is 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

You can also bring a personal item that is 17 x 10 x 9 inches like a purse, backpack, or laptop bag.

They are also quite clear that you can bring a jacket, an umbrella, a book, food or things that you bought at the airport.

This is generous language that you don’t always see from airlines. For example, Frontier wouldn’t let you take a full-size umbrella onboard.

So we can say that the wording of the United policy is not very strict sounding.

But the policy on the website doesn’t always match up to the way that gate agents behave on the ground. Especially if someone is flying with a Basic Economy ticket that only permits a personal item.

United Airlines Basic Economy Ticket

United have a ticket that they call “Basic Economy”. It’s their lowest of the low price and does not have any extras… like taking a normal carry on bag with you.

They only allow you to take a personal item sized bag with you and this can cause no end of problems. Like happened to Michael:

I can understand that if you didn’t pay for a ticket that includes carry on luggage that you will need to check your bag if it’s too big.

What is hard to understand is why they don’t charge the normal checked bag fee of $25. This is price gauging plain and simple, taking advantage of passengers that are caught in a hard situation and hammering them for dollars!

In the long run, United will regret these strict policies with regards to carryon luggage on budget tickets. They are eroding their customer loyalty fast. We are likely to see more videos like these in the future:

Sizing Up The Sizer

In sharp contrast to the economy ticket sage…

The actual measurements of the sizer are 23 x 15 x 10 inches for the carry-on and 18 x 11 x 9 for the personal item. This was true last time I checked so don’t shoot me if it’s wrong.

This would indicate that despite the drama in the video above United are actually quite relaxed about their carry on policy.

It’s usually when you are traveling on a Basic Economy ticket that they become more strict about hand baggage.

Show them the money and they are not strict. Buy the cheapest ticket and they will try to squeeze every dollar they can from you.

Wait… I Thought Checking Luggage At The Gate Was Free

There is a lot of confusion surrounding these issues.

United, like most airlines, now charge for checked luggage.

This makes a lot of people try to fly with carryon only bags.

Then they discover that the overhead bin space isn’t large enough for all those carryon bags.

So they ask people to volunteer to check their carry on bag at the gate.

If this happens you shouldn’t be charged to gate check you carry on with United.

But if you are being made to gate-check your hand luggage because you didn’t pay for a ticket that included hand luggage or that your hand luggage is more than 1 inch larger then their official size…

Then you will be charged a fee for checking your carry on!

The Verdict

Despite the drama caused by the Basic Economy ticket, United are not very strict about carryon luggage.

They are becoming more stricter as they try to compete with budget airlines on price.

But if you are paying for a full-price ticket you are unlikely to have any trouble from United if your bag is slightly larger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

What do you think? Are United strict with their carry on policies? Do you often see oversized bags getting past the boarding gate?

Let us know in the comments!

How Strict Is Alaska Airlines Carry On?

When you are flying with an airline it’s useful to know how seriously they take their hand luggage policies.

This helps you when you are buying new carry on luggage or deciding if you can use your old bag with an unfamiliar airline.

Alaska used to be very easy-going about carryon baggage. Up until June, 2018 they had one of the most generous carry on luggage policies allowing bags that were 24 x 17 x 10 inches.

This meant that a carry on that was okay with Alaska could be oversized for a connecting flight with another airline.

So Alaska decided to change their size limit to be more in line with other airlines.

Their new carry on size limit is 22 x 14 x 9 inches and you can take a personal item like a purse, briefcase or laptop bag.

This meant they shrunk the size of their permitted carry on bag by 32% so they have become a lot more strict about the size of the carry on you can use in their sizing policy.

But how strict are Alaska Airlines about enforcing this new policy?

Are they harsh or yielding? Read on to find out.

Flying With Oversized Hand Luggage On Alaska Airlines

The actual size of the Alaska Airlines sizer is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. They haven’t built in any buffer tolerances like some other airlines.

This means that their sizer is now very strict.

Reports are that the gate agents have been coming on strong and enforcing the new policy at the boarding gate.

However, if you are flying within the state of Alaska many fares include 1 free checked bag. So if you are on one of those flights you shouldn’t get charged for being forced to gate-check your bag.

If you are flying out of state with Alaska and forced to check your bag you may be charged $30.

Isn’t Gate-Checking Free On Alaska Airlines?

The official policy goes something like this:

Gate-checking is free when your bag is within the carry on limits and we ask for volunteers due to a lack of overhead bin space.

If you are asked to check your bag not because of lack of space in the bins but because it is blatantly and obviously larger than 22 x 14 x 9 then you may be charged a fee to check your bag.

The Verdict

Alaska Airlines are now strict about carryon luggage. They used to be one of the good guys, easy-going, with generous size limits.

In the old days, a standard carry on bag easily fit within Alaska limits so it was never an issue.

Now they’ve become more rigid and you need to be more careful about the size of the bag you are taking as your hand luggage.

How have you got on with Alaska since they changed their carry on policies? Did you have any problems or were you charged for a slightly oversized carry on bag? Let us know in the comments!

How Strict Is American Airlines With Carry On Size?

Whether you are buying a new bag or you have an old carry on bag that is slightly oversized it helps to know just how strict an airline is when enforcing their carry on size rules.

American Airlines allows carry on baggage that is under 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

They did have a ticket (Basic Economy) that didn’t even include a carryon but this has been scrapped. During this time they were very strict about carryon luggage because they only allowed passengers with a basic economy ticket to have under-seat luggage.

So I suppose we can say they are a little less strict about carryon bags than they used to be since that ticket has been discontinued.

They also allow an under-seat personal item that must be smaller than 18 x 14 x 8 inches.

But are they flexible or draconian? Let’s have a look.

Flying With An Oversized Carry On With On American Airlines

At the last time of measurement (don’t shoot me if it’s changed) the AA carry on sizer was actually 22.25 x 14 x 10 inches.

If your bag will fit in the AA sizer then you won’t have any problems. It seems they are a little more generous with the depth of your bag because they know this is where suitcases often bulge or have expandable areas.

So their sizer gives you a little extra leeway, especially with depth.

Enforcement is sporadical, to say the least, and as long as your bag doesn’t look too large it probably won’t be measured anyway.

“Probably” is the key here. There is always the chance that you are one of the unlucky ones.

If you have a bag that is bulging, large, and you are also trying to take a large personal item and carrying a big jacket and generally look like a pack mule then you will stand out from the crowd and might be asked to check the size of your bag in the sizer frame.

But AA doesn’t enforce their carry on limits by checking every passenger’s luggage, they do it by fear.

They only need to pick out some passengers occasionally and charge them for gate checking to get most people to adhere to their carry on size restrictions.

If you want to avoid gate checking your bag the best way to do that is to board early but it isn’t foolproof as Jessi’s experience shows:

Isn’t Gate Checking Free Anyway?

Often when carryon bags get checked at the gate it is free. But that’s when they are being gate-checked for a different reason.

AA sometimes force people to check their carry on when there is no room in the overhead bins.

When they do this they usually don’t charge any fee for gate checking these bags. Gate checking is officially only free for bags that are carry on size i.e. under 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

If during this process it is discovered that your bag doesn’t fit in the sizer then you will be charged a fee.

Customers get very confused about this and it’s understandable why. It’s a mess.

American Airlines charges to check bags, causing everyone to try to fly carry on only. Then they discover that the aircraft doesn’t have enough space in the bins and ask for volunteers to check-in carry on luggage causing chaos at the boarding gate.

At this point, a bag that is slightly too large could be checked free or you could be charged if the agent can be bothered to check the size.

The other thing to think about is the size of the aircraft you are flying on.

If you are flying on a small commuter jet the agents will be much stricter about carry-on luggage size. Even if your bag is carry-on size you may be forced to check it at the gate.

The Verdict

AA are moderately strict about carryon luggage sizes. Their sizer device is generous in depth.

They don’t check every passenger but instead get most people to follow the rules by occasionally charging a few unlucky passengers.

If you fly American Airlines you will witness many passengers taking oversized bags into the cabin, and then when the overhead bins start to fill up there will be a panic and a search for volunteers to check bags.

What do you think? Are AA strict about carry on luggage size? Did you ever have any experiences with carry on luggage and AA that you thought was unfair?

Let us know in the comments!

How Much Is 5 Liters Of Alcohol in Ounces?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allow you to pack 5 liters of alcohol between 24% ABV and 70% ABV in your checked bag.

But how much is 5 liters of alcohol? And what can you take in your bag?

Most wine and beer is under 24% and you can take as much as you like in your checked bag. Here is the common strengths of alcohol to remind you.

  • Beer 4% – 7%
  • Wine 10% – 15%
  • Sherry/Port ~ 20%
  • Schnapps 15% – 20%
  • Liquor is typically 35% – 50%

So we can see that the 5 liter FAA rule usually only really applies to liquor.

How Much Does 5 Liters Of Alcohol Weigh?

5 liters is 5000 ml. 5 liters is 1.3 gallons.

5 liters weighs just over 11 lbs. In fact, 5 liters it’s 11.025 lbs.

Your checked luggage might have a weight limit of 50 lbs. So 5 liters of alcohol would use 22% of your weight allowance.

Your case itself probably weight another 9 lbs or 18% of your weight allowance.

Or, if you were using the metric system, you could say that 5 liters weigh 5 kg.

How Much Is 5 Liters In Ounces?

There are 169.07 fluid ounces in 5 liters…

But maybe it will help if I just tell you how many bottles of liquor you can bring.

How Many Bottles Of Liquor In 5 Liters?

A fifth is a bottle of liquor that is 25.4 oz or 750 ml.

5000 ml divided by 750 ml means that you can bring 6.66 standard bottles of liquor on a plane in your checked luggage.

So that’s 6 fifths (750ml) and you’ll still have room for a half bottle too!

How Many Bottles Of Wine In 5 Liters?

A bottle of wine is also 750 ml.

But remember most wine is lower strength than 24%. So you can take as much wine in your checked luggage as you have space for. Remember to watch your weight, those wine bottles are heavy and you might go over the airline weight limit.

If you wanted to stay under 5 liters anyway you’d be able to carry 6 bottles of wine.

How Many Glasses Of Wine In 5 Liters?

The standard size glass of wine is 5 oz or 150 ml. You can get 33 glasses of wine from 5 liters.

Don’t drink them all at once!

How Many Beers In 5 Liters?

A regular can of beer is 12 oz.

So 5 liters of beer would be 14 regular can. Or it would be 10 pint cans.

But remember beer is only usually around 5% ABV. So that FAA rule doesn’t apply to beer.

You can happily take as much beer in your checked case as you can fit!

But again, keep a close eye on the weight of your suitcase and remember to leave space for some clothes!

The Verdict

The 5 liters rule only really applied to liquor and you can take 6 standard-sized 750 ml bottles of liquor in your checked luggage.

Keep in mind if you are importing them you must declare that you have the bottles when you land.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection allows you to import 1 liter duty-free and you’d need to pay duty on the other 4 liters at around $2- $3 per bottle.

Happy packing!