How Strict Is American Airlines With Carry On Size?

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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!

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