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What Is a Typical Hand Luggage Allowance?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

Hand luggage allowance refers to the rules that regulate passengers' carry-on baggage. These rules can vary from one airline to another, but there are some common features. Most of these policies limit the number of items that a passenger may bring inside the airplane and the size of those items. The handbag allowance usually applies to everyone, but there are some instances where certain passengers are subject to different terms.

The hand luggage allowance generally gives a person the right to bring one carry-on item inside the aircraft. Although this is normally a small suitcase or some other type of bag, it does not have to be. The carry-on item could be any number of things, such as a box or a small musical instrument. There are, however, generally restrictions as to how big the item can be.

Business-class seating usually comes with perks such as an allowance for bigger or more luggage on a flight.
Business-class seating usually comes with perks such as an allowance for bigger or more luggage on a flight.

These restrictions usually set maximum limits for height, width, and weight. Some jurisdictions' standards are set by a national authority. In the U.S., for example, the acceptable dimensions for hand luggage are set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Such rules are enforced in a number of ways. Many airlines have a specially designed metal container shaped like a suitcase. Passengers can place their hand luggage into it, and if it fits, they know that their possession meet the dimension requirements. Upon checking in, passengers may also be required to place their hand luggage on a scale to ensure that it meets the weight requirements. Many airlines also have staff conduct visual inspections as passengers are entering the aircraft.

Luggage allowances can vary by airline.
Luggage allowances can vary by airline.

In addition to the single piece of carry-on luggage, a passenger is also usually permitted to have a personal item. There are a wide range of possessions that fall into this category, such as laptop cases, brief cases, or diaper bags. The hand luggage allowance generally applies to all passengers equally, with the exception that women are often allowed to have purses in addition to the other items.

Other exceptions to the hand luggage allowance generally fall into two categories. The first is for business-class or first-class travelers. These individuals pay more for their tickets and are sometimes granted the privilege of having more or larger luggage than is outlined by the general rules.

Second, some laws prohibit airlines from considering medically necessary materials to be hand luggage or to subject them to size restrictions. Consider, for example, that a passenger needs a device to facilitate breathing. She would be allowed to bring it onto the aircraft in addition to her one personal item and her carry-on.

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Discussion Comments


I can understand why a person who has something like an oxygen tank does not have to count this as part of their hand baggage allowance. My mom is on oxygen and needs to carry it with her wherever she goes.

Because of this, she tries not to take very much extra with her if she has to fly somewhere. It would be a lot to try and keep track of. It is also nice to know if she needed to take advantage of 2 pieces of hand luggage, she wouldn't be charged extra because of her oxygen tank.

I actually take less hand luggage than I used to because of the hand luggage liquid allowance they have. For me it is easier to throw my bottles of soap and shampoo on the luggage I check in rather than put them in small bottles in my hand luggage.


I wonder if the airlines will start to charge you for hand luggage in the future. It seems like they have begun to charge you for just about everything else, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a charge of at least one piece of hand luggage.

I always have a personal item and a suitcase that I carry on the plane with me. Even though two hand luggage bags are usually allowed now with no charge, I wouldn't be surprised if they started charging for at least one of those bags.

I sure hope this never happens, but I never thought I would have to pay extra for some of the other services that used to be free.


With the airlines charging more for checked in baggage, the amount of hand luggage seems to have really increased in recent years. The last few times I have flown, they have been concerned that there was too much hand luggage to fit on the plane.

We were given the option of having our hand luggage checked in with the other luggage for no extra charge. The airline offered this service so they would be able to accommodate all the hand luggage that was brought on the plane.

Since I didn't have anything I really needed, I had one piece of my hand luggage checked in and I didn't have to worry about it when we had a layover. I kept my laptop with me on the plane, but that is all I had to worry about.


When I buy new luggage I always make sure the smaller piece will meet the baggage allowances. If I buy a set of luggage with several pieces, it seems like the smaller case has always fit within the airline requirements.

I like to travel as light as possible so I have never had to worry about my hand luggage weighing too much. It makes navigating around the airport and getting on and off the airplane so much easier if I don't have a lot of heavy luggage to carry around with me.

I am also very short and if I have a heavy piece of hand luggage with me, it can be a challenge putting it in the overhead bins. I am always afraid I am going to hit someone in the head or I won't be able to fit it into a tight spot.

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    • Business-class seating usually comes with perks such as an allowance for bigger or more luggage on a flight.
      By: rebius
      Business-class seating usually comes with perks such as an allowance for bigger or more luggage on a flight.
    • Luggage allowances can vary by airline.
      By: dutchpilot22
      Luggage allowances can vary by airline.