How to Measure Luggage Dimensions for Airlines

Luggage size

If you’re traveling for the first time or don’t travel as often, you might be wondering how to measure luggage dimensions. Well, this post is entirely about that. You should know that all airlines have varying luggage sizes and weight restrictions.

For example, here’s a list of the most popular airlines in the US and their luggage/baggage policies:

We will discuss a few personal benefits of carrying luggage on flights before learning about why airlines impose restrictions on luggage size and dimensions.

Why Do People Carry Luggage with them on Flights?

We realize that you may already know the answer to that question. But people can usually underestimate just how much they need to carry when flying, especially on international flights. You may be going cross-state or cross-country when you’re traveling by air. You will surely stay where you’re going, even if it’s for a few days.

You will need your hygiene products, toiletries, clothing, and similar items. Carrying your essentials saves you from the hassle of buying what you from another country, which can get expensive.

But, a significant reason why people wonder how to measure luggage bag size. Popping up is that sometimes people fail to draw a line between essentials and non-essential items.

In turn, it leads to overweight or oversized bags at the airport, doubling or even tripling the average baggage fee. We will get to that later, but here’s why airlines impose luggage size restrictions and want you to learn how to measure suitcase size before onboarding.

Why Do Airlines Emphasize Luggage Measurements and Impose Restrictions?

Although some commercial airplanes have an average cruising speed of nearly 600 miles per hour or over, that shouldn’t fool you into bringing all the luggage you can afford. Planes burn a lot of fuel for every unit of weight they carry over a specific distance.

Don’t worry. We won’t let you get into any complicated calculations on how to measure luggage for airlines. Every unit of extra weight adversely affects the fuel efficiency and limits the already small luggage space in the plane’s rear.

The airline has to fit all passengers’ luggage, and it has to do that with the small space already provided. The same types of restrictions apply to luggage weight. Nonetheless, baggage fees and overweight or oversize baggage charges vary by airline.

How Does Measuring Luggage for Airlines Benefit You?

By learning how to measure a bag for an airline, you can benefit as well. The average number of bags per head for US domestic flights is between 2 and 5. However, you shouldn’t risk taking unnecessary luggage to the airport and paying exorbitant baggage fees.

You can save a lot of money and time when you learn how to measure a suitcase (length, width, and height). First, check all the restrictions imposed by your regional airlines on luggage size and weight. That way, you can start measuring a suitcase or any other luggage at home and save time at the airport.

Secondly, you will definitely save a lot of money by staying under the luggage size and weight restrictions of your chosen airline. Be mindful of the overweight/oversize baggage fee of your airlines whether you’re flying domestic or international.

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Those amounts are usually double, triple, or even higher than the standard baggage fee. You might have to pay a lot more than you originally intended, which could have you regretting the few extra pairs of shoes or clothes!

A Common Mistake of Flight Passengers

First-time fliers will use their wits and rely on the luggage manufacturer’s size measurements. The manufacturer’s labels might also answer another frequently asked question, “what is the measure of space inside a suitcase?”

In most cases, relying on such information could be a mistake. Why is that? Manufacturers might not include wheels, handles, and other luggage extensions in their calculations.

Yes, you have to include those measurements when you’re learning how to measure bag dimensions! Therefore, make sure you know how to calculate luggage size and check your suitcases at home without relying on the manufacturer’s information.

Factors to Consider When Measuring Luggage (Airline Luggage Policies)

We have discussed a few factors that compel airlines to put restrictions on luggage size and weight. And as passengers, you will have to follow these rules when bringing your luggage onto the plane. Airlines are cautious about the size and weight of your luggage.

Unlike large cargo ships, airlines are more concerned about getting people and their good luggage from one destination to another in as little time as possible. That’s why they spend money on expensive aviation fuel.

Overweight and oversize luggage can significantly affect a flight plan. It can slightly increase the travel time and marginally reduce the fuel efficiency of airplanes. So, make sure you read the airline policies and baggage restrictions before you even book a flight.

Here are a few factors you should look out for at all costs to make sure you’re measuring your luggage correctly:

  • Luggage size limitations based on ticket class (economy/primary or business)
  • Luggage weight restrictions based on your traveling class (economic/basic or business)
  • Format of luggage size dimensions (length, width, and height of luggage)
  • Maximum baggage size in centimeters or inches
  • Maximum baggage weight in kilograms or pounds

How to Measure Luggage Size for Airlines?

Well, that’s a question often asked by first-time flight passengers. Even frequent flyers don’t remember the correct way and tips to measure their luggage/suitcase/bag size before a flight.

Usually, airlines publish luggage size recommendations based on the length by width by height principle, i.e., l x w x h. However, bags and suitcases can be of odd shapes and sizes.

For example, how do you calculate the size and dimensions of something like a duffel bag or a golf bag? There’s a specific way to measure the dimensions of bags with odd shapes and no hard corners. You can use total liner dimensions to determine the size of your bag.

You can measure the three directions (dimensions) of your bag as accurately as possible. These include the length, width, and height of your luggage. Then, you can add all three measurements together and cross-check the total liner dimensions of your luggage with the requirements set by your chosen airline.

“Total liner dimensions” refers to the sum of all three dimensions in either inches or centimeters. Even if airlines don’t mention the three-word term in their policies explicitly, it’s easy enough to remember. If a luggage size requirement or recommendation states a single numerical figure, it’s the sum of all three linear dimensions (total linear dimensions).

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So, if you have an odd-shaped bag, you can go with the total linear dimensions and cross-check the calculated numerical value with the airline’s recommendations.

For regular-shaped baggage, you can measure each dimension (length, width, height). Then, you can cross-check it with the recommended luggage size of your airline.

An Example Calculation

Let’s say your chosen airline only allows checked bags with dimensions no more than 24” x 17” x 11”. That indicates a length of 24 inches, a width of 17 inches, and a height of 11 inches. You can cross-check it with the dimensions of your regular-shaped baggage.

Another example is when your chosen airline will state the maximum total linear dimensions. Let’s say that you can’t take a bag over 52 linear inches (i.e., the informal sum of all three dimensions). You can measure the total linear inches of your oddly-shaped bag and cross-check it with the recommended size.

How to Measure Luggage Size in Centimeters?

You can measure luggage size in centimeters quite easily. All you have to do is convert the numerical figures from “inches” to “centimeters” by using the conversion metric. Since 1 inch equals 2.54 centimeters, you can multiply the total inches value by a converting factor of 2.54 to measure your luggage size in cm.

Measuring Tools to Get After Learning How to Measure Bag Size

Different jobs require different tools, and that applies to measuring luggage size as well. You can use specific measuring tools and instruments, including a tape measure, a straight ruler, and a luggage scale. Let’s take a brief look at those tools that help people measure their luggage for airlines:

  • Luggage Scale

The scale can either be digital or analog. Your primary goal is to measure the total weight of every bag/suitcase that you have. So, you can even use a regular body weight scale as well.

  • Straight Ruler

It’s a simple instrument that helps you measure the straight sides and surfaces of luggage.

  • Tape Measure

This tool can be pretty effective when measuring long and straight surfaces. It can even help you estimate the dimensions of some irregularly-shaped bags and suitcases as well. It’s self-retracting most of the time, so you won’t have a difficult time using it.

Luggage Size Chart (Checked Baggage Size Chart)

Now that you’ve learned how to measure check-in baggage size (and other types of baggage) check out the general luggage size chart below:

Checked Luggage

Large 32-28 inches
Medium 27-25 inches
Small 24-23 inches

Cabin Luggage (Carry-On Baggage)

International (Large) 21 inches
Domestic (Medium) 22 inches
Personal Item (Small) 17 inches

Note that the abovementioned luggage size chart for checked bags and cabin luggage only considers the length to give you an estimate.

What to Know About Overweight and Oversize Bags?

Of course, if you bring luggage under the maximum requirement, you will only pay the standard baggage fee based on the airline you’re traveling with. However, you will have to pay an additional cost if your bag is heavier or bigger than the maximum limit.

Every airline will charge you differently, so it’s best to refer to the baggage policies of your chosen airline and move to the baggage fee section for more accurate information. In this section, we will discuss the average additional costs of carrying oversize or overweight bags with you on an airplane.

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In typical cases, the baggage fee usually doubles or triples compared to the standard charges when your bag/suitcase is heavier or more prominent. Therefore, you should only carry your essential items with you when you’re traveling!

  • Oversize Baggage: Generally, bags over 120 total linear inches (305 cm) fall into the category of oversize baggage.
  • Overweight Baggage: Generally, overweight bags are over 100 pounds (45 kilograms).


Here’re a few frequently asked questions that will answer similar questions about the article above:

What if my luggage is only an inch over the maximum luggage size?

If your personal carry-on is only an inch or two above the maximum limit, the airlines will often let you travel without paying extra. However, other luggage such as cabin bags/suitcases or checked bags is subject to heavy fees in case of being oversized or overweight. For exceeding the maximum requirement by only an inch, your airline might ignore it. However, you should still confirm after calling them.

Should I include the retractable handle’s length in the calculations as well? Why?

Yes, you must retract the handle fully and include it in the total length of your baggage.

How to measure duffel bags?

Duffel bags have an odd shape and don’t fall into the category of a rectangle or square. That means you can use the total liner dimensions of your duffel bag and cross-check it with your airline’s recommendations. Measure the depth of your duffel bag accurately.

Do the standard oversize and overweight restrictions apply to trucking bags?

For any bag that passes the handheld luggage size requirements, the standard size and weight restrictions will apply to it.


Taking a flight somewhere is better than traveling by road because you’re probably covering a long distance. While it can be more relaxing and peaceful than a car ride, it may impose hefty baggage fees if you’re not careful. Therefore, learn how to measure luggage for airlines.

All airlines have varying baggage policies that cover fees and restrictions. Make sure you go through those policies for your regional airline or the one you’re traveling through. It can save you both time and money to measure your luggage at home before onboarding the plane.

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