American Airlines Carry-on Size: Limits and Rules

Article Summary:

American Airlines baggage policy allows one carry-on bag and one personal item on board the plane. Carry-on bags can’t exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters) and personal items should be no larger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). Additionally, your carry-on bag must fit into the luggage sizer at the airport and in the overhead compartment of the plane, and your personal item must be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you.

You might be surprised at some of the things you can travel with when you’re flying American Airlines. For example, did you know you can travel with a chainsaw in your checked bag? To be fair, it has to be new or unused and in its original packaging, but still, that’s pretty amazing.

However, while you can carry some pretty surprising items both on board the plane and in the cargo area, there are some very strict limitations on the dimensions and weight limit of your carry-on bags and checked bags. Read on to learn more about American Airlines baggage allowance and some other airlines’ carry-on baggage policies.

Dimensions of American Airlines baggage

If you travel on an American Airlines flight, as with most major carriers, you are allowed one carry-on and one personal item. Both items have strict size requirements. Though there’s probably a little leeway, American Airlines baggage allowance states your personal item can’t exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches and must fit under the seat in front of you.

Your carry-on suitcase can be a bit bigger with dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including handles and wheels. It also needs to fit in the overhead bin on the plane and the luggage sizer kept at the gate. If you do try to sneak a bigger one through and your suitcase fails the test, you will be on the hook for a checked bag fee and won’t be allowed to carry that bag on the plane with you.

In place of a carry-on suitcase, American Airlines will also allow passengers to carry on soft-sided garment bags with total dimensions of 51 inches (length + width + height).

Checked baggage is pretty standard across the industry. American Airlines and most other carriers require bags to be no larger than 62 inches in overall dimensions and have a maximum weight limit of 50 pounds. Anything over that will cost you about $100 per checked bag.

However, if you’re only slightly over the limit, most ticket agents will allow you to transfer a few items from your checked bag into your carry-on to make the weight limit.

Alternative carry-on items

There are a few other things passengers might want to carry with them instead of stowing in the cargo area of the plane. Fortunately, American Airlines and others will allow you to substitute certain items for traditional carry-on bags.

  • Instruments. Musical instruments can count as one of your carry-on pieces in place of a suitcase or personal item. However, these items will also need to fit beneath the seat or in the overhead bin.
  • Pets. Pet carriers can also count toward your two-bag allowance. This means you can only carry on one additional item along with the pet carrier. In addition, there will be a pet carrier fee, the pet (cat or dog only) must stay in the carrier for the entire flight, and the crate must fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Sports equipment or weapons. While you can travel with almost any kind of sports equipment or weaponry, most of it will have to go in the cargo hold with the rest of the checked baggage. However, assuming it stays within size limitations, you can carry on your very own parachute. Let’s hope you don’t need it!

Items you can and can’t bring in your carry-on baggage

Most airlines have the same restrictions when it comes to what you can and can’t bring aboard an aircraft in your carry-on. However, if you’re unsure of any particular item, contact the airline before you travel. Of course, follow all of the FAA and TWA guidelines on what you can’t bring on airplanes.

AIRLINE REGULATIONS

Here is a list of what airlines allow and don’t allow you to bring on board.

Can
  • Liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, or pastes of 3.4 oz or smaller
  • Clothing and accessories (jewelry, ties, shoes, etc.)
  • Books or magazines
  • Games and video game devices
  • Charging ports or devices
  • Solid foods, like snacks, sandwiches, or candy
Can’t
  • Lithium batteries
  • Guns and similar weapons (unless sport equipment)
  • Explosives
  • Sharp objects (scissors, razors, etc.)
  • Drugs (unless prescription medications)
  • Flammable liquids or solids
  • Defensive sprays (i.e., pepper spray)

It’s also recommended, but not strictly enforced, that the liquids be contained in a clear, quart-sized bag for ease of screening at checkpoints. Anything larger than 3.4-oz containers must be located in your checked bags. Exceptions to the liquids in carry-on items include medications and infant and child nourishments, according to American Airlines regulations.

IMPORTANT! Be aware that you can’t put lithium batteries in your checked baggage — those must be removed from the items and placed in your carry-on bags. However, some airlines permit these batteries if they power cell phones, laptops, iPads, and the like.

Pro Tip

Common wisdom would say that you should carry all of your valuables — money, jewelry, medications, etc. — in your carry-on bags. Since checked baggage may get lost or stolen, it’s important to not pack anything important in your checked luggage.

Do all airlines carry the same baggage restrictions?

You’d think all airlines would have the same required dimensions for your baggage, but that’s not always the case. Although American Airlines and other major air carriers do have the same basic requirements for checked baggage — 62 inches in linear size (height + length + width) and a 50-pound maximum weight limit — carry-on bag regulations vary a bit by the airline.

Carry-on suitcases across most major airlines normally have the same dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches. However, Southwest allows an extra two inches in height for your carry-on bag.

In some cases, you can’t bring two items on board. JetBlue, for instance, only allows one carry-on item if you’re traveling with their Basic Blue fare, and if you do show up on the plane with excess baggage, you will have to check your bag at the gate and pay a $65 baggage fee. Sometimes other airlines carry the same restriction for their more economical tickets (although American Airlines has recently lifted that limitation for its Basic Economy cabin).

AirlineCarry-on (in inches)Personal item (in inches)Checked bags (total dimensions)Baggage fees, checked luggage
American22 x 14 x 918 x 14 x 862″$30/1st bag

$40/2nd bag

United22 x 14 x 917 x 10 x 962″$35/1st bag

$45/2nd bag

Delta22 x 14 x 9Not specified62″$25/1st bag

$35/2nd bag

Southwest24 x 16 x 1016.25 x 13.5 x 862″Free/1st bag

Free/2nd bag

Alaska22 x 14 x 9Not specified62″$30/1st bag

$40/2nd bag

JetBlue22 x 14 x 917 x 13 x 862″$65/1st bag

$65/2nd bag

What about international travel?

Things can get even more confusing when you start looking into baggage requirements for international travel. Domestic flights might be fairly standard, but baggage fees and other restrictions can differ depending on whether you’re traveling to Central America, South America, Europe, or Australia, for instance.

Plus, you may not even be flying on the same airline for all legs of your trip, so you’ll need to keep that in mind as you pack your bags for your destination. Most air travel websites are very detailed about their regulations. However, if you have any questions, call the airline directly so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises or unexpected baggage fees.

Other considerations

Not only do airlines carry different limitations on checked baggage versus carry-on bags, but you could also be restricted by the type of plane you’re flying in.

For example, many partner airlines might fly smaller jets that simply don’t have enough room in the overhead bin for a regulation carry-on-sized suitcase. In that case, you’d only be allowed one carry-on strictly due to size limitations and you would need to check a bag at the ticket counter. However, if the smaller plane is your connecting flight, you should be able to check your carry-on item at the gate without paying baggage fees.

Similarly, if the plane is very full and the airline doesn’t believe they have enough room for your suitcase, you may have to check your carry-on bag at the gate as well. But because this isn’t your fault, the airline likely won’t charge you for the inconvenience, and you can pick it up as soon as you land without having to trek to the luggage carousels.

American Airlines baggage fees

Most airlines charge standard flat fees for checked baggage on a domestic flight as long as you don’t exceed the size and weight limits. However, the actual fees per checked bag vary significantly depending on the airline. American Airlines, for instance, has a flat fee of $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag.

If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll typically be charged more for your checked baggage. For example, travel to South America (except Guyana or Suriname) will cost you $45 for the first bag and $65 for the second bag, and transatlantic flights will set you back $75 and $100 for your first and second bags, respectively.

Differences in baggage fees

Oversized or overweight baggage fees will likely cost you even more, with charges of up to $100 or $200 depending on where you’re flying to or from. Plus, most airlines won’t accept bags over 100 pounds (except for some musical instruments).

Another thing to consider is which class you are flying. For example, if your family is first class or business class customers, you can often check your first bag for free and sometimes your first two suitcases. Plus, American Airlines, for one, will also allow a maximum weight of up to 70 pounds for your complimentary checked bag. Any excess baggage after that has a 50-pound limit and probably a fee.

This is also true for some international travel as well. If you fly to Australia or New Zealand on American Airlines, you also have a 70-pound weight limit for your first complimentary checked bag.

It’s important to note that, in addition to the specifics discussed above, baggage fees can be radically different depending on your status with American or other airlines. For instance, having AAdvantage elite status or even just an AAdvantage credit card can get you at least one free checked bag.

What items don’t count as carry-ons or personal items?

If you’re someone who’s never traveled with children, you may have wondered how parents can carry on so much extra gear. Well, there is a method to the madness, and it just makes sense that some people need more stuff.

There are quite a few items American Airlines baggage policy will not count as either a carry-on bag or a personal item, which is handy in many circumstances for certain individuals. With no penalty or American Airlines baggage fees, you can bring diaper bags (one diaper bag per child), soft-sided cooler bags containing breast milk, foldable strollers, child safety seats, and medical or mobility devices. You can travel with all of these items for free.

Additionally, travelers with no special needs can also bring on some items that won’t count against their carry-on baggage allowance as well. The acceptable extra belongings on most airlines include a coat or jacket, reading materials, an umbrella or cane, a camera, food for consumption on the plane, and merchandise purchased at the airport.

How many bags can you take on American Airlines?

It’s important to know how many checked bags you can take with you, especially if you’re moving to a foreign country and need to pack pretty much everything you own. These restrictions will vary, so if you’re flying on another airline, check its website for the particulars.

Also, note that you should check with the airline before you show up with ten bags to check — very full flights may not have room in the cargo space. There also may be seasonal limitations on checked baggage with certain flights.
Up to 10 checked bags on American-operated flights if your trip is:

  • Domestic
  • Transatlantic
  • Transpacific

Up to five checked bags if you’re traveling to, through, or from:

  • Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America
  • South America
  • Brazil

FAQs

Can I bring a 24-inch carry-on onto American Airlines flights?

The maximum allowed height for a carry-on bag with American Airlines is 22 inches, so technically a 24-inch bag violates their carry-on baggage policy. Still, not every gate agent takes a ruler to your bag or puts it in the luggage sizer, so you might get away with it.

However, if someone does notice your oversized bag, or if it won’t fit in the overhead compartment, you’ll have to pay the checked baggage fee and it will go in the cargo hold. If you happen to fly Southwest, though, you’re in the clear; their carry-on bag size limit is 24 x 16 x 10 inches.

Can I take a backpack and a carry-on onto American Airlines flights?

Yes. A backpack would be considered your one free personal item that you’re allowed to carry on with your suitcase or soft-sided garment back.

Technically, your personal item’s maximum dimensions can’t exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches, but airline personnel rarely check the size of personal items. So if your backpack is a little bigger than normal, but still fits under the seat in front of you, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Key Takeaways

  • American Airlines baggage allowance is one carry-on piece of luggage, like a suitcase or a soft-sided garment bag, plus one personal item such as a purse or laptop bag.
  • Many other airlines have similar luggage guidelines, but be sure to check before you fly.
  • Carry-on personal items have some leeway, but carry-on suitcases and checked baggage have strict size limits. Checked bags can’t exceed 50 pounds without incurring a hefty overweight fee.
  • Some jets are too small to accommodate carry-on-sized suitcases, so you may be limited to one personal item on those flights.
  • Oversized items or luggage that exceeds weight limits (100 pounds maximum except in the case of some musical instruments or equipment) may require additional baggage fees.
View Article Sources
  1. Carry-on bags — American Airlines
  2. What Can I Bring? — U.S. Transportation Security Administration
  3. Carry-On Baggage Tips — Federal Aviation Administration
  4. Can You Purchase Airline Tickets With a Debit Card? — SuperMoney
  5. 60+ Travel Hacks Everyone Needs To Know — SuperMoney
  6. 23 Clever Ways To Save Money & Time On Holiday Travel — SuperMoney
  7. Can You Book a Hotel with a Debit Card? — SuperMoney
  8. What are the Different Types of Credit Cards? — SuperMoney
  9. Best Travel Credit Cards | July 2022 — SuperMoney