Awesome Carry-on Luggage that are Overhead Bin Friendly

July 21, 2015

IATA (International Air Transport Association) recently had the brilliant idea to further restrict the size of carry-on luggage passengers are allowed to bring aboard the plane.  They were recommending, what they aptly called, the “Cabin OK” ‘guideline’ dimensions of 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches.  Amazingly (not at all!), passengers revolted en masse – particularly in North America, loudly voiced their objection, and IATA backed down – for now at least.  Currently, they are ‘reassessing’ the program.  What they were attempting to do (according to IATA), was to make it possible to ensure every passenger the room to store one piece of carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment.  The old size allowances, set by each airline, would still be in effect; however, if not all bags would fit in the overhead bin, those luggage pieces which were not “Cabin OK” size, would be the first ones required to be put with the rest of the luggage in cargo.  It would still be free for the passenger to have their carry-on luggage stowed with the rest of the checked luggage – more of an inconvenience.  This would not become an industry standard size – each airline still would set its own maximum size for carry-on luggage.

If IATA had been allowed to reduce the size of carry-on luggage…and the airlines had embraced these ‘guidelines’ as their own….passengers would have no choice but to check what now would be considered ‘oversize’ luggage…and pay to do so, of course. Ka-ching!!  Or, they would be resigned to purchase new travel gear that DOES meet the restrictions – making some luggage manufacturers very happy, indeed!

We all are well aware that some passengers take, um…, ‘liberties’ with the size of their carry-on luggage.  We’ve all seen someone try to stuff an oversized bag into the overhead compartment – seriously, dude….learn to pack lighter, buy a smaller carry-on….or, just check it in already – it’s NOT going to fit in there!!

Each airline has a specific size carry-on luggage that they will allow.  Beware – some have sizes that may be smaller than the carry-on you currently own.  Generally, they are not too sticky about it but, if one day an agent is having a bad day, or is a ‘keener’ who is a stickler for the rules, he may not allow you to carry on your bag that is a mere ½-inch larger than it should be!

Ensure that you know the size of carry-on luggage allowed by the airline on which you’ll be flying. If you will be transferring to a different airline for part of your trip, check their website, too. United, Delta and American Airlines, for instance, all allow a carry-on to be 22-inches in length – which is quite a common length for carry-on luggage; but, the width allowed by these airlines is only 14-inches.  Measure your carry-on luggage – is it 14-½-inches or even 15-inches wide?  If so, it just may be relegated to the cargo hold for the duration of your flight.

What to Look For in a Carry-on

If your carry-on luggage is getting a little ragged around the edges and you’re wondering what to replace it with, there are plenty of options available.  When you’re shopping for a great carry-on bag you’ll want to find one that has these qualities:

  • lightweight
  • compact
  • optimal interior storage space
  • 4 wheels (spinner)
  • dimensions within airline allowance

Four-wheeled suitcases (called ‘spinners’) are so much easier to handle than those with only two wheels. Each of the bags mentioned here will comply with the allowances set out by most airlines.  Some suggestions for you are:

1. Samsonite – Bartlett 20” Spinner (Item #622511041) – a bit heavy at 9.08 pounds; dimensions 20 x 14 x 8.25 inches.  Regular cost $200.00 (watch for sale pricing) and comes with a 10-year warranty.

Samsonite Spinner

Samsonite Bartlett 20″ Spinner | Source: Amazon.com

2. SwissGear – Liteweight Carry-on Spinner (Item #7208) – lightweight – as its name implies (6.7 pounds); dimensions – 20 x 14 x 7 inches (but you have to add 2-½ inches for the wheels).  Cost $150.00 – comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

Liteweight Spinner

7208 20″ Liteweight Carry-on Spinner | Source: SwissGear.com

3. Bric’s Milano – X-Bag 21” Carry-on Spinner (Item #BXL38117) – one of the lightest carry-on pieces available weighing in at just 6.16 pounds; dimensions 21.5 x 14 x 8 inches.  Regular cost $195.00.  Bric’s is known for luxury high-end travel gear and specialize in Italian manufactured luggage so this particular bag is reasonably priced – it’s not all leather as their more expensive bags are.

Bric's Carry On Spinner

Bric’s Luggage X-Bag Lightweight Carry On Spinner | Source: Amazon.com

4. Briggs & Riley – Commuter Expandable Spinner (baseline Item #U119CXSP) – compact and lightweight (8.4 pounds); dimensions – 19 x 14 x 9 inches (including the wheels and the handle).  Cost $479.00 – expensive…..but that DOES include an excellent warranty which lasts as long as you own the piece.

Briggs & Riley Spinner Bag

Briggs & Riley @ Baseline Luggage Baseline Commuter Spinner Bag | Source: Amazon.com

5. Travelpro – Maxlite 3 21” Expandable Spinner (ID #4011361) – compact, lightweight (6.5 pounds); dimensions 9 x 14 x 21 inches.  Travel gear like this piece of luggage makes it easy to be efficient and organized whether you’re off to a business meeting in another city or treating your special someone to a romantic weekend getaway.  Regular cost $280.00 (watch for sale pricing).  Travelpro offers their Limited Lifetime Warranty on all of their product and you can purchase additional warranties if you so choose.

Travelpro Spinner

Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 3 21″ Expandable Spinner | Source Amazon.com

As the size restrictions for under the seat carry-on is often smaller than the overhead compartment allowance, it’s good to have some options available for under the seat carry-on for travel gear that you want to keep within arm’s reach throughout your flight.  Under the seat storage is designed for your one ‘personal’ item you are allowed to bring with you, such as a laptop, handbag, or small tote.  Of course, if you prefer….AND if there’s room…you can store any of these bags in the overhead bin as well as under the seat in front of you.

  1. L.L. Bean – Carryall Rolling Underseat Bag (Item #TA288008) – this bag will meet the carry-on requirements of most airlines. Lightweight at only 6 pounds it measures 16 x 14-¼ x 8-¾ inches.  Cost $129.00
  2. Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-on with Back-up Bag (Item #6454) – dimensions 14 x 8-½ x 13-½ inches. Cost $130.00 “This lightweight Carry-on has it all, including a matching tote that folds to store in a side pocket. Use to carry souvenirs home or whenever you need a little more space. This carry-on is uniquely dome-shaped to provide easy access and a comfortable footrest when in flight.”
  3. Duffel bag – an inexpensive duffel will work as well as an expensive piece of carry-on luggage.  You can pick one up for about $25.00 at any store that stocks such items.  It’s soft-sided so you can stuff it into spaces where a hard-sided suitcase won’t fit.  If most of what you’ve packed is clothing, you don’t need to worry about items being broken if you squish the duffel bag down in order to make it fit under the seat.  Wrinkled maybe…but not broken  And, if your travel gear includes handy packing items like packing cubes and/or mesh bags, your duffel bag can be well organized.

“Travel.  As much as you can.  As far as you can.  As long as you can.  Life’s not meant to be lived in one place!”  – Author unknown

Written by Emma Ghattas