TGA's Guide to Carry-On Guidelines
When it comes to carry-on regulations, the number one rule is: Check with the airline before every flight. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a universal carry-on rule that applies to all airlines. That said, the major airlines do tend to follow in each other's footsteps, so the following guidelines — while not 100% foolproof — should help shoppers seeking carry-on baggage.
There is not a single set of carry-on dimensions acceptable for all airlines — they can even vary within the same airlines, depending on the route and the aircraft in use. The best advice is for customers to check with the individual airlines they are traveling with, especially if they're gearing up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip like an African safari. Customers who base purchasing decisions on the rules of the major airlines are probably covered.
Carry-on Size Requirements, Domestic Travel
IATA, the International Air Transport Association, publishes the following information based on the Recommended Practices agreed on by the airlines. However, these are only recommendations and not firm rules:
"Carry-on baggage must be stowed in the aircraft cabin which limits baggage to a size, weight and shape to fit under a passenger seat or in a storage compartment. Cabin baggage should have maximum length of 22" (56 cm), width of 18" (45 cm) and depth of 10" (25 cm). These dimensions include wheels, handles, side pockets, etc. Baggage allowed onboard may vary from one to two pieces per passenger. Check with your airline as to what is allowed."
International Travel from the USA
A 20" carry-on is currently the most-recommended size for international travel. The total measurements for a 20" carry-on should add up to less than 45 linear inches or 115 cm (length + width + depth), which fits the requirements of many airlines. However, there are different restrictions for commuter aircraft and regional jets, and not all airlines are the same. But if you tell customers to follow what the major airlines like United Airlines and British Airways are doing, you're giving good advice.
International Travel to the USA
New security protocols introduced in January 2010 created some confusion about carry-on restrictions on international flights to the USA. You should explain to customers that those regulations were temporary, and now, for the most part, things are back to normal.
The current British Airways carry-on policy — revised January 15, 2010 — is pretty typical, and citing it can help alleviate confusion and concern on the part of consumers:
"Following the recent introduction of revised security requirements for all customers travelling into the USA, British Airways is clarifying its hand baggage policy for customers travelling INTO the USA, including those who are transferring onto flights to the USA.
Customers travelling in our World Traveller and World Traveller Plus economy cabins to the USA from Heathrow and Gatwick will continue to take only ONE item of hand luggage.
Customers travelling in our Club World and First cabin to the USA from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City are now able to take the normal two bag hand luggage allowance.
All customers are advised to check-in as normal. Customers travelling to destinations outside the United States or from the United States are not affected."