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What are the restrictions associated with baggage?

Most airline baggage policies are similar to each other, but some airlines have their own specifications. Below we’ve noted the general rules for number and size of bags, as well as typical fees associated with bringing excess luggage, but you should also check with your airline to read about its specific requirements before you fly.

Q. How many bags can I bring as carry-on? What size can they be?

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has instituted a “one-plus-one” rule for carry-on baggage. Travelers are allowed one carry-on item and one personal item. Personal items can include a briefcase, camera, diaper bag, laptop, or purse.

Carry-ons and personal items must comfortably fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment. Most airlines will not accept carry-ons in excess of 45 inches (e.g., 22 inches length, 14 inches width, and 9 inches height combined), or more than 40 pounds.

Small items, including umbrellas, overcoats, books, and food items for immediate consumption, do not count as part of the one-plus-one rule.

Q. How many bags can I bring as checked baggage? How heavy can they be?

In general, airlines will allow travelers on domestic economy tickets to check two bags that cannot exceed 62 linear inches (length, width, and height combined) per bag.

However, some carriers are more flexible. Low-fare carriers ATA, JetBlue, Song, and Southwest allow domestic travelers to check up to three bags that do not exceed 62 linear inches and 50 to 70 pounds per bag. To avoid paying excess baggage fees, if you are flying a low-fare carrier and catching a connecting flight on a different airline, be sure you’re aware of both airlines’ restrictions.

Q. Are the rules different for international flights?

Restrictions for international flights vary by destination and season (some foreign destinations have embargoes for peak-season travel). It’s best to contact your airline to verify its international baggage restrictions. Generally, however, most airlines will allow two checked bags up to 70 pounds each on international flights.

Q. What are the fees are associated with checking too many (or too heavy) bags?

Excess baggage fees vary by airline, but in general, you can expect to pay at least $80 for the first three additional bags, at least $100 for the fourth, fifth, and sixth additional bag, and almost $200 for the seventh bag (and beyond).

For domestic travel, all bags weighing more than 50 pounds (but less than 70 pounds) will be charged $25 per bag. Checked bags weighing more than 70 pounds (but less than 100 pounds) will be charged $50 per bag. And in most cases, bags that weigh more than 100 pounds will not be accepted as checked luggage.

Bags over the maximum size of 62 inches will be charged $80 per bag.

Q. What items are prohibited?

Seemingly harmless items are now being prohibited from being carried on board. In general, corkscrews, scissors, lighters, straight razors, Swiss Army knives, and similar items are now prohibited items. However, disposable razors, nail clippers, tweezers, and other metal objects are generally still allowed in both carry-on and checked luggage, as are syringes needed for medical purposes.

If you forget to take any of these items out of your carry-on before you reach the airport, be sure to add them to your checked luggage. If you have already checked your bags, or if you are traveling with a carry-on only, you will be forced to dispose of these items. Some airports have kiosks where travelers can mail themselves items that they would otherwise be forced to surrender.

If you’re planning to fly with sporting equipment or musical instruments, take note of your airline’s policy regarding these items. If you have a particularly large object, you might be forced to purchase an additional seat for the item, or pay an oversized baggage fee.

The TSA has a list of prohibited items on its website; however, at press time it had not been recently updated. If you’re unsure about an item, contact your airline before you fly.

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