Each airline in Europe has its own set of rules, and believe me, the last thing you want is to be hit with unexpected fees at the gate.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the essentials about European carry-on restrictions, from sizes and weights to how lenient or strict different airlines can be.
As you may already know, we are advocates for traveling light with just a carry-on.
The benefits are clear: you save on luggage fees, eliminate the risk of lost bags, and avoid the long waits at the baggage carousel.
But to enjoy these advantages, you need to know the rules inside and out.
So let’s dive in.
What Counts As Carry-On Luggage?
Carry-on luggage is the bag you’re allowed to bring into the airplane cabin with you, and there are generally two types to consider.
Often referred to as a “small bag,” “hand luggage”, “hand bag” or “personal item,” this is usually the go-to for travelers flying with low-cost airlines.
The catch? It must fit under the seat in front of you.
This is your typical small suitcase that you’ll see in overhead compartments also referred to as a “cabin bag” or “cabin luggage.”
It’s slightly bigger than the free option and usually comes with a fee, unless your ticket includes it (that is the case with bigger airlines such as AirFrance and British Airways).
Please note that technically you can put you free carry-on in the overhead compartment, but if the overheads fill up, you may be asked to move your bag under the seat anyway.
Carry-On Luggage Size For European Airlines – How Big Can A Carry-On Be?
Most Common Sizes
- Free Carry-On Bags: The most common size for a free carry-on bag is 40 x 30 x 20 cm, which translates to approximately 15.7 x 11.8 x 7.9 inches. This includes all handles, side pockets, and wheels.
- Paid Carry-On Bags: For the larger, paid carry-on options, the typical size is 55 x 40 x 20 cm, or around 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches. Again, this includes all elements like handles and wheels.
While these sizes are common, they are not universal.
Always double-check with your airline’s specific guidelines.
To make your life easier, we’ve included a comprehensive list of carry-on luggage dimensions for various airlines at the end of this post.
Airlines often have luggage sizers, and you may be asked to place your bag inside to ensure it meets the requirements.
If your bag doesn’t fit, you’ll have to pay extra, and nobody wants that last-minute expense.
How Strict Are Airlines About Carry-On Sizes?
Budget vs Major Carriers
Budget airlines are generally stricter than major carriers. If you’re flying with a low-cost airline, expect them to be more vigilant about enforcing their rules.
The Flexibility of Soft-Sided Bags
Consider using a soft-sided bag that isn’t packed to the brim.
Why? Because you can “smush” it down to fit into the bag sizer if you’re asked to verify its size.
Don’t Forget About Weight
While most travelers are hyper-focused on dimensions, weight is often overlooked.
In my experience, airline employees rarely weigh carry-on bags.
The only time I’ve had a bag weighed was during desk check-in, never at the gate.
But to play it safe, don’t overpack.
My Personal Experience
For what it’s worth, my go-to Pacsafe backpack is slightly oversized according to Ryanair’s restrictions, but I’ve never run into issues.
Lastly, try to board the plane as early as possible.
Overhead bin space can run out quickly, especially on budget airlines like Ryanair, Vueling and EasyJet.
I personally don’t worry about that, because I’m okay with stowing it under the seat in front of me if needed. But if you do – keep that in mind.
How To Reduce The Weight Of Your Luggage To Avoid The Dreaded Weigh-In
Check-in desk is the prime spot where your bag is most likely to be weighed.
Skip the desk, skip the weigh-in. Simple as that.
Wear your heaviest clothes and shoes on the plane
Plus, who doesn’t love a cozy sweater for those chilly airplane cabins?
One bag rule
The less you carry, the less attention you’ll draw.
Airlines are more likely to weigh the bags of people who look like they’re moving house rather than taking a vacation.
So if you have a backpack and small bag, put you small bag into a backpack at the time of boarding.
Got cargo pants or a jacket with pockets?
Fill ’em up!
Stash some of your heavier items in your pockets to shave off those extra grams from your carry-on.
Just remember to empty them before going through security!
European Carry On Luggage Sizes By Airline (Economy)
|Airline||Cabin Allowance||Cabin Bag Dimensions||Personal item|
|Air France||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||55 x 35 x 25cm /21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8 in||40 x 30 x 15cm /15.7 x 11.8 x 5.8 in||12kg (26.4 lb) in total|
|British Airways||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||56 x 45 x 25cm/ 22 x 18 x 10in||40 x 30 x 15cm /16 x 12 x 6in||23kg (51lb) in total|
|Canaryfly||1 free piece of luggage||45 x 35 x 25cm / 17.7 x 13.7 x 9.8in||6kg / 13.2lb in total|
|EasyJet||1 free hand bag and 1 cabin bag||56 x 45 x 25cm|
/22 x 18 x 10in
|45 x 36 x 20cm / 17.7 x 14.1 x 7.8in||Unlimited weight as long as it fits under the seat (for a free bag) or in overhead compartment (for a larger cabin bag)|
|Jet2||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||56 x 45 x 25cm / 22 x 18 x 10in||Must feat under seat||10kg/ 22lb for a larger bag. Personal item weight not specified|
|KLM||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||55 x 35 x 25cm / 21.6 x 13.7 x 9.8in||40 x 30 x 15cm / 15.7 x 11.8 x 5.8in||12kg / 26.4lb in total|
|Lufthansa||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||55 x 40 x 23cm / 21.6 x 15.7 x 9in||30 x 40 x 10cm / 11.8 x 15.7 x 3.9in||8kg / 17.6lb in total|
|Norwegian||1 cabin bag and 1 free personal item||55 x 40 x 23cm / 21.6 x 15.7 x 9in||30 x 20 x 38cm / 11.8 x 7.8 x 14.9in||15kg / 33lb in total|
|Ryanair||1 free personal item and 1 cabin bag||55 x 40 x 20cm / 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8in||40 x 20 x 25cm / 15.7 x 7.8 x 9.8in||As long as fits under the seat (for free personal item) and 10kg / 22lb for a larger bag|
|TUI||1 free cabin bag||55 x 40 x 20cm / 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8in||Not specified||10kg / 22lb|
|Turkish Airlines||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||23 x 40 x 55cm / 9 x 15.7 x 21.6in||40 x 30 x 15cm / 15.7 x 11.8 x 5.8in||8kg / 17.6lb|
|Vueling||1 cabin bag and 1 free personal item||55 x 40 x 20cm / 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8in||40 x 20 x 30cm / 15.7 x 7.8 x 11.8in||10kg / 22lb (for a larger bag, personal item not specified)|
|Wizz Air||1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (both free)||55 x 40 x 23cm / 21.6 x 15.7 x 9in||40 x 30 x 20cm / 15.7 x 11.8 x 7.8in||10kg / 22lb (for a larger bag, personal item not specified)|
If we missed any airline please let us know in the comments below and we’ll add it to our list.
FAQs About European Carry On Luggage Size
Is A Backpack Considered Carry-On?
Yes, a backpack can be considered carry-on luggage as long as it meets the airline’s size restrictions. Typically, backpacks used as carry-ons must fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment.
What Is The Difference Between A Personal Item And Carry-On?
A personal item is smaller and usually free; think purses or small backpacks. A carry-on is larger and might cost extra. The key difference? Personal items go under the seat, and carry-ons go in the overhead bin.
What Is Hand Baggage Only?
Hand baggage only means you’re flying with just your carry-on and no checked luggage.
Which Carry-On Luggage Is Best?
The best carry-on luggage suits your personal needs while fitting within airline size limits. I’m a big fan of my Pacsafe Vibe 28 for its ideal mix of space and security features.
What If My Carry-On Is Too Big?
If your carry-on is too big, you’ll likely face extra fees, especially with budget airlines. They often have luggage sizers, and if your bag doesn’t fit, you’ll definitely have to pay.
What Is Not Allowed In A Carry-On Bag?
You can’t bring liquids over 100 ml, sharp objects, or flammable items. Basically, if it’s dangerous or could cause a mess, leave it at home.
Is There A Weight Limit For Carry-On Luggage?
Yep, most airlines have a weight limit for carry-on bags, usually ranging from 7 to 10 kg (about 15 to 22 lbs).
What Is The Standard Size Of A Carry-On Bag?
The standard size for a carry-on usually hovers around 55 x 40 x 20 cm or 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches. But remember, this can vary by airline.
Is A 24-Inch Suitcase A Carry-On?
A 24-inch suitcase usually exceeds the size limits for carry-ons. You’ll need to check it in, so be prepared for that extra fee.
There you have it. We’ve gone through everything you need to know, from what qualifies as carry-on luggage to how to avoid unexpected fees.
So, what’s your next step in travel prep?
If you’re looking to maximize that carry-on weight limit, I’ve got just the guide for you.
Check out my blog post on “How to Pack a 7 kg Carry-On Luggage” for actionable tips that will make your packing game strong.
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