Facts and Figures Based Shopping

Guess what – I’m going to buy a carry on bag. Well, you can say that’s nothing special, but check how I did my research to pick the universal carry on size – this is a pretty unique approach IMHO worth sharing.

Hand Luggage Limitations

Whenever you book your flight there comes a question – what is the limit of the hand luggage size in the airline which I’m about to pick? Usually, the first thing you do is google the “YOUR AIRLINE luggage limits”. In the end, you can find out that your carry on the bag does not fit the limit… That was also my case, so I’ve decided to search for the bags which will comply with the majority of airlines carry on size limits. Imagine, if you would never again have to think about the size of your hand luggage because you know that it fits all airlines limits. Does such a “perfect” bag exist? To check it I have to answer the following question:

Which carry on size complies with the majority (or all) of airlines hand luggage limits?

You cannot answer to this question simply – the problem with hand luggage size limits is that it is not standardized across the air industry. To tackle this problem I used facts and figures approach. Therefore I had to scrap from the internet the set of data about hand luggage limits – the bigger the set is the better. Luckily such data sets are available – there are dozens of sites listing hundreds of airlines and their luggage limits. That’s a good start.

Interesting Fact: Just to show you how many different luggage limits I found in my data set – I found 57 different hand luggage size limits in the collection of 160 airlines.

Assumptions

When you look at the airline web page with hand luggage limits, for example, American Airlines, you can find there that it’s allowed to bring with you 1 personal item and 1 carry-on. The personal item and its size, does not bother us as well as we will not focus much on the allowed weight for the carry-on bag. The focus of this article is purely carry-on bag and its size.

In the next chapter, I’m going to explain how I analyzed the data, but if this is not interesting for you and you want to jump straight to the conclusion, you can skip it using this link:

List of Bags with Calculated “conformity” with airlines limits

And if you really want to know just resume, jump to:

TLDR – Wrap Up

Let the Data Speak

As I mentioned before, my data set consists of 160 airlines hand-luggage size limits information. The selection of airlines is worldwide without the focus on any specific region of the world. Thing which interests me the most is the dimension given by airline as limit. I will analyze height, width, and depth of a bag.

Descriptive Statistics

The first thing I did was to check the minimum, maximum and average of the dimensions given by airlines as the limit. As you can see below, the variety is huge.

Universal Carry On Size - descriptive statistics inches
Picture 1. Statistics of 160 airlines hand luggage limits for height, width, depth and wight

Table in Metric system

Universal Carry On Size - descriptive statistics cm

Take a look at the weight – the minimum is 11 lbs, which is valid for 11 airlines (among them Air China), and the maximum allowed weight in British Airways is 51 lbs – almost 5 times more. British Airways allows bringing on board also one personal item and the given weight concern both items.

Count the Limits Base on Allowed Dimension

Anyway, base on this kind of simple statistics I was unable to tell how many airlines will comply if my bag will be 18 inches high and 12 inches wide. Therefore I’ve decided to put these values into the matrix, and count how many airlines have this requirement:

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count height and width inch
Picture 2. Count of airlines having the certain size requirements

Table in Metric system

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count height and width cm

What we can get from this? Simply saying, if I have a bag, let’s say 55 inches high and 40 inches wide, it meets the requirements of 63 airlines, but it also meets the requirements of airlines with higher and wider bags allowed. Therefore, if I will sum all the airlines to the right and down, I will get the count of airlines which my bag is compliant with.

Putting this assumption alive, we get the following heat map:

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count height and width inch final
Picture 3. Count of airlines conform with your carry on size.

Table in Metric system

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count height and width cm final

How to interpret this graph: if my bag is 19 inches high and 12 inches wide, then my bag will fit into 148 airlines carry on size limits. This represents 93% of airlines in my data set.

What About Depth?

Ok, but you can say that I forgot about depth. Well, you are right. That’s why I’ve decided to go with the same method, but instead of airlines count, I’ve put the minimum allowed depth of the bag:

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count minimum depth inch
Picture 4. Minimum allowed depth for the certain height and width of carry-on bag

Table in Metric system

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count minimum depth cm

Looking at the above data it seems that having 8 inches deep carry-on bag you are good for the majority of airlines – base on my sample of 160 airlines, you are conforming with 80% limits. And if you think you can squeeze your bag by 0,2 inch then your bag will fit in 98% of airlines:

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count depth inch
Picture 5. Count of airlines conform with your luggage depth

Table in Metric system

Universal Carry On Size - airlines count depth cm

So far so good – we have the data which we can use to research the market in order to find the most universal carry on bag. Equipped with my table I started to crawl Amazon to search the most universal carry on size.

I decided to focus on well-known brands like Samsonite, Travelpro or SwissGear.

I grouped them by the percentage of conformity with airlines limits. So the first category is:

Carry On Size That Fit to 100% – 90% of Airlines Limits

In this category, you need to keep your luggage small. The most strict luggage limit on my list comes from Ryanair. Unless you decide to pay more, on the standard ticket you can bring on board only a small, laptop size bag or backpack not bigger than 15,7 x 9,8 x 7,8 inches.

You can pick some reasonable bags that will fit in any airline in this category which are enough to pack for a one-day business trip or take the “survival” kit in case of mishandling of your checked in bag. I collected different types of bags like backpacks, duffels, spinners or under seat bags.

Swissgear Laptop Backpack – Size Accepted in 160 Airlines [100%]

Universal Carry On Size - Swissgear Backpack

Size: 14 inches x 10 inches x 8 inches

Why this one?

This backpack will fit in any airline limit. It’s pretty small, so don’t expect to pack a lot. It has a ScanSmart compartment, a lay-flat TSA section that has a padded 15” laptop sleeve, and USB port with an internal cord to connect to power bank.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Swissgear Laptop Backpack

Travelpro Crew 11 Duffel Bag – Size Accepted in 159 Airlines [99%]

Universal Carry On Size - Travelpro Crew 11 15'' Duffel

Size: 11 inches x 16 inches x 8 inches

Why this one?

You can pack there enough stuff for one day business trip. It can fit under your airline seat.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Travelpro Crew 11 Duffel Bag

Osprey Ultralight Pack – Size Accepted in 156 Airlines [98%]

Universal Carry On Size - Osprey Ultralight Pack

Size: 17 inches x 9 inches x 7 inches

Why this one?

Another backpack, but this one is 18 liters pack which can be shrunk down into its own carrying case.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

Briggs & Riley Cabin Bag – Size Accepted in 156 Airlines [98%]

Universal Carry On Size - Briggs & Riley Cabin Bag

Size: 11 inches x 16,5 inches x 8,1 inches

Why this one?

Much space for such a small size.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Briggs & Riley Cabin Bag

Travelon Underseat Bag – Size Accepted in 155 Airlines [97%]

Universal Carry On Size - Travelon Underseat Bag

Size: 14 inches x 12 inches x 8,5 inches

Why this one?

This bag fits beneath airplane seat and has many positive reviews from customers.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon Travelon Underseat Bag

Travelpro Platinum Elite Duffel Bag – Size Accepted in 153 Airlines [96%]

Universal Carry On Size - Travelpro Platinum Elite 18'' Duffel Bag

Size: 10,5 inches x 18 inches x 8,25 inches

Why this one?

Compact, a lightweight duffel bag designed for shorter trips and regional airline use.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Travelpro Platinum Elite 18” Duffel Bag

Reaction Kenneth Cole Underseat Spinner – Size Accepted in 153 Airlines [96%]

Universal Carry On Size - Reaction Kenneth Cole Underseat Carry On

Size: 17,2 inches x 13 inches x 9 inches

Why this one?

First spinner on my list. Nothing fancy, small and durable.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Reaction Kenneth Cole Underseat Carry On Spinner

SwissGear 5358 Backpack – Size Accepted in 152 Airlines [95%]

Universal Carry On Size - SwissGear 5358

Size: 18 inches x 11,5 inches x 7 inches

Why this one?

Has a shoes compartment.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: SwissGear 5358 Laptop Backpack

Nomatic Backpack – Size Accepted in 150 Airlines [94%]

Universal Carry On Size - Nomatic Backpack

Size: 18,5 inches x 12 inches x 5 inches

Why this one?

This bag can expands from 20l to 24l. It has some smart features like interchangeable Panels that allows you to customize the bag to meet your needs.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Nomatic Backpack

Samsonite Spinner Underseater – Size Accepted in 149 Airlines [93%]

Universal Carry On Size - Samsonite Spinner Underseater

Size: 16,5 inches x 13,5 inches x 6 inches

Why this one?

This small spinner will fit under majority of seats. It’s made of durable 1690D Polyester.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Samsonite Spinner Underseater

Carry On Size That Fit to 90% – 50% of Airlines Limits

Samsonite Flexis – Size Accepted in 134 Airlines [84%]

Universal Carry On Size - Samsonite Flexis

Size: 18 inches x 14 inches x 8 inches

Why this one?

Has a quick change pocket which enables you to swap your clothes. in other words it provides deep front compartment for easy access to necessities, outfit changes, tech gadgets and more.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Samsonite Flexis Underseat Carry On

SwissGear Vaud – Size Accepted in 133 Airlines

Universal Carry On Size - SwissGear Vaud

Size: 19 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches

Why this one?

Has a cool feature – a coffee cup holder 🙂

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon SwissGear Vaud Hardside Spinner

Nomatic Travel Pack 40L – Size Accepted in 125 Airlines

Universal Carry On Size - Nomatic Travel Pack

Size: 21 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches

Why this one?

It’s packed with pockets: designated water bottle pocket, valuables pocket, RFID protected pocket, shoe compartment, cord organizer, laptop pocket (can fit 15” Macbook Pro), tablet pocket, and notebook pocket.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Nomatic 40L Travel Pack

Carry On Size That Fit to 50% – 3% of Airlines Limits

Samsonite Etude – Size Accepted in 31 Airlines

Universal Carry On Size - Samsonite Etude

Size: 21,75 inches x 14,75 inches x 9,65 inches

Why this one?

Made from Makrolon Polycarbonate which makes the shell outstanding impact strength and scratch resistant.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Samsonite Etude Spinner

Travelpro Maxlite 5 – Size Accepted in 29 Airlines

Universal Carry On Size - Travelpro Maxlite Rollaboard

Size: 21,75 inches x 15,75 inches x 7,75 inches

Why this one?

Water resistant and expands by 2 inches.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Travelpro Maxlite 5 Rollaboard Suitcase

Travelpro Elite 20” – Size Accepted in 5 Airlines

Universal Carry On Size - Travelpro Platinum Elite 20'' Spinner

Size: 22,5 inches x 14,5 inches x 9 inches

Why this one?

Has external USB port and dedicated power bank pocket.

Where can I buy it?

Buy it on Amazon: Travelpro Platinum Elite 20″ Spinner

TLDR – Wrap Up

It’s time to resume this research.

People say that a picture’s worth a thousand words. That’s why I’ve collected all described bags on the heat chart:

Universal Carry On Size - All bags on the chart
Click to enlarge

For the most strict airlines, you can take for free just one laptop bag or backpack – that’s it. With this kind of limit, you will not avoid checking-in your suitcase.

On the other hand, base on my analysis I know that bags 14 inches wide and 21 inches high will cover the majority of airlines (83% from my set). Taking into account this size, I would pick Nomatic Travel Pack (Check on Amazon).

Let me know your choices and other weird bags that I could list them on my map.

Data tables images: Lucas

Photos and  featured image: Amazon, Canva

Universal Carry On Size - Pintrest
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