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I've heard from two employees from the same airline that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) limits commercial airline passengers to have no more than two carry-on items/bags/suitcases. Is that true? I wonder whether this is truly an FAA regulation, or some airline policy.

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    Franck, you're an experienced traveler with a high SE reputation. Have you searched for an answer to your question? Sep 17 at 0:48
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    @DavidSupportsMonica yes I've read a few FAA pages and didn't see such restrictions being mentioned. I've also directly input the question into Google in case it gave some direct answer. This led me to think this was a worthwhile question to share. Sep 17 at 0:54
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    Very good. I did the same, and searched the FAA Regulations for "baggage" and "carryon." No hits. Proving a negative is logically challenging, but I concluded that the FAA doesn't regulate this specific issue. Sep 17 at 1:12
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    My hunch (but just a hunch, so a comment not an answer) is that the FAA may have left it open to allow for different types of planes (even if it is "1 bag", the maximum size can vary based on the particular type of airplane) and for class of service - no reason that with wider seats and/or additional storage space that an airline couldn't allow more and/or larger bags for first class vs. business class vs. coach. Sep 17 at 14:26
  • If it came down to the wire, what would be the problem with enclosing several bits of luggage into a single package? It might not be easy to find a suitable package and how is that the same problem? Sep 19 at 23:37
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The contents of an FAA "Approved Carry-on Baggage Program" are described in this FAA document. Section 4 of this document requires, among other provisions, that carry-on egress from the aircraft not be impaired, that what a passenger can (and cannot) carry on board be specified, and that weight limits of luggage storage locations be observed.

No provision in this document creates an FAA-mandated limit on carry-on baggage quantity. But because each airline must describe carry-on baggage rules and policies that conform with FAA limits about cabin egress time and seat access, the effect of having a carry-on baggage program may cause the airline to limit, for example, how many carry-on bags each passenger may carry.

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A quick scan through the FAA regulations shows (link):

§ 121.589 Carry-on baggage.

(a) No certificate holder may allow the boarding of carry-on baggage on an airplane unless each passenger's baggage has been scanned to control the size and amount carried on board in accordance with an approved carry-on baggage program in its operations specifications. In addition, no passenger may board an airplane if his/her carry-on baggage exceeds the baggage allowance prescribed in the carry-on baggage program in the certificate holder's operations specifications.

You would have to refer to the operations specifications for the airline in question to find out more about its approved carry-on baggage program.

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    I wouldn't even count on it being in the OpSpecs. Breeze Airways, a new startup airline in the US, dropped a copy of their operations specifications as part of the regulatory process to start operating. All it says on this topic is that they'll follow the procedures in their "approved Carry-On Baggage Program (COB) manual, as revised." So the operations specifications are just a commitment to follow their approved internal manual. Sep 17 at 4:41
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Just as an example (or rather, a counter-example), Air France allow premium class passengers to have two carry-ons and one personal item. There is no mention of exceptions to or from the US.

There are probably many other such examples.

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