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I have this burning question every time I plan for travel. Most Airlines / carriers state that their baggage size limit is 62". And it is calculated by adding the 3 dimensions, including handles and wheels (often explicitly stated in their rules).

However, most luggage sets being sold are size 20", 24" and 28". With the 20" being a universal carry-on size. The 24" is a checked bag. But the 28" is strange. Take this luggage set for example: https://www.amazon.com/American-Tourister-3-Piece-Pink-Blush/dp/B07RPBNY8X

28" Spinner: Packing Dimensions: 28” X 19” X 12.2, 
Overall Dimensions: 31” X 19.8” X 12.6”, Weight 8.7 lbs.

31" + 19.8" + 12.6" is 63.4" > 62"

Another example from well known maker: https://www.amazon.com/Samsonite-Freeform-Hardside-Expandable-Spinner/dp/B01LY047AR

PACKING Dimensions: 27.6" x 20.0" x 13.0", 
OVERALL Dimensions: 31.1" x 20.95" x 13.78", 9.5 lbs.

31.1" + 20.95" + 13.78" = 65.83" > 62"

And that kind of size is quite typical for 3-piece luggage sets or stand-alone 28". Does it not mean that they are all considered Oversized?

Or are there unwritten rule that all common carriers, airline and train operators, worldwide all just consider them to be within the limit?

(I see multiple comments about "you can use the luggage in trains/car/bus", I think I should address it here)

  1. As someone pointed out, Japan's High Speed Rail recently published that luggage over 160cm (just less than 63") is oversized.
  2. Airplanes are often one of the connecting segments of someone's travel plan.
  3. Luggages are bulky. Most consumers would want to buy one that can be used everywhere instead of one for specific carrier(s).
  4. Many large luggages are also made Expandable. So, one can bump-up the capacity if the carrier permits.
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    If you ignore the fractional inches, 31 + 19 + 12 = 62. I don't know whether that is an explanation or not, but it's an observation. Jun 20, 2023 at 1:39
  • @GregHewgill but the unrounded depth is 13.78, not 12.78.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:17
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    most people don't travel by airplane
    – njzk2
    Jun 20, 2023 at 19:10
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    I've flown quite a few times in my life and I've never had my checked-in luggage measured, even with enormous and weird-dimensioned bags - I think this is omitted by many airlines that offer long-distance flights since they weigh your luggage anyway and storage volume is not as limited as for low-cost carriers due to more "plane per person". They probably still include this to have legal ground to deny comically large, but light luggage.
    – kopaka
    Jun 21, 2023 at 14:38
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    I always thought adding the dimensions was a strange way of determining total size. Try boarding a plane with a 36"×24"×2" framed painting (or a 59"×2½"×½" wooden plank?) and see how far you get. Jun 22, 2023 at 14:01

4 Answers 4

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Airlines having their own specific luggage size retrictions doesn't mean that luggage makers should abide by them for every suitcase or bag in a travel set; after all, it's a travel set, not an airline travel set. Lots of people travel by train / car / ship / bus, which have more relaxed luggage size rules than airlines (if any at all), so there's no reason for luggage makers not to make bigger suitcases for those who need them.

Also, airlines are known to change their luggage size requirements, so there are "airline approved" travel sets out there that were approved but now they are not anymore.

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    The bag in question, however, is marketed as a "checked large" size bag.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2023 at 12:53
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    Careful with the trains: Japan shinkansen has now also a 160cm (62.5") and they are fairly strict about baggage rules. You can bring larger but this requires a specific reservation.
    – Hilmar
    Jun 20, 2023 at 13:06
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    @someuser "make it become a car-only-luggage" Again: people travel by other means beyond plane / car. The train company I usually travel with, has an official max luggage size of 34"x22"x14" but I've yet to see anybody have their luggage measured at the train station. Bus company doesn't even set a max size, they use max weight instead. A 28" bag can be used with any of those. There's also the possibility that some luggage brands are perfectly aware the bigger suitcase is not approved... but expect you to still keep the whole set and buy another bag from them just for airline use. Profit!
    – walen
    Jun 20, 2023 at 16:33
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    @walen, there is a simple rebuttal to your argument - "Competition". When you sell a luggage set that only 2 out of 3 can be used in airlines. Your competitors can call you out and sell a set that all 3 can be used and steal your customers. The fact that so many are selling oversized suggests that the sets are all within limits.
    – some user
    Jun 20, 2023 at 16:40
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    @someuser Anyways, you seem to be very convinced the only two possible explanations are the ones you already came up with, so feel free to upvote/accept the answer(s) that validate your thoughts. It'd be nice, though, if downvoters (not you, but in general) explained what specific part of "not every suitcase is used for airline travel, so not every suitcase needs to fit airline sizes" and "size rules change, so some luggage sets might be outdated regarding airline acceptance" is wrong enough to be downvoted. I already gave examples of long distance travel were the 62" rule doesn't apply, so...
    – walen
    Jun 21, 2023 at 8:31
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Most airlines just aren't that strict. I've flown a handful of times with bags approaching or slightly exceeding the maximum linear measurement but nobody has ever measured the bag. Manufacturers have an incentive to push the edge of the envelope so as to be able to make bags with greater internal capacity.

Of course, some airlines are strict, notably low-cost carriers, and I've never flown with one of these bags on such an airline. But even still, they tend to be strict with weight and with the dimensions of carry-on bags, which are easy to check because they specifying maximum values for each of the three dimensions and check the bags against these by seeing whether they fit inside a box.

Measuring three dimensions separately requires a ruler or measuring tape and is subject to error and disagreement. Being picky about bags that are close to the limit is likely to cost the airline more than it collects in oversized baggage fees, most tangibly in employees' time, but also in intangible ways such as ill will, customer dissatisfaction, and lost business.

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  • I flew on an Aegean A320Neo from Athens > Brussels earlier this year. At the departure gate, one Aegean employee worked through the waiting passengers with a carry-on sizer box with built-in scale: customers with too many bags or too heavy bags were taken out of line and required to pay more. The passengers so selected were notably distressed; perhaps this treatment is the exception rather than the rule. Jun 20, 2023 at 14:32
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    @DavidRecallsMonica I've definitely seen carry-on screening on a minority of flights. Even EasyJet, which nominally charges extra for overhead bin space, sometimes does not check. But there's always a risk that they will.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:15
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    Some budget airlines do perform different degrees of screening, e.g. asking people at the gate whose bags look too big. But none of them AFAIK do it by linear inches, it's always done with a frame/box and/or scales.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 20, 2023 at 18:35
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    Airlines are often much more picky about carry-on bags (besides revenue reasons, gate agents are heavily motivated to get the aircraft door closed for an on-time departure, and early interception of excess and oversize carry-ons helps to speed the boarding process) than they are the size of checked bags. Jun 20, 2023 at 19:31
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This way of measuring is called linear inches and you are right that most checked luggage limits are specified in terms of linear inches while the majority of carry-on luggage is specified by maximum size along 3 dimensions, mostly because storage is much more constraint in the airplane cabin.

There are certainly luggage that is oversize which people are allowed to use by paying an oversize surcharge but most 3-piece luggage sets sold are generally sold with the largest suitcase close yet under the 62" limit as it is very common. It might depend where you shop but I have personally bought multiple sets over decades and never had to look particularly long to find a suitable size. Typically, the 20-24-28 combination allows the 3 pieces to fit nicely together. I once bought a 26 single-model which is a great travel size but didn't fit in the 28", later I got a 31" model which still was not oversize as it has only two wheels on the side of the suitcase.

The size of the 28" suitcase from the latest 3-piece set that I bought measures 29.5 x 20.5 x 11¾" for a total just under 62" and it most others tend to lineup with that number. The largest in this set if 60" and this expandable set comes with a suitcase that is 61" normally and expands to 63" to allow the oversize option if needed. It seems it could be just a matter of sampling but it really looks like suitcase makers know the limit and try to get right up to it. You will notice that due to common weight limits for checked luggage, it is hard to fill an oversize suitcase and not be over the weight limit.

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    Yup, our big bags got retired when they changed the limit from 70# to 50#. It was never possible to pack them properly without going over the weight limit and letting your stuff shift around is asking for damage. Jun 20, 2023 at 2:00
  • It really depends on what you pack. I usually pack the lighter stuffs, like cloths, in the larger bag. I never exceed weight limit with any of my checked bags.
    – some user
    Jun 20, 2023 at 15:34
  • Of course, that's why I said it is hard not impossible. Since I travel with different size suitcases, the lighter stuff goes in the larger one but even with clothes only, if it is full the 28 suitcase is usually right at the limit. I have a 31" non-set one and it is nearly impossible to fill up except when carrying hollow objects :)
    – Itai
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:23
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Nowhere does it say that you need to take every bag from your set with you, or that the airlines should be mandated to allow any arbitrarily large set of luggage that some manufacturer may design and sell.

If the latter were the case I'm sure there'd be plenty of leather working shops who'd churn out custom sets with total sizes larger than the cargo hold of a commercial airliner, just so someone can use them as a kludge to sue an airline (likely an American one) for billions in compensation for 'not being allowed to take my matched luggage'.

It is your duty as a passenger to select your luggage based on the maximum size AND WEIGHT restrictions imposed on you by your carrier(s). And do keep in mind that if you change planes during your journey you may encounter the situation where one flight has a smaller luggage allowance than another, the smallest will now effectively apply to the entire journey.

Of course you can always pay to have (some of) your luggage shipped through other means.

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