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While trying to figure out the baggage regulations for my next flight (KL 897 Amsterdam -> Beijing and the KL 898 back), I looked for what I'm allowed to transport (standard Economy).

What I could find, was that I'm allowed 1 check-in (23 kg, 158cm) and 1 hand baggage + accessory (combined weight 12 kg). The maximum size of the hand baggage is 55 cm x 25 cm x 35 cm, but this doesn't seem to include the size of the accessory.

Does the accessory even have a maximum size? It doesn't appear to be listed. They speak about shoulder bags, but I got a 35L I wouldn't mind taking with me. I'll stay under the weight, does that give me the all-clear?

  • most airlines have two sizers - one for the carryon and one for the accessory, noticeably smaller. – Kate Gregory Sep 7 '15 at 20:48
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    A 35L bag will not qualify as a "personal" or "accessory" item no matter how little it weighs. A "personal" bag is expected to be much smaller than your carry on, not equal or larger. – user13044 Sep 8 '15 at 0:46
  • Usually it is necessary for safety reasons that your accessory fit completely under the seat in front of you. Since seats are similar on most airplanes, I'd expect the size limit to be similar as well. For example, United Airlines allows a "personal item" of up to 22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm. – Nate Eldredge Sep 8 '15 at 1:24
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I've received an official reply from the KLM twitter:

Q: @KLM what is the size limit of the accessory bag on long-distance flights? Can I take a light-weight 35L backpack as an accessory bag?

A: An accessory is a small handbag or laptop sleeve for instance. A backpack unfortunately isn't.

Q: @KLM is there a precise definition of what the maximum accessory bag dimensions are?

A: There is not. As said before the accessory can be a briefcase, laptop or camera sleeve.

So the answer is: as long as it looks like a briefcase or laptop sleeve, it's okay. There is no precise guideline or definition, unlike Ryanair's or Wizzair's policies. And no, you cannot take a 35L backpack as an 'accessory bag'.

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    Well, I guess this is the most authoritative answer I'll get. There are no exact dimensions known because they don't have them, but 35L is clearly too large. – Mast Sep 8 '15 at 19:29
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As of 2017, their website has actual figures on it:

1 accessory, e.g. a handbag, briefcase or laptop, max. 40 x 30 x 15 cm (16 x 12 x 6 inch)

This is 18L, so a 35L rucksack unless very empty is unlikely to fit.

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    (I realise this is years after the question was originally answered, but the question is still valid even if the answer is changed.) – gsnedders Apr 26 '17 at 20:37
  • This is a great update, thanks for posting it :-) – Mast Apr 27 '17 at 8:02
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The official KLM baggage page which you found says:

1 accessory, e.g. a handbag or a laptop

Which isn't that handy, but there's an official answer on the KLM Facebook page that expands this:

The accessory can be a handbag, briefcase, camera, small laptop, or another item of similar or smaller size.

There is no definitive rule for actual size that I can find (even from partner airlines), but basically a suitcase is a good measure. If your 'accessory' could reasonably be molded into a suitcase sized space you'll be OK.

As mentioned in the comments on busy flights they'll ask you to put the smaller bag under the seat in front of you. So it'll have to fit under there, and leave you enough room for your feet! In my experience a suitcase or similar size laptop bag fits under nicely in an upright position and leaves a fair amount of space (although some KLM planes have restricted space under the seats as the unit driving the entertainment system is there for some seats).

Trying to take two obviously large, full, bags will likely not be allowed. They often do a quick check at check-in (not so much at Amsterdam which is automated but at other airports) or you'll be stopped at the gate and asked to check one. If you're stopped at check-in you'll have to pay, at the gate it's up to the staff there.

From experience on similar routes (been a long time since I did that one), they're generally quite relaxed about the interpretation of accessory as long as you're not being ridiculous. Large bags can go in if they're empty and go be packed down. However it does depend how busy the flight is, and it makes life easier for everyone if you don't overdo it.

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