Anyone who has recently been to an airport and flown on an airplane has likely noticed how airline carry on luggage restrictions have been tightened up even more. It used to be that you could take three or four items: a small suitcase, purse, laptop computer, camera gear and a bag of duty free purchases and cram them into the overhead bins and under the seat in front of you with ease. Not any more. When I recently took a United Airlines economy flight from San Francisco International to a small, regional airport in an adjoining state, the clerk at the departure gate was very firm in stating the company’s one plus one rule. You can only take one carry-on size bag plus another item aboard the aircraft, and people were told they must reorganize their belongings if they had anything additional they wanted to take.
To make matters worse, the plane was quite small and their overhead bins were not large enough to accommodate the typical carry on rolling luggage with a telescoping handle on the top and wheeled on the bottom. Any passengers with such bags needed to have them tagged, they were stowed in the baggage compartment of the craft and only returned to their owners after the destination had been reached, to be collected at the airport jet way.
United is similar to Delta, Southwest Airlines, US Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Northwest and Air Canada in that they allow a maximum size of 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carryon baggage. America West is similar, with a total length plus height plus width of 51 inches. Air Tran Airways is a bit more generous with a 55 linear inches total allowance. British Airways has the smallest in the group we reviewed, only letting you carry a 22″ x 16″ x 8″ hand luggage aboard for one of their flights.
Depending on where you anticipate you are going to be traveling, if you are looking to buy an allowable size carry on suitcase, our recommendation would be to get one that is no bigger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches and avoid traveling on British Airways. The only time we ever lost a checked bag was on a B.A. flight from London Heathrow to India. The suitcase was supposed to meet us in Mumbai, but it did not arrive until the day we were flying out of Mumbai for Delhi.