Baggage Restrictions

The ABC’s of Carrying On Carry-ons


After the failed terrorist attempt this Christmas, instant restrictions were announced on what could be carried on board aircraft by passengers.

Over the holidays mass confusion erupted over the regulations and it looked like the permanent carry on allowance would be confined to a small purse, baby needs, medication, and a non-wheeled computer case. Adding to the confusion was a lack of clarity about whether these new restrictions applied to all flights, or only those destined for the United States.

With sun destination flights moving into full swing across the country, and weight and size allowances already more restrictive than scheduled carriers, vacation bound travellers were extremely concerned about how they could pack their holiday needs effectively.

Although publicity reinforced the fact that the new restrictions applied only to flights landing in the United States, CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, again changed the guidelines for American bound travellers, creating additional turmoil.

Here is what you need to know:

The Official Case
According to CATSA regulations, the size of bag permitted through security must be limited to 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm (rounding up slightly, this is equivalent to 22 in x 16 in x 9 in). It is suggested we think in terms of a small gym bag. This can be a small suitcase OR a briefcase, not both.

The Airline’s Bag
Air Canada, whose website also restricts carry on bags to 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm, rounds down the imperial equivalent to 21.5 in x 15.5 in x 9 in. They also specify that wheels and handles are included in this measurement. Wheels and handles can take up at least a half inch, which can reduce the allowable bag size by one inch.

US carriers have, up until now at least, allowed what is called by luggage manufacturers a standard 22 inch bag – which is 22 inches in length. The width and height vary slightly by manufacturer.

That is why it is important to check the website of the airline you will be travelling with as airlines have the right to make their restrictions even tighter.

Other Stuff
While a purse, laptop, or camera bag are permitted in addition to the one carry on, it is clearly stated that no more than one of these is allowed as an added item. And, if your laptop bag is the expandable type with many compartments – it will count as your one allowable carry on piece.

Other allowable items in addition to the one carry on are items which are necessary for medical reasons (i.e. cane, oxygen tank), baby items, a musical instrument and your duty free purchases.

How Big Is A Purse?
Thankfully there is now a definition for a small purse which is much clearer than what surely must have been a male driven decision, to originally qualifiy it as no larger than a football. The defined size is a maximum of 24 cm x 30 cm x 14 cm (10 in x 12 in x 5.5 in).

Drink It Up
While there had been talk recently about allowing a more generous liquids allowance, for the near future the current limits still apply: Liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a one litre clear bag (1 only), in containers which are no more than 100ml each.

While for many of us the restrictions are a nuisance, those most affected are corporate travellers who detest having to check anything on two or three day business trips. George Clooney in his recent hit, Up in the Air, provides a great example of how road warriors navigate this environment.

Until now, if you were willing to pay the price for the first few rows with the hot dinner and free beverages, you could stretch the rules a long way.

For the time being at least, those days are over.

By Ron Pradinuk
Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre, a travel products retail outlet www.jouneystravelgear.com , as well as Winnipeg based Renaissance Travel. He is past national president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies.

Photo Credits: csakisti, catsa.gc.ca

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Baggage Restrictions

  1. When I flew from Toronto to Tampa on January 10, I was turned back, and had to check my carry on, laptop bag because it has wheels. I was told wheels are no longer allowed. This was security's rule, not the airline's. Is that rule still in effect? Is it only for flights into the U.S.? The article above seems to indicate wheels are okay as long as they fit within the permitted dimensions. You would have laughed to see me with the contents of my laptop case in one of those HUGE clear plastic bags WestJet provides. Thank goodness they do!

  2. I flew out of Buffalo, instead of Toronto, and had absolutely no problems. Check-in was a breeze. I was through security and at the eating area in 15 minutes.

    • I guess the Americans think their citizens and residents don't want to blow anything up. Have they conveniently forgotten 9/11?

  3. I wish they would make some restrictions about mother-in-laws. That's the most dangerous baggage known to man.

  4. Hey thanks for sharing this. I travel a lot lately and needs this kind of precautions.

  5. I have no idea about this until i read this post. I does really make sense since the terrorist attacks are getting rampant nowadays.

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