There is a lot of confusion around whether garment bags are allowed to be used as a carry-on bag for flights. It is very common for people to travel with garment bags, especially if you are travelling for a special event. However, it can be confusing whether it should be considered a carry-on, personal item, or checked luggage.
In most cases, airlines will allow you to bring two pieces of luggage onto the plane. This will usually include a personal item that you can carry in your hand and another item that can easily be stored in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat. Your garment bag can either be your personal item and stored under the seat or it can be stored in the over head bin.
If you want to avoid having to check your garment bag, you need to be sure you don’t have more than one other carry-on bag. There are also some airlines that will allow you to store your garment bag as a carry-on in an onboard closet.
What Size Garment Bag Can You Carry on?
Garment bags will need to fit in the restrictions of the airline. According to United Airlines, Carry-on bags will usually need to be smaller than 9 x 14 x 22 inches and personal items need to be smaller than 9 x 10 x 17 inches. This means that your garment bag will need to fit these requirements in order for you to take it on the flight.
The sizes can vary based on airline as well. For example, one airline can have the requirements above while the other like Southwest limits carry-on items to 10 x 16 x 24 inches. This can make things tricky if you have a layover and a different airline for your second flight. Always make sure you look at the requirements for all of your flights while you are packing to avoid any mishaps.
The size of your carry-on can also differ based on if your flight is domestic or international. In most cases, international flights will have more space and allow more room for carry-on bags and personal items.
Some airlines will have specific requirements for garment bags apart from their requirements for carry-on and personal items. For example, American Airlines allows a garment bag that is soft-sided and no larger than 51 inches.
Can a Garment Bag Be Considered a Personal Item?
As a surprise to most people, garment bags are not considered a personal item on any US airline and will be counted as your carry-on item. It doesn’t matter how large or small the garment bag is, it will not be considered a personal item.
According to FAA/TSA regulations:
Flyers are allowed one carry-on (garment bag, suitcase, backpack, etc.) and one personal item (purse, laptop case, briefcase, etc.) on an airplane. While the sizes may vary per airline, these suggestions are true for all airlines.
Tips for Flying with a Garment Bag
To make your life easier, it is important that you know how to pack your garment in the bag the best you can. This will reduce any wrinkling that might occur during the travel. Folding along the creases will be your best option at avoiding wrinkles and unwanted creases.
You will also want to hang up your garment bag whenever you can. Before your flight, do some research to find out if your airline has planes with onboard closets that can store your garment. If not, try your best to lay it flat in the overhead compartment.
Different Airline Policies
American Airlines allows you to have a garment bag as long as it is soft-sided and smaller than 51 inches when length, width, and height are combined. They classify it as a carry-on item, not a personal item.
Delta doesn’t specify any specific garment bag restrictions, so as long as your garment bag is within their restrictions, you should be good to go.
Southwest Airlines allows a garment bag as a carry-on item as long as it fits their restrictions. While most garment bags might be larger than the requirements, as long as the bag can fold up it will be accepted.
United Airlines will allow a garment bag as a carry-on as long as it meets their requirements for carry-on items.
If you are flying internationally with Air Canada, you can carry your garment bag as a personal item. There are still size restrictions, but this allows you to have both a carry-on and your garment bag instead of the garment bag and a personal item.
British Airways also allows you to carry a garment bag as a carry-on as long as you don’t exceed the number of bags you are allowed to carry. There are also size restrictions to keep in mind, which will vary based on the size of the plane.
Finally, if you are travelling internationally with China Airlines, you can carry a garment bag as long as it meets the requirements of 22 x 14 x 9 inches.