When packing for a trip, choosing the right suitcase is key to avoiding excess baggage fees. But a point of confusion for many travelers is whether the dimensions listed by airlines for checked baggage include the wheels and handles or just the main compartment.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Typically, yes – the overall dimensions of a bag including wheels and handles must meet the airline’s published size restrictions for checked luggage.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at checked baggage size requirements across major airlines. We’ll explain standard luggage dimensions, examine airline policies in detail, and provide tips for finding suitcases that maximize packing capacity while remaining compliant with size rules.

Standard Checked Suitcase Dimensions

When it comes to traveling, having the right luggage is essential. One of the most common concerns for travelers is whether the size of their checked luggage includes the wheels. Understanding the standard dimensions of checked suitcases can help alleviate any confusion or concerns.

Upright Suitcases vs Spinner Suitcases

There are two main types of checked suitcases: upright suitcases and spinner suitcases. Upright suitcases have two fixed wheels, located at the bottom of the case, which allow it to be tilted and rolled in a linear direction.

On the other hand, spinner suitcases have four wheels that can rotate 360 degrees, giving them greater maneuverability.

Both types of suitcases have standard dimensions that are widely accepted by airlines. The dimensions typically fall within the range of 62 linear inches (length + width + height) and 70 linear inches.

However, it’s important to note that this includes all exterior components of the suitcase, including the wheels, handles, and any other protruding parts. Airlines generally measure the overall size of the suitcase, including its wheels, to determine whether it meets the checked luggage size requirements.

Factors that Add to Overall Size

There are several factors that contribute to the overall size of a checked suitcase. In addition to the wheels, which can add a few inches to the linear dimensions, other components such as handles, zippers, and pockets can also add to the overall size.

It’s important to consider these factors when choosing a suitcase, as exceeding the size limits set by airlines can result in additional fees or even having to check the bag as oversized or overweight.

It’s worth mentioning that different airlines may have slightly different size restrictions for checked luggage. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the specific requirements of the airline you will be traveling with.

Most airlines provide this information on their websites, so it’s easily accessible. Additionally, some airlines may have weight restrictions in addition to size restrictions, so it’s important to consider both factors when selecting a checked suitcase.

Specific Airline Policies on Luggage Size

United Airlines

When it comes to luggage size, United Airlines has specific guidelines that passengers must adhere to. For checked luggage, the maximum dimensions allowed are typically 62 linear inches (length + width + height) and the maximum weight is usually 50 pounds.

It’s important to note that these dimensions include any wheels or handles attached to the luggage. So, in answer to the question of whether wheels count in checked luggage size, the answer is yes for United Airlines.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines has their own set of policies regarding luggage size. For checked luggage, the maximum dimensions allowed are typically 62 linear inches and the maximum weight is usually 50 pounds. Similar to United Airlines, Delta includes the wheels and handles in the overall measurement of the luggage size.

Therefore, wheels do count in checked luggage size for Delta Air Lines.

American Airlines

American Airlines also has guidelines in place for luggage size. For checked luggage, the maximum dimensions allowed are typically 62 linear inches and the maximum weight is usually 50 pounds. As with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, American Airlines considers the wheels and handles as part of the overall measurement for checked luggage size.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has a slightly different policy when it comes to luggage size. For checked luggage, the maximum dimensions allowed are typically 62 linear inches, but the maximum weight is usually 50 pounds.

Unlike the previous airlines mentioned, Southwest Airlines does not include the wheels and handles in the overall measurement of checked luggage size. So, in the case of Southwest Airlines, wheels do not count in checked luggage size.


JetBlue also has their own specific policies when it comes to luggage size. For checked luggage, the maximum dimensions allowed are typically 62 linear inches and the maximum weight is usually 50 pounds.

Similar to Southwest Airlines, JetBlue does not include the wheels and handles in the overall measurement of checked luggage size. Therefore, wheels do not count in checked luggage size for JetBlue.

It’s important for travelers to familiarize themselves with the specific luggage size policies of the airline they are flying with. This will help avoid any surprises or extra charges at the airport. Checking the airline’s official website for the most up-to-date information is always a good idea.

Choosing a Suitcase That Maximizes Packing Space

When it comes to choosing the right suitcase, maximizing packing space is a top priority for many travelers. A well-designed suitcase can make all the difference in fitting everything you need for your trip.

Here are some factors to consider when selecting a suitcase that will help you make the most of your packing space.

Hardside vs Softside Luggage

One of the first decisions to make is whether to go for hardside or softside luggage. Hardside suitcases are known for their durability and protection of fragile items. They often have a sleek design and are resistant to water, making them a popular choice for frequent travelers.

On the other hand, softside suitcases are more flexible and often come with exterior pockets for easy access to smaller items. They are also known for being lighter in weight, which can be a significant advantage when it comes to fitting more items into your suitcase.

Two-Wheeled vs Four-Wheeled

Another consideration is the number of wheels on your suitcase. Two-wheeled suitcases, also known as roller bags, have been a popular choice for many years. They offer good maneuverability on smooth surfaces, but can be more challenging to navigate on uneven terrain.

Four-wheeled suitcases, also known as spinner bags, have become increasingly popular in recent years. They can be easily pushed or pulled in any direction, which can be a real game-changer when it comes to fitting your suitcase into tight spaces.

The four wheels also distribute the weight evenly, making it easier to roll your suitcase without straining your arm or shoulder.

Lightweight Materials

Choosing a suitcase made from lightweight materials can also help you maximize your packing space. With airlines imposing weight restrictions, every pound counts. Look for suitcases made from materials such as polycarbonate or nylon, which are known for their durability and lightweight properties.

These materials can help you save on weight, allowing you to pack more without exceeding the airline’s weight limit.

Expandable Suitcases

Consider investing in an expandable suitcase if you often find yourself struggling to fit everything into your luggage. Expandable suitcases feature an additional zipper that allows the suitcase to expand, giving you more packing space when needed.

This can be especially useful if you’re planning to bring back souvenirs or if you simply like to have extra room for unexpected purchases during your trip.

Remember, when choosing a suitcase that maximizes packing space, it’s essential to consider your specific needs and preferences. By carefully considering factors such as hardside vs softside, two-wheeled vs four-wheeled, lightweight materials, and expandable options, you can find a suitcase that will make packing for your travels a breeze.

Tips for Packing Larger Items

Utilize Interior and Exterior Pockets

When it comes to packing larger items in your checked luggage, utilizing the interior and exterior pockets can be a game-changer. These pockets provide additional space for storing smaller items, such as toiletries, socks, or accessories, which can free up more room for your larger items.

Additionally, the pockets can help keep your belongings organized and prevent them from shifting during transit. So, don’t forget to make use of these handy compartments!

Pack Bulky Items First

If you’re wondering how to make the most of the limited space in your checked luggage, packing bulky items first is a smart strategy. Start by placing larger items, such as shoes or jackets, at the bottom of your suitcase. This will create a solid base and allow you to maximize the remaining space.

Once the bulky items are in place, you can then fill the gaps with smaller items, like clothing or accessories.

Separate Laundry

When packing larger items, it’s important to consider the possibility of dirty laundry. Nobody wants their clean clothes to mingle with dirty ones during the journey. To avoid this, consider using separate laundry bags or packing cubes to keep your dirty laundry separate from the rest of your items.

This not only helps with organization but also ensures that your clean clothes stay fresh and odor-free.

Wear Bulky Shoes

One clever tip for saving space in your checked luggage is to wear your bulkier shoes instead of packing them. If you’re traveling with boots, sneakers, or any other shoes that take up quite a bit of space, simply wear them during your journey.

Not only does this free up valuable space in your suitcase, but it can also be more comfortable for your feet during long travel days.


When sizing up luggage for airline travel, the total exterior dimensions – including wheels, handles, pockets, etc – must fall within the size limits for checked bags. Careful measurement and innovative packing can help maximize your suitcase’s interior capacity while remaining compliant.

Knowing the specific size and weight policies of your airline, and choosing a luggage type and packing strategy that works with them, will ensure a smooth journey without unpleasant fees.

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