Skip to Main Content »

Search Site
Welcome to Kinesis Photo Gear!

You're currently on:

Domestic (USA) Airline Baggage Information

(this is page of one of two)

Above and below are various "static" sizing bins.



Wide shot of the carry-on luggage x-ray machines at DIA.


Close-up of a customer placing his baggage on the conveyor belt on the x-ray machine sizing template.


In November of 1998, United Airlines, along with other carriers at DIA (Denver International Airport) began using sizing templates to regulate the size of carry-on luggage. Since United Airlines started this trend (1998), it has caught on, and is now a USA standard for maximum carry-on size luggage.
Although airline security has changed drastically since the terrorist attacks in the USA on September 11, 2001, the carry-on "size" regulations seem to remain the same with airlines still using templates. The biggest change is the "content" regulations -- no pocket knives, scissors, hammers or other tools that might be used as a weapon. Read more about x-raying film below.

Carry-on Luggage

A "carry-on" is considered to be a bag or case which you carry in one hand or over your shoulder--most airlines DO NOT count a purse or small waist pack as a "carry-on."

• On the 8th of October 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed the regulationchanged the regulation so ONLY one carry-on is allowed. It reads "Each traveler will be limited to one carry-on bag and one personal bag (i.e., purse or briefcase)."
One can actually carry on two items, one large "bag" and a smaller "personal bag."
• On the website (Nov 2003) of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA, a division within Department of Transportation (DOT) & in association with the Dept. of Homeland Security) stated: "You may carry one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint." TSA also states (2006, may have changed now) on the Travelers & Consumers > Transporting Special Items page, "It is the air carrier's responsibility to restrict items due to size limitations and these standards are different from one air carrier to another." It is unclear whether each airline is required to adhere to the above TSA regulations or whether this is just a guideline.

It appears that the TSA is now the federal organization that deals with aviation consumer affairs and FAA deals mostly with pilots and mechanics.

Whenever possible, ask for a "hand check" or "courtesy check" when walking through the security portals with x-ray machines. Below are some statements from the TSA website:

If the same role of film is exposed to X-ray inspections more than 5 times before it is developed, however, damage may occur.  Protect your film by requesting a hand-inspection for your film if it has already passed through the carry-on baggage screening equipment (X-ray) more than 5 times.

• If you plan to request a hand inspection of your film, you should consider carrying your film in clear canisters, or taking the film out of solid colored canisters and putting it into clear plastic bags, to expedite the screening process.
• If you are going to be traveling through multiple X-ray examinations with the same rolls of undeveloped film, you may want to request a hand-inspection of your film. However, non-U.S. airports may not honor this request.

Foreign airports are all different and many refuse to do a hand check. Carrying your film in a ziploc bag is helpful and may speed up the procedure. Generally speaking, these x-ray machines will not fog the average speed (<ISO 800) films.

I have flown (domestically pre 9/11/01) several times with a full Kinesis belt system around my waist loaded with an SLR and 2 to 3 lenses, PLUS a legal-sized carry-on long lens case. The waist pack has never been considered a "carry-on" (it helps to wear a black jacket that obscures the bulk of the belt system). Once at my seat I remove it and shove it under the seat in front of me.
Effective 9/27/01, PanAm (a rather small carrier) started banning all carry-ons.

I have done some research at DIA (Denver International Airport), the newest international airport, as well as at other airports which I have visited. There are two types of sizing gauges: 1) a static 3D "bin" or template, usually at the ticket counter and 2) the conveyor-belt X-ray machines with a hole or template in the front. This X-ray template is essentially a 15-inch wide x 10-inch tall hole at the front of the conveyor belt and restricts the height and width of your luggage (the length must be measured by hand or placed in a cube that is nearby). This sizing template, which is like a square hole to a dog house, is 22"x15"x10" (55.9x38x25.4 cm). Oddly enough, the posted size is 22"x14"x9", a full inch smaller than the template. This dimension is now posted everywhere: in their literature, Web site, ticket covers etc.

Carrying on Kinesis Long Lens Cases

In addition to measuring the templates (dimensions are posted on page two of this report), I took some of our PolyCore™ long lens cases and did some sizing tests. Some of the sizing templates were at the ticket check-in counter, others were only available at the gate. In most instances, the outer pouch of our long lens case had to be removed to fit into the cubes. Because of our modular approach, this was not problem, as the pouch unbuckles in seconds and can be stuffed inside the case or attached to a Kinesis belt. Generally speaking, the Kinesis L321, L521 or L526 long lens cases were fine for all domestic flights. The L621 technically would flunk many carry-on rules, primarily because of the length, however, most of the conveyor-belt templates over the x-ray machines measure width and depth and the overall length is generally ignored.
Other makes of bags are not listed, but simply compare the outside dimensions against the template. (The popular Lowepro Pro Trekker is too large for most templates, however.)

Checked Luggage Sizing

Checked luggage, on the other hand, adheres to a different standard. Generally speaking, the maximum size for US domestic flights is 62 linear inches (157cm). For example, a bag that is 33" long and 14" high and 15" wide would be at this maximum allowable size. The maximum weight is 70 lbs. (Effective December 2002, American and Northwest have dropped their maximum checked weight to 50 lbs. or 23 kg). Our S994 Max Duffle Bag is designed as the largest legal size which you can check. Larger or heavier luggage is allowed, but they will slam you with an oversize charge or force you to check it as freight.

X-Ray Machines & Film

Sending film through X-ray machines has always been a controversial subject for photographers. There are two standards of X-Ray equipment. The "light-weight" version is used at security portals which you walk through and is used to examine your carry-on luggage. The "heavy-duty" behind-the-scenes version (CTX-5000) is used to examine your checked luggage.

Unless you are shooting high-speed films the "light-weight" machines do not affect film -- I have addressed this above in more detail. Some photographers simply FedEx their film, rather than take a chance.

The "heavy-duty" machines are a different matter however -- they WILL fog film. NEVER send film through with your checked luggage, even in a lead bag. The settings on the x-ray machines (usually the CTX-5000) used for checked luggage are set at a much higher intensity than the carry-on luggage x-ray machines, so the probability is very high that your film will be ruined if you check it. If you use a lead bag for your film in checked luggage the operator will simply stop and turn up the power, thus increasing the probability of film fog.

Effective 18 January 2002, the FAA starting requiring all U.S. Airports to X-ray all checked luggage.

X-Ray Machines & Digital Media

On the other hand, digital photographers need not fear as CompactFlash (CF), Smart Media, cards and Microdrives used for data storage are NOT affected by airport x-ray equipment. For additional talk on this topic visit one of the links below.

Originally drafted in August 1998.
©2003 Richard Stum / Kinesis Photo Gear.


Links to airlines that operate in the USA and have Web sites.
For other links unrelated to the airlines visit our Selected Links page.

Air Canada Home page
Air Canada Baggage info with guidelines.
Alaska Air Home page including Horizon Air
Alaska Air Extensive baggage info page
American Airlines Home page. Their site is one those "dynamic" sites, so the baggage info section can't be bookmarked.
British Airways Home page
British Airways Baggage info page
Continental Airlines Home page
Continental Airlines Baggage info page
Delta AirLines Home page
Delta AirLines Baggage info page
EVA Air Home page
Frontier Airlines Home page. I couldn't find any baggage info on this site.
Hawaiian Airlines Home page with no apparent baggage information
JetBlue Airways Home page
Pan Am Home page with no baggage info, since September 11, 2001, no carry-ons allowed.
Skywest Airlines Home page
Skywest Airlines Baggage info page
Southwest Airlines Home page
Southwest Airlines Baggage info page
SAA (South African Airways) Home page with no info on baggage restrictions on their web site, but info was provided to me via e-mail.
SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) Home page
SAS Baggage info page
United Airlines Home page
United Airlines Excellent baggage info section
US Airways Home page

Links to Travel-related Organizations

Transportation Security Administration (TSA). On November 19th, 2001 the President signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) which among other things established a new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT). This is the organization that manages the airport screeners.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A dept. within the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which primarily provides regulations and guidelines for pilots and airline mechanics.

I3A -- The International Imaging Industry This is a new not-for-profit organization was created from the merger of the Photographic and Imaging Manufacturers Association (PIMA) and the DIG Digital Imaging Group (DIG). They list technical ISO standards and news on airline X-ray procedures.

Air Transport Association (ATA) establishes guidelines and rules for various aspects of the airline industry. Much of this site is restricted to members only. Read this link for post 9/11/01 info.

Film Safety for Traveling On Planes (FSTOP) A film advocacy committee aimed at making the picture-taking public aware of potential damage to photographic film generated by new x-ray security scanners installed at airports worldwide for the inspection of checked baggage.

Luggage and Leather Goods Manufacturers of America (LLGMA) trade organization site.

New FAA Aircraft Operator Security Regulations New regulations posted Jan. 16th 2002. Click on part # 108.209 "Use of X-ray Systems" and scroll down to paragraph (e) which says:

This sign shall also advise individuals that they may request that an inspection be made of their photographic equipment and film packages without exposure to an X-ray system.

FAA FAQ since 9/11/01 Official answers to questions since the U.S. terrorist attack in NY and DC (02 Oct 2001).

FAA Restricts Luggage Carry-on to One Bag Official document outlining changes effective 8 Oct. 2001.

FAA weighing additional airline security moves Article in USA Today about possible ban on ALL carry-on luggage since 11 Sept 2001 (26 Sept 2001).

Other Related Links

These are links to static pages, most of which have been written or updated since 11 Sept 2001. Discussion forum thread links are listed below.
For other photography links unrelated to the airlines
visit our Selected Links page.

Baggage X-ray Scanning Effects on Film Official recommendations from Eastman Kodak Co. including the following: (19 Nov 2001)
• New Baggage Scanning Equipment Can Jeopardize Your Film
• Suggestions for Avoiding Fogged Film
• Corrections Can't Be Made at the Processing Lab
• The X-ray Scanning Process
• X-ray Fog Appearance

US Mail to be sterilized: Implications for Kodak and the photo industry Comments from Eastman Kodak Co. regarding electron beam sterilization systems recently purchased by the US Postal Service (8 Nov 2001).

Increased Airport Scanning Procedures Fog Photographic Films Official comments from Fuji Film. An Adobe PDF document. The following comment from this document is noteworthy:

• At some airports, passengers may be randomly selected from the carry-on baggage check line and their carry-on luggage scanned as checked baggage. Please be aware that this scan will fog film. If you are asked to step into another line, remove your film from your carry-on baggage.

Airport X-Ray Security and Film Official recommendations from Eastman Kodak Co. motion picture imaging division. Special comments regarding possible increases in the intensity of the machines since the 11 Sept. 2001 terrorist attack.

Sports Shooter #35 Newsletter USA Today shooter Robert Hanshiro's newsletter. Several articles about airline travel and possible security issues with the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (28 Sept 2001).

The Luggage Game: Carrying On About Carrying on Carry-ons From PhotoSafaris. A very busy photo tour company run by Joe Van Os. Regretfully, he doesn't regularly use our long lens cases -- "too many pockets" is his complaint.

Hotels and Travel or Airlines.TheLinks.Com Websites with many links to various airlines worldwide. A site dedicated to visa and passport information and how to expedite them.

Bureau of Consular Affairs United States government (State Dept.) site with information about international consular stuff. Links to many U.S. embassies abroad.

The Luminous Landscape site by landscape photographer Michael H. Reichmann has some opinions on this matter including travel tips since the terrorists attacks in September 2001. 

Various Threads from Photography Forums (or discussion groups)

Most are new threads written since the 11 Sept. 2001 USA terrorist attacks.
For other photography links unrelated to the
airlines industry visit our Selected Links page.
Some forum threads are not archived forever,
so please
e-mail me (Richard) if you find any dead links.

Has anyone flown since the new security measures went into effect? Many replies posted on this Nature forum.

Airport X-Ray Security & Film (after Sept. 11) Another discussion thread, especially about hand checking film and the FAA regulations.

Airport X-Ray Security & Film A good thread which started on Sept. 11th. Over 50 responses from (Google).

The scoop on airline travel and photo gear An Oct. 9th thread on with about 45 responses. Covers a variety of topics including x-raying film and checking equipment.

OK - so NOW how do we travel with film and gear? A simple question from the nature forum with a few great answers, including a quote and suggestions on how to ship film, rather than carry it on the plane from Art Morris' newsletter.

Airline Security - Effects on Photographers? A long thread (100+ responses) about security, films, x-ray machines, secure flight decks, plus a lot of unrelated information to photographers, too. From (Google)

Lead Lined Film Bags (Google)

X-RAY effects on checked and hand luggage (Google)

Airport X-ray and Magnets on CF Cards & Microdrives Digital Photography Review forum. Excellent thread with a lot of information.

Carrying Equipment on Airlines (Google)



My Cart

You have no items in your shopping cart.

Compare Products

You have no items to compare.