We tested 13 small suitcases between 45 and 56cm that would be considered “carry-on” bags by a reasonable consumer. They were a mix of hard- and soft-shell models priced from $25 to $699. Which is the right fit?
Snapshot: The Antler Aire B1 4W Cabin Case soft-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels and an external pocket. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The American Tourister AT Applite 55cm soft-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels and 2 external pockets. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The Delsey Chatelet 55cm hard-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels and a TSA-approved lock. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The High Sierra Composite V2 Wheel Duffel 56cm soft-shell suitcase has 2 wheels and 2 external pockets. How does it perform?
Snapshot: The Samsonite Cosmolite FL 55cm hard-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels and a TSA-approved lock. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The Lojel Hatch 55cm hard-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels and a TSA-approved lock. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The Kmart Protocol 45cm Upright soft-shell suitcase has 2 wheels. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The Kmart Protocol 50cm Hard Case suitcase has 4 swivel wheels. How does it perform?
Snapshot: The Flylite Quartz 20” hard-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The NZ Luggage Co So-Lite AIR 46cm soft-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels. But how does it perform?
Snapshot: The Lanza Titan Lite 18 Vertical Case 47cm soft-shell suitcase has 2 wheels and 2 external pockets. How does it perform?
Snapshot: The Bella Viaggi Travelware Carry-on 50cm hard-shell suitcase has 4 swivel wheels. But how does it perform?
Join more than 100,000 members today and you’ll get:
Travelling with toddlers? Mountain Buggy’s Bagrider is a suitcase on wheels with a detachable seat — it lets you transport your toddler and their belongings through airport terminals in one compact package.
We loaded up the American Tourister AT Applite 55cm, one of the lighter models in our test at 2.4kg. We packed for a typical long weekend away: a couple of changes of clothing, wash gear, towel, shoes, a book, an iPad and chargers. When loaded it wasn’t completely full, yet weighed 8.3kg.
So beware, if you pack one of these carry-on sized cases to capacity you’re likely to exceed the weight limit and you’ll need to check it into the hold, even if it meets the airline size criteria.
Jetstar said the new limits were to reduce passenger frustrations where they struggle to find space in overhead lockers. However, the bag size didn’t change, just the weight, so it wouldn’t affect space in the lockers.
The reduction, and reason for airlines cracking down on carry-on baggage, may be due to “seat only” fares. Offered at a lower price, they allow an airline to advertise lower fares for a route. They also encourage passengers to save money by not checking in a bag – squeezing more into carry-on baggage instead.
The International Air Transportation Association (IATA), a trade group whose members represent nearly 85 percent of total air traffic, proposed a standard carry-on bag size earlier this year with maximum dimensions of 55x35x20cm. For many airlines this is smaller than their currently allowed size. Many airlines, including Emirates, agreed to adopt the policy but in June it was put on hold after backlash from mainly US-based airlines, citing concerns they hadn’t been consulted, it would result in increased fares, and it was unfair to ask consumers to purchase the new smaller bags.
Only one of the small suitcases we tested meets the IATA-proposed size. But given the mismatch between allowable size and volume, we think it makes sense to reduce the carry-on baggage allowance if it means the rules become fairer and more consistent, and all passengers can find space for their cabin luggage.
How do you know how heavy your bag is? One method is standing on bathroom scales with and without the bag and calculate the difference in weights. But to be more accurate, you could use a dedicated luggage scale. We’ve tested 8 models.
There’s no standard allowance for carry-on baggage across the major airlines flying from New Zealand airports:
|Airline||Number of bags||Weight (kg)||Dimensions (cm)||Size (cm)||Small personal item||Tested bags that pass|
|Air New Zealand||1||7||not stated||118||in addition to the weight limit||12|
|Emirates||1||7||55 x 38 x 20||114 for a wheeled case||in addition to the weight limit||5|
|Jetstar||1||7||56 x 36 x 23 A||115||as part of the weight limit||2|
|Qantas||1||7||56 x 36 x 23||115||in addition to the weight limit||2|
|Virgin Australia||2||7 (combined for both bags)||48 x 34 x 23 each bag||105 each bag||in addition to the weight limit||1|
Guide to the table
A = reduces to 48 x 34 x 23 on regional flights with Q300 aircraft.
Beware of exceeding these rules. Airlines are cracking down on passengers who push the limits of carry-on size and weight. If you are asked to check in your oversized or overweight cabin bag at the gate, you’ll be stung with a hefty charge.
For domestic flights, Air New Zealand charges $60 and Jetstar $70 (the Jetstar charge is waived for bags oversized on new regional flights but within the size and weight limits for other Jetstar flights). That charge becomes $120 and $160 respectively for trans-Tasman flights.
For both airlines, it is cheaper to pre-book an extra checked bag before you travel if you think you might exceed your carry-on allowance.
We’ve taken a look at the Trakdot, a small tracker designed to tell you where exactly your lost luggage is.
Check out more of our reviews, articles, news and surveys in our Money & travel section.
This information is available to Consumer members only.