Air Canada Sensibly Changes Their Carry-On Policy

Filed Under: Air Canada

The past few weeks we’ve seen some airlines change their carry-on policies for the worse — specifically, Spirit and WOW Air come to mind. Well, it’s nice to see an airline change their carry-on policy for the better, for once.

Air Canada has just eliminated their weight restriction for carry-ons. More specifically, their new policy is as follows:

Your carry-on baggage must be light enough that you can store it in the overhead bin unassisted.


Previously Air Canada’s carry-on weight limit was 10kg or 22lbs.

Personally I’m very happy to see this change. Most airlines have unrealistically low weight limits on their carry-ons. For example, Singapore Airlines’ weight limit is 7kg per carry-on, even in Suites Class. Many carry-on bags alone weight 4-5kg empty, meaning you can barely put anything in your bags if you want them to technically be legal. Fortunately these limits typically aren’t enforced, and I’ve never had an issue carrying two or three times as much onto a plane (weight wise).

I think Air Canada’s policy of requiring that you be able to lift your bag is smart. I realize it sounds like it may be unfair to those who aren’t as able-bodied, though any other system creates a tough situation:

  • At many airlines, the crew isn’t allowed to lift passengers’ luggage for them, for liability reasons
  • While strangers will often help, relying on the kindness of strangers seems like a bad system

However, the one reason this rule surprises me a bit is because overhead bins typically have posted weight limits. Now passengers can theoretically carry-on 30-40 pound carry-ons, and if you stack those next to one another, you can easily exceed the posted weight limit of an overhead. I don’t actually see that being a safety issue, but I’m surprised they’re not technically publishing rules that would at least theoretically prevent this.

I hope other airlines follow Air Canada’s lead!

What do you make of Air Canada eliminating a carry-on weight limit?

  1. I personally want restrictions in place on carry on luggage. Twenty years ago, finding space in the overhead bin used to be an issue unless you are traveling in a premium class. With restrictions in place especially on international routes, that has not been a problem anymore, excluding US domestic travel. Good luck if your are in Boarding Group 4 on those flights…

  2. Ben, we need to talk about your metric understanding. Absolutely no carry-ons weigh 5 kilograms empty. To put this into context, imagine yourself ordering a large beer at a bar.

    Now do that again. And again. And again. Once you get to 10 large beers, you’re at 5 kilograms. That’s not what any empty carry-on weighs.

  3. I think it’s good they finally updated the policy to reflect operations… I’ve never had my cabin bag weighed by Air Canada…

    My friend the FA said they aren’t allowed to help lift bags during boarding as it’s not covered by insurance, but most do anyway, otherwise boarding takes forever.

  4. Yes, I totally agree. I purposely chose a “light” carry on and it’s still almost 2 kg empty. I flew Cathay economy recently. They don’t care in business, but in economy, they will weigh my carry on and then the agent told me he would allow it this time but they might not next time. 7 kg is NOTHING! Especially as I was headed on a 3 week trip to HK/Bali in winter with just that.

  5. Wow, y’all need to travel smarter then. Why on earth would you get a carry-on that weighs 5 kilograms?! I travel about 200 days a year, it would matter a lot to me to have to schlep such a brick around.

  6. The policy change had nothing to do with customer service or passenger comfort and everything do with the power of their union and liability.

  7. @ William Y
    Depends how you travel. I need basically a mobile office for trips typically lasting 4 or 5 days. So a big carry-on is a necessity. It needs to be robust (which usually means more weight). And I never actually *carry* it – that’s what the wheels are for. An occasional lift into and out of the overhead bins is not a problem.

    My newest bag is this:

    Those wheels are utterly transformative – far better than the Samsonite / Tumi bags I’ve been using until now. For me, it’s just as important how it performs when I’m pulling it on broken NY and London sidewalks as on the billard table-smooth marble floors of terminals. This performs.

    I’ve only ever been carry-on weighed once: Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy. Never been weighed for business class, by Virgin or anyone else.

  8. @ Nancy — Absolutely, even bags that are designed to be light-weight still weigh something (I think mine is 2.5kg empty), so it makes you wonder what bags they’re envisioning when they craft these policies.

  9. To me the more important change was increasing the height to 21.5″ from 20″. I can now use my larger roller bag and not worry about being told at the gate I must check it. I try to get by with my smaller 19″ bag, but on some longer trips I need the larger one. I’ve never been asked to weigh either bag when flying AC — in fact no airline anywhere — in all my decades of flying and doing carry-on. Perhaps my elite tags have gotten me by. The only time I check a bag is if I’m bringing back bottle of wine (or craft beer)!

  10. South African weigh my carry on roll-aboard bag almost every time. I’ve had airlink and mainline check in personnel tell me that I can’t bring it aboard even to gate check. In London a check in person told me that he’d allow me to bring it on board only as an exception because I was traveling in business class.

  11. Not only do crew members seldom help passengers with their carry-ons; I was once on an American Airlines flight where a crew member asked me to help with her carry-on.

    Seems really dangerous if a crew member can’t even lift her own carry-on…

  12. If more passengers put their bag under the seat in front of them, everyone would be better off. It gives me a free foot rest, all my stuff is accessible and my disruption of others is minimal.

  13. You may not see carry-on weight limits enforced in F or J, but it’s fairly common in Y, especially on foreign carriers. BA is the worst, especially departing India. The agents at DEL and MAA will look for literally any excuse to force you to check in your carry-on. Of course, since so many folks are already using up their entire checked baggage allowance, they make a nice profit off of excess baggage fees in the process.

    Ironically, I expected easyJet and Spirit to be the most militant about enforcing weight limits, but they couldn’t care less.

  14. I personally applaud this policy, but have to wonder about how this can be enforced for passengers who may be 5’0″ or 75 years old, as well as wheelchair-bound passengers.

  15. EWR to HKG on CX J–weighed our carry on bags in Newark. We were OK but didn’t see that coming. So it can get you in business class too! Totally agree that a 7 kg or a 10 kg weight limit on a carry on is insane!

  16. @MeanMeosh
    BA has different luggage rules for India flights; from memory, there’s more hold baggage allowance. But I might have that the wrong way round.

    Anyhoo, my experience (as OWE, almost all CW long haul, though none recently to India) is that BA couldn’t give a toss how much cabin baggage CW pax bring on board. Lufthansa, on the other hand, is almost fanatical about the rules.

  17. Air Canada used to weigh my carry-on, but I was flying standby, so the “rules” are slightly different.

    The more bizarre procedure happens when departing AKL on any airline, no matter the cabin. As soon as you start your journey to Passport Control and Security, an airport employee tells you to weigh your roll-aboard. They start shaking their heads and wagging fingers if your bag is over 10 kg. However, if you tell them that there’s a laptop and power supply inside, they let it slide. Crazy.

  18. Easyjet in EU have had this for years and they low cost carrier and it works well upon checkin always offering to check carry on in hold for free if you want which allows for space in cabin. I normally bank on this and remove detachable part of case and check in 18kg carryon for no cost .

  19. To the author, you say that exceeding the manufacturer’s weight limit on the overhead bins shouldn’t be a concern. Tell me, which other rules and restrictions are you willing to let the airline slide by on?

    If you think it won’t be a problem, I hope you’re not sitting under one of those overloaded bins when a hard landing occurs. At a minimum you could end up with a nasty headache.

  20. What if you’re kinda on the shorter side and have trouble getting it in the bin without assistance? Like the weight of my bag has never been an issue, I’m just an inch or two too short to get it in without a struggle*.

    *That’s what he said, ba-zing!

  21. Carry on baggage measurements. With Air Canada are one inch different. ((total linear. )Eg. 46” and. 45 “.
    ONce you are enroute With Air Canada but have to change planes in Chicago And fly United is this one inch going to be a problem.?

    Technically could United get stinky and force you to pay fees?

  22. As with most airlines, if you are too short/injured/elderly, the flight attendants can assist you in putting your bag up, they just can’t lift it for you. That being said, if they help you and your bag is ridiculously heavy (way above the max weight limit of the overhead bin), it will have to be checked, regardless of its size. That is just a safety issue, and people shouldn’t get mad that their bags are too heavy to be placed directly above someone’s head. I know I wouldn’t want a 50 lb bag being the cause of an overhead bin collapsing onto my head.

  23. Heavy items should NOT be placed in the overhead compartment, this is dangerous !! The passenger sitting behind me placed his computer and power band in my overhead compartment before i boarded therefore i had no space above me … this is not the issue, the issue is that when he went to take it out, reaching above my seat from behind, it fell on my head causing me major INJURY !!! I fell out of my seat from the impact and sustained a major head injury. Soent my 9 hour flight with bag of ice on my head and I am now dealing with daily headaches and constant dizziness. MRI’s have shown damage … this should NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN …. please change these dumb rules. Thank you!

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