Another flight question - (cabin) baggage allowances for Emirates
February 18, 2021 6:06 PM   Subscribe

A flight I have to take just got changed to Emirates, who seem to have stricter baggage rules than almost any other airline. Do I need to return the perfect carry-on I just bought to make this journey easier and get a smaller one?

Almost all international airlines will allow carry-ons that are within 115cm total in dimensions. Emirates alone specifies that "Carry-on dimensions should not exceed 55 by 38 by 20 cm", which is 113cm total. I can bring a wheeled bag (whatever that is?) of up to 114cm, but all the good carry-ons I have found, including the one I have just had delivered an hour ago, are 115 with a depth of 25cm.

I am supposed to be packing this week, not returning my carefully suitcase and looking for a replacement... This flight will be rough enough on me (and this change adds seven hours on top of our original journey) and I want to make sure nothing unexpected happens. It is, of course, possible, that husband's employer will change our flight again.

I do not want to check in my carry-on as I have a very sentimental item in it that is too large for my normal handbag.

I'm not really sure what I'm trying to ask, but I was hoping anyone has travelled with Emirates lately and can give me some advice? Do I need to buy their brand carry-on? I don't have a lot of time before we depart.

(Departure point is Asia, destination is Europe by the way.)
posted by LoonyLovegood to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Response by poster: Seriously, almost every carry-on I'm seeing that's not completely tiny (too tiny to fit my important items) is like 55x40x20 or 55x37x25, so it doesn't work. Or if I find one, it doesn't ship to me on time.
And it needs to have wheels as I will not have the strength to carry something heavy on that trip. And hold a laptop.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 6:30 PM on February 18, 2021

If no other option, buy a very cheap zippered bag of any sort large enough to hold your sentimental item and whatever minimal items you need in-flight but small enough to fit the requirements, and check your nice new bag holding the rest of your stuff. It doesn't need to be sturdy, attractive, actually suitcase-like, or anything besides able to keep your item inside it for the length of one trip and compliant with the size rules. I don't know where you are, but I could probably buy something like that within three blocks of my apartment.

(Sorry, didn't see your addition before posting this.)
posted by praemunire at 6:31 PM on February 18, 2021

Instead of automatically checking the new bag, I would put your item and other necessities in a smaller bag that fits inside this new 115 cm bag. Bring the new bag as your carry on. You can pull out the smaller bag quickly if they require you to check the new bag.

Often the carry on dimensions are based on what will fit in the overhead bins and if a flight attendant sees a bag that won't let the bin shut, they can require it to be checked. So, be prepared to put it under your seat and not in the overheads
posted by soelo at 6:42 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Maybe a folding dolly would expand your options?

Here's a suitcase that seems (?) to fit the dimensions, and one where the width is 40 instead of 38, which you might possibly be able to get away with. (If you take the trying-to-get-away-with-it-route, pack a thin bag that's big enough to hold whatever is too important to check.

Also the Small size of this model
posted by trig at 6:43 PM on February 18, 2021

(Sorry, ignore that last one! Also, I only now noticed the prices on those suitcases...)
posted by trig at 6:49 PM on February 18, 2021

I hope this isn't too not-answering-the-question, but I really suggest getting on the phone with Emirates and asking them about the dimensions of your bag in particular. If they don't budge at all, you could ask them about transporting your sentimental item as a carry on, and what's the best way to do that. I'm guessing you're spending a lot of time looking at bag sizes, so you might as well give them a call.

Skyscanner has a few suggestions: paying to upgrade, paying for additional hand luggage, or possibly buying the Emirates bag which perfectly meets these dimensions (ugh).
posted by bluedaisy at 6:49 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Could you get a large reusable shopping bag or tote bag, so that you could bring the carryon you've already purchased, and if it gets rejected, check the carry-on and put your sentimental item in the foldable bag for carry on?

In my experience, carry on restrictions are completely unreliably enforced, so it's almost impossible to predict ahead of time.
posted by mercredi at 6:55 PM on February 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Google tells me that Emirates are super strict with their luggage dimensions, at least when departing from Tokyo...
posted by LoonyLovegood at 6:57 PM on February 18, 2021

Oh, sorry, just saw your wheels requirement.

But this might work, because you'd only have to pull out and carry on the sentimental item, and like any meds, and then could check the carry on?
posted by mercredi at 6:57 PM on February 18, 2021

Wheeled bags probably includes things like this wheeled backpack and this trolley backpack (this one's theoretically deeper than 20cm, but it's soft so if you don't pack it full it should be smushable to the right dimensions, and the trolley can be removed).
posted by trig at 7:01 PM on February 18, 2021

Who did you book your original flight with?

You're being offered a non-equivalent alternative here, and you might be able to persuade your ticket seller that they've caused a problem and they need to fix it. Might work, might not. But I don't see why you wouldn't try.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Are you traveling business class or coach? For what it's worth, I have traveled coach on Emirates from the US to Asia recently and they were extremely unforgiving with baggage requirements. The business class passengers got way more leeway (could bring two+ bags on the plane). In coach, even though I was told that I could bring on two small bags, they made me check my very small under-seat bag (about this size) and only let me carry on my (also quite small) backpack. Which is to say, I would call them to confirm, get them to be really specific , and then be really conservative about luggage size if you're flying coach.
posted by skye.dancer at 7:56 PM on February 18, 2021

Response by poster: Economy. I have read that they are super strict, much stricter than every other airline, and won't even allow a tiny handbag on top of the carry-on. I really don't want to risk it and then get my laptop and irreplacable sentimental item (which is unfortunately fairly big) taken away, because I'd spend the entire 22+ hour trip worried, when I'm already dealing with my awful period that day.
I wish we could upgrade...
posted by LoonyLovegood at 8:00 PM on February 18, 2021

Since you are flying economy, I would call ahead to confirm or try to get a wheeled bag of the size I linked . The gate agent looked at both my bags and told me that either would be fine, I just could only take one. That they only allowed two in economy if one was "just a handbag". I had my laptop, phone, power packs, toiletries, etc. in my backpack which is why picked the backpack to take onboard. I had managed to jam 10 days worth of clothing into the small under-seat bag hoping to avoid lengthy delays at baggage claim since I had really tight connecting flights, both ways. No such luck. :(

Any chance you can ship your sentimental item separately?
posted by skye.dancer at 8:11 PM on February 18, 2021

I don't know about Emirates, just wanted to point you to wheeled student backpacks as a really useful carryon option. Big enough to fit laptop and a fair amt of stuff, but small and squishy enough to fit under the seat in front of you in a pinch; this one should fit those skimpy Emirates dimensions. Also you can pick it up and hold it like a backpack and look inconspicuous if they start telling people that there's not enough room in the overhead bins for wheelie bags. But if you do that, be careful not to let the wheels touch any light colored clothing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:27 PM on February 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

All the other advice you’ve received about ways to transport your sentimental item and different bag types is probably the most useful you’ll receive. I’m not sure about the value of calling - Emirates is a major, professional airline and I don’t know why you’d expect to get a different answer from their call center than what is posted online, and even if you did, that’s not going to carry any weight when the gate agent wants to enforce published rules.

That said, all I can offer is extremely specific anecdote - I flew Emirates fairly often a couple years ago between Africa and North America, and while I certainly found them to be strict on some measures, I had no problems using my standard carry-on Travel Pro suitcase, which seems to be roughly 53x36x23 centimeters. That’s basically the right size but too deep, according to Emirates, and I never had anyone ask me to measure nor did I observe anyone else with a bag that looked like mine run into any size tests or roadblocks.

Personally I would risk it with the carry on you have, but the only way to be truly safe is to get a bag that fits the guidelines.
posted by exutima at 9:59 PM on February 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

We flew them in December 2019, Australia to Europe via Dubai. Read all the online stuff about how strict they were and were super paranoid (I had a backpack that was technically too big and definitely too heavy plus a handbag)- and it was a total non issue and other people had heaps of stuff.

It does sound like specific routes are worse than others. We were prepared to check the bags if we had to (and transfer the precious stuff to alternatives eg I had a small foldable daypack).
posted by AnnaRat at 10:11 PM on February 18, 2021

So your bag may be 25cm deep in its natural shape, but will it be so full that it can't be squashed down to 20cm? They care about fitting the luggage into the overhead lockers or under the seats, so if your 25cm bag becomes a 20cm bag when squashed into a small space (or with tight luggage straps around it) then I would guess they'd be OK with it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:15 AM on February 19, 2021

Response by poster: My current bag is this hard shell one (I bought specifically to protect the contents...)
posted by LoonyLovegood at 2:33 AM on February 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have flown Emirates a lot (pre-pandemic from mostly Europe to Africa, Middle East and Far East and back via a few hubs) and never had a problem with hand luggage allowance despite warnings online. If you don't seem really bogged down with luggage in the queue i think you will be fine but nthing advice above - put your sentimental item and laptop etc in a tote bag or similar inside your carry-on suitcase so that if you are forced to check it and are stressed out, you can at least take them out easily. a big, cheap, tote bag/sack with a zip will at least mean you have your stuff to hand and if you wait for others to put ther bags away, you can hopfeully put yours on top or under seat in front to protect. I understand this is more complex when you have transits though.

Your hard shell bag looks reasonable to me - you could try not to have a big bulging handbag/backpack as well - but honestly, I think you will really, truly, be fine. I tend to travel light but I've never seen anyone turned away from Emirates for hand luggage. Especially if you are on semi-long-haul flights.

Also, from your previous question (which I meant to reply to and didn't get round to), ibuprofen and lots of pad changes with wet wipes made me feel better. if you have some light leggings or shorts, that felt more secure too. you know those big toblerones you can buy in airports? Worked for me :)

best of luck - despite wishing I could travel, I can imagine this is really scary, painful and tough. if you are a reader and like crime or similar please dm me for best page-turners/aeroplane reads/audio to distract yourself on board.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 8:01 AM on February 19, 2021

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