Australian airlines' carry-on baggage limits - and what they mean

By John Walton, February 10 2012
Australian airlines' carry-on baggage limits - and what they mean

Confused by how much hand luggage you can take on an Australian airline? Or trying to find out what "115cm bag plus personal item" means?

We've updated our handy reference guide for the major Australian airlines (Qantas and Virgin Australia, plus Jetstar, Rex and Skywest), explaining the limits you'll find -- and what they actually mean.

(Trying to squeeze more into your tiny cabin bag? Don't miss our ever-popular article on how to roll some clothes and fold others.) 

How the carry-on rules work

There are two things you need to look for: weight and size.

Weight is easy enough -- although some airlines allow you other "personal items" in addition to the stated number of kilograms. 

Size is often stated by adding up the length, width and depth of a bag, but some airlines also quote maximum sizes in each dimension, or insist that your bag fit inside that little testing stand at check-in.

Size can also be tricky on a smaller plane, where a perfectly acceptable carry-on bag might not fit in the overhead bins or underneath the seat in front of you.

Sometimes, size rules differ for rigid cases (like a normal carry-on) and soft-sided cases (like suit carriers).

And the obscure "personal item" is sometimes allowed in addition to your luggage, but sometimes must be within your limit.

That personal item might be a laptop, overcoat, umbrella or -- in the wording of one airline's rules -- "lady's handbag, pocket book or purse, which is appropriate to normal travelling dress" (Any questions about inappropriate handbags should be addressed to Skywest, or possibly the Kardashians.)


Bottom line: 10kg over two bags: "one main item of carry-on baggage and one other small item, with a total combined weight of up to 10kg".

The small item could be "a handbag, pocket book or purse, coat, umbrella, or for international flights, approved duty free goods."

Jetstar does allow you to choose a "non-rigid" suit carrier instead, though:

(Those two-letter codes in the image refer to the various Jetstar franchises: JQ: Jetstar Airways 3K: Jetstar Asia VL: Valuair BL: Jetstar Pacific)

Business Class passengers are permitted one additional main item (2 main items in total) of carry-on baggage, as long as each main item does not exceed 10kg, with a total combined carry-on baggage weight of up to 20kg.

For more information, check out the Jetstar carry-on baggage page


The Red Roo has different rules for domestic and international flights. 

(Note that flights on QantasLink's Dash-8 turboprop planes and flights to the Olympic Dam mining area are different. Check the Qantas baggage page for full details.)


Bottom line: 14kg over two bags.

  • 2 x 105cm (41in) bags or
  • 1 x 105cm (41in) bag plus 1 x 185cm (73in) non rigid garment bag or
  • 1 x 115cm (45in) bag

Each bag can be up to 7kg.


Bottom line: 14kg over two bags unless you're in economy, where it's 7kg in one bag.

First/Business/Premium Economy:

  • 2 x 115cm (45in) bags or
  • 1 x 115cm (45in) bag plus 1 x 185cm (73in) non rigid garment bag

Each bag can be up to 7kg.


  • 1 x 115cm (45in) bag or
  • 1 x 185cm (73in) non rigid garment bag

Virgin Australia

Bottom line: 7kg over two bags, plus personal item (which might include a laptop or "reading matter"), unless you're in international business, where it's two 7kg bags plus personal item.

For clarity, that means you can take 7kg plus whatever your laptop weighs, but Virgin does say "A laptop in thin satchel-style laptop bag is considered to be a personal item. A laptop in larger laptop bag will be counted as part of a guest's carry-on allowance."

  • Two pieces (e.g. small bag or briefcase) that do not exceed dimensions of 48cm x 34cm x 23cm (total linear dimensions 105cm) each; or
  • One small bag or briefcase (total linear dimensions 105cm), plus one non-rigid suit pack or garment bag that does not exceed dimensions of 114cm x 60cm x 11cm (total linear dimensions 185cm).

The total of each combination must not exceed 7kg, Virgin's baggage page states. 


Bottom line: 7kg over two bags.

  • One briefcase and one small bag, each not exceeding: depth 23cm (9in), height 34cm (13in), length 48cm (19in), or
  • Two small bags, each not exceeding: depth 23cm (9in), height 34cm (13in), length 48cm (19in).
  • The small bag can be substituted for one suit pack or one garment bag, (non-rigid frame/unfolded), not exceeding: thickness 11cm (4in), width 60cm (24in), length 114cm (45in).

Rex's baggage policy page also strongly suggests you check with their staff whether your luggage will fit: "Passengers that are unsure if their cabin baggage exceeds cabin baggage limits should approach Rex Staff to get them tested BEFORE check-in closes so we are able to check in the bags if necessary. Passengers with baggage exceeding cabin limits at the boarding gate will have their baggage offloaded. Baggage will be treated as checked baggage and only be uplifted on the next available flight and it would be the passenger's responsibility to collect these bags from the airport when they arrive."

Excess baggage fees will also be levied if total checked baggage including offloaded cabin baggage exceeds the 15kg checked baggage limit.


Bottom line: 7kg over two bags.

  • One Briefcase or One Small Bag. Must not exceed: depth 23cm (9in), height 34cm (13in), length 48cm (19in), maximum weight 7kg.
  • One soft-sided (non-rigid frame) suitpak or garment bag. Must not exceed: thickness 11cm (4.3in), width 60cm (23.5in), length 114 (44.9in)cm.

The usual "personal item" (including "reasonable amount of reading matter for the flight" or "lady's handbag, pocket book or purse, which is appropriate to normal travelling dress") "may be carried free of charge over and above the free checked baggage allowance (but not exceeding 7 kilograms)."

For full details, see Skywest's baggage information page.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


Qantas P1

18 Jan 2012

Total posts 73

They never get weighed.... I love watching the ensuing circus after I board a MEL, SYD, BNE flight on a 737. It is quite entertaining the people who arrive almost last who complain there is no storage directly above their seat!!

Qantas - Platinum One

18 Jan 2011

Total posts 82

I don't agree that they never get weighed.

I've seen Qantas, Virgin, and Jetstar all weigh passenger's carry-on from time to time, especially when the baggage looks obviously overweight. In some cases this happens at the gate, and in other cases this happens at check-in counters when the passenger asks to check only one of their 2 or more obviously oversized bags.

I've also seen plenty of people's bags carried back off the plane after the cabin crew find them too large to fit in the overhead bins.

I'd say it'd be unwise to ever count on being allowed to carry on more than your allowance.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

When Qantas introduced its Next Generation Checkin they stopped weighing bags by hand, now its done at the self checkin bag-drop which means they can be a lot tougher on excess weight, there's no human to say "Oh, you're over by a few kilos, never mind", so it's all very strict now.


Qantas P1

18 Jan 2012

Total posts 73

Correct - I was commenting on carry-on hand luggage as the article was about that. My personal experience, is that hand luggage doesnt get weighed. I have a standard carry-on size cabin bag that I never check weight. I suspect sometimes I am in the 10-15kg vicinity. No issues

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

Jetstar and Virgin both often weigh the bags... They are also the harshest when it comes to letting you get away with a couple of kilos and Virgin, in my experience, are the worst of the two.


19 Dec 2011

Total posts 48

just travel light, I havent booked any luggage in for years & I travel extensively overseas. My wife is now a convert with an even smaller carry-on bag than me. We mostly travel business, but always do one or two economy flights along the way, so have to plan for that.

Buy a good quality, light-weight bag. Carry some washing powder & wash out a shirt & smalls every night. If caught with some damp clothing then as a last resort use the hairdryer in the hotel. It works.

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