Do Garment Bags Count as Carry-on?

If your upcoming trip requires you to carry suits or long dresses, you may be wondering, are garment bags allowed as carry-on luggage?

The answer is yes. You can bring a garment bag as your carry-on, and even sometimes as your personal item as long as it fits in the correct storage spaces on the flight. 

Are Garment Bags Allowed as a Carry-On?

Technically, yes, for almost all airlines, garment bags are part of your carry-on luggage, no matter how small they are. However, airlines do not consistently enforce this rule, which can either be great news for business travelers or a massive headache. 

For instance, you can sometimes bring a suit bag or a suitcase as your one personal item, meaning you can also take a carry-on bag, purse, or pet carrier with you, giving you more space. 

But, also, occasionally, an airline will not count garment bags as either carry-on luggage or a personal item. So, if your airline has this rule, you get to bring a personal item, like a laptop bag, and a carry-on alongside your garment bag. 

However, the size of the garment bag may determine whether you can bring it as a carry-on item or not. Normally, carry-ons must be smaller than the dimensions 22 x 14 x 9 inches, while a personal item can not be larger than 18 x 14 x 8. 

Thus, if your suit and garment bag are larger than the minimum allotment for a personal item, it may be considered a carry-on. 

So, since the rules are unclear and allowances aren’t carried out the same even at the same airline, it’s best to call ahead of your trip and ask how you can carry your garment bags. And, if you are concerned with where you can store your garment bag on the flight, you can ask for them to put their answer in writing, so there’s no issue later.  

Read Also >> Does a Fanny Pack Count as a Personal Item?

Where Can I Put Garment Bags on a Plane?

Airlines sometimes have a special closet to hang garment bags and suits, but whether you have this option depends on the airline and the plane. The reason is that most airlines have closets for garment bags on their larger planes, but smaller aircraft do not. 

So, if you can not put your bag in the closet, where you can put it largely depends on whether you are bringing the suit as a personal item or a carry-on bag. 

Storing Carry-On Suit Bags 

Most airlines let you bring one carry-on bag that you can store in the overhead bin. So, if you take a carry-on garment, you’ll probably have to put the suit in this compartment because FAA guidelines require you to. 

Yet, you should remember that you may need to check your carry-on bags if the plane becomes too full. Thus, if you bring your garment bag as a carry-on, there is a slight chance that you will have to put your suits in the cargo hold. 

Storing a Personal Item 

Technically, you are supposed to put your personal item under the seat in front of you. However, airlines are often more lenient on personal articles, so they may allow you to keep it in your lap or in a nearby empty seat when the plane is in the air. 

Or, some people prefer to hang their garment bags off of their carry-on so that everything stays together. But, if you use this method, you will have to put your garment bag in the overhead bin along with your hand luggage.

What Kind of Garment Bag Luggage Should I Use?

Overall, for carry-on travel, soft-sided garment bags are preferable. Also, carriers made of strong material are the best to pack your folded suit. 

The pros of a soft garment bag for use as a personal or carry-on bag are that it’s easy to maneuver, and you can better ensure the garment bag fits in the overhead compartment or under the seat. 

Also, soft bags are light, so they are easy to carry through the airport as your carry-on. 

Lastly, you should remember that a bag made of a strong material will make it less likely that your clothes will get wrinkled or damaged. 

Read Also >> Does a Backpack Count as a Carry On / Personal Item?

Should I Put My Garment Bag in My Carry-On?

Whether you should carry your garment bag in your carry-on luggage depends on how much room you have and what type of bags you are carrying. 

Ultimately, if you want to put your suit or dress in another bag, you should use a carry-on suitcase and be careful that nothing else you pack can damage your clothes. Similarly, you may even be able to use a laptop case for this purpose if you find a large enough one. 

Garment Bag Rules by Airline 

Below are the official rules for garment bags at some of the most popular airlines.

Southwest Airlines 

You can bring any carry-on baggage, including a small- to mid-size garment bag, as long as it is smaller than the 10 x 16 x 24 inch carry-on allowance. Otherwise, your garment bag has to go into checked luggage. 

Also, Southwest does not have any clothes closets on their planes. 

United Airlines 

United Airlines does not have any stipulations specifically about garment bags. 

However, they do say that the dimensions permitted for carry-on luggage are 9 x 14 x 22 inches on domestic and international flights. These measurements ensure that the item is the same size or smaller than the overhead bins. 

American Airlines

At American Airlines, passengers can bring a soft-sided garment bag as their carry-on as long as it does not exceed 51 inches (130 cm). 

Just remember that these 51 inches are in linear inches, and to find the linear measurement, you have to add the length, width, and height of your luggage. If the sum of these three numbers is less than 51, then you are okay in terms of size restrictions. 

Lastly, American is currently allowing Basic Economy to bring their carry-on for free. 

Traveling with a Wedding Dress

If you need to travel with a wedding dress, you should always bring it as a carry-on and never in checked baggage. The reason you want to bring it into the flight deck with you is that items in the cargo hold can easily get damaged during air travel. 

Furthermore, you should store it in the onboard closet. However, if the plane does not have a closet, tell the flight attendants or call beforehand to explain that your luggage is expensive and important, so it requires safe storage. 

And, finally, since wedding dresses can get quite heavy, you can rest easy knowing that almost no airline has weight restrictions for carry-ons. 


So, are garment bags allowed as a carry-on? Yes, but they are sometimes counted as a personal article as well. 

You should also think about where you are going to store your garment bag before you get on your next flight so you can make sure that no one handles it roughly.