Who Regulates Passenger Baggage? Well…no one really

Baggage questions, will they ever stop? No, probably not.


Each week Flying With Fish probably receives more email regarding baggage issues than anything else. Checked baggage, carry on baggage, carry-on sizes, checked baggage weight … and frequently readers want to know who to complain to.  Those seeking to complain to “the authorities” generally are unsure of who regulates airline baggage compliance and the answer … in short … is no one.


A common misconception is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sets the standards for carry-on baggage, however this is untrue. The TSA has nothing to do with carry on baggage, other than screening baggage.  Complaining to the TSA regarding carry-on baggage allowances will fall on deaf ears.


For those seeking to complain about an airline’s carry on baggage policy, the proper agency is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however the FAA only enforces policy created by each airline.   While the FAA requires each airline to have a carry on baggage policy, the FAA requires that each airline create their own carry-on baggage policy, which must then be approved by the FAA.   Should an airline violate its own carry-on baggage policy, then the FAA can intercede to deal with the issue.


For travelers upset with an airline’s checked baggage policy, baggage checked under an aircraft falls to the Department of Transportation (DOT) … and yes the FAA’s parent agency is the DOT.  The DOT has guidelines for belly cargo and checked baggage which airlines must adhere to for safety and security reasons, however airlines have the ability to add their own checked baggage restrictions, including size and weight limits.



If you are upset with an airline’s checked or carry-on baggage fees, neither the FAA or DOT regulates these ancillary baggage fees. Airlines are free to decide what they will and will not charge for and set the prices themselves.


… so, if you’re unhappy with an airline’s checked baggage or carry on baggage policy, the appropriate people to complain to would be the airline itself.


Happy Flying!



  1. I’m in CLT right now and USAir posts signs indicating that the FAA limits the carry on bags.

    Also, by the way, I saw a new TSA sign in Roanoke that talked about letting the agents do their job. The generic agent on the sign had a badge that said “LAW ENFORCEMENT”.

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