Understanding the Airline Carry-On Restrictions in 2012

With the rules and restrictions imposed by the airlines in terms of what to carry and what not to carry on a plane, buying a ticket seems to be easier than packing! Many times, we are surprised by the restrictions towards the normal everyday items like toothpaste and sprays, but you really can’t blame the airlines for that! Most of the airlines follow the rules issued by the Travel Security Administration (TSA). Although some items may appear harmless while on the ground, the very same items can prove to be harmful when in an airplane, due to variations in the pressure and the temperature. This is why the airlines issue rules and restrictions to ensure a safe travel! The carry-on restrictions in 2012, vary from airline to airline. While some airlines go easy on the policies, there are some that may be very strict. To know the exact restriction policies, it is best to check with your travel agent, or the airline that you are flying with. The rules and restrictions may also vary depending upon the airport you are flying from / to. Nevertheless, the following section will give you an idea about the items that should be avoided in your carry-on bag. Have a look.

Restricted Carry-On Items

All the airline carry-on restrictions are based on the rules and guidelines issued by the TSA. Mentioned below is a list of items that are strictly restricted as carry-ons.

Sharp Objects

Carrying sharp objects like knives, box cutters, razor blades, etc., in the carry-on baggage is strictly prohibited. You may carry these objects in the checked baggage provided they are properly sheathed, in order to prevent damage or injury to the people handling these cases. Also, you must notify the airline agent while check-in about the sharp tools that you are carrying. The TSA allows you to carry scissors or any other metal object whose pointed tips and blades are shorter than 4 inches.

Sporting Objects

You can also carry sporting goods like cricket bats, dumbbells, baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, etc., only in a checked baggage. You cannot keep these items in your carry-on bag. However, it is best to get in touch with your airline to check their checked and carry-on luggage size restrictions for items that are large in size. This will help you prevent a scene during check-in.

Guns and Firearms

The policies vary from airline to airline. For example, the TSA allows to carry firearms in a checked baggage, provided it is packed properly in a locked hard-sided container and is unloaded. However, according to the American Airlines, firearms from / to United Kingdom in a checked baggage are not allowed. This rule does not apply to military / government personnel, unless they don’t have a proper documentation for the same. So, it is advisable to check with your airline beforehand. Flares and gun powders are not allowed at all, be it under checked baggage or a carry-on baggage. Ammunition, starter pistols, BB guns, parts of guns and forearms, etc., are allowed under checked baggage according to the TSA; however, additional fee may apply in some cases, depending upon the airport and the carrier you are flying with; do check with your airline beforehand. Match boxes, flammable paints, and torch lighters are not allowed.


TSA allows tools like surgical tools, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc., which are seven inches or lesser in length in the carry-on baggage. However, larger tools like hammers, axes, saws, crowbars, etc., should be checked and properly sheathed or wrapped, in order to prevent injuries to the security officers and the people handling the baggage. To be on the safer side, it is strongly advisable to carry these objects in your checked luggage.

Self-Defense Items

All the martial arts items like billy clubs, brass knuckles, weapons, etc., are allowed only in the checked baggage and not in the carry-on baggage. However, the TSA allows carrying self-defense sprays provided they are less than 2% by mass of tear gas. If so, 1 bottle of 118 ml (4 oz) of pepper or mace spray is allowed in the checked baggage, provided it is safe to prevent accidental discharge.

Flammable Items

Carrying explosives like dynamites, flares, fireworks, etc., and flammable items like gasoline, aerosol, fuels, lighter fluids, etc., are strictly prohibited by the TSA. And if the TSA does not allow them, neither will the airline! However, lighters without fuel are allowed to be carried in the checked baggage. Batteries, especially lithium batteries, are not allowed while on an airplane, especially in the checked baggage. However, the TSA may allow you to take spare batteries (laptops, cell phones, and camera) as carry-ons, provided they are within acceptable size and weight limits, and are packed well. It is advisable to pack these batteries in their original retail packaging. Otherwise, you should insulate these batteries and keep them separated from other batteries or metal items. Keep them in plastic bags or protective packaging. Speak to your individual airline to know about their battery policies.

Liquids, Aerosols and Gels

You are allowed to carry these items within restricted limits, which is 3.4 ounces. The TSA recommends the 3-1-1 (3 ounces, 1 quart, 1 bag) liquid policy in order to make it clear as to what is allowed in this category. You can carry 3.4 ounce or less volume of these items (3.4 ounces is more or less equivalent to a 100ml bottle), and these need to be packed in a 1 quart-sized transparent plastic made zip-top bag. This also includes items like perfumes, lotions, liquid soaps, scented oil, snow globes, and creams. Even food items like salsas, syrups, dips, jams, etc., fall into this category. Each passenger is allowed to carry 1 bag containing the prescribed amount. For more than 3 ounces worth of volume, you will have to keep these items in the checked baggage. Also, gel shoe inserts, shoes with gel heels, and gel type candles are not permitted as a carry-on luggage, but, you can keep them in your checked luggage.

Medicines & Health Drinks

An exception to the previous rule is that you can carry items like medications, breast milk, baby formula, and baby food in reasonable quantities which can be greater than 3 ounces. These items needn’t be in a zip-lock bag as well. However, they will be screened and checked thoroughly. Remember, that the medications you carry should have their prescriptions along. Also make sure that the prescriptions have the name of the passenger written on them, the name being identical to the one on the ticket. If you are carrying medicines that are not prescribed, then make sure that their packaging is original, and that the quantity is reasonable. Another important tip would be to keep all your medicines together in one plastic bag (in their original packages). This will make it easier for you and the security guards to get these items screened.

Reading through this article on airline carry-on size restrictions will give you an idea of the ideal size of the items that you can carry along with you. Although, it is best to check with your airline about the exact items, as the restrictions also depend upon the individual airline and the airport that you are flying to / from. Have a safe and peaceful journey.

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