You may have gotten a great deal on your airline ticket, but if you don’t know what you can or can’t take on board your flight you may be in for a surprise or even a shock at the check-in counter.
Since every airline has its own unique baggage policy, it’s important to check what is or isn’t allowed so you don’t overpack or have to leave something behind at the airport. Being aware of the baggage policy for the airline you are flying on can also help you avoid unnecessary fees.
You should know the size and weight restrictions for each piece of luggage or equipment you plan to bring, how many bags you are allowed, and what items are prohibited in the cabin and in checked bags.
We’re going to take a look at Delta Air Lines baggage policy to help guide you through the packing process and let you know what you can or can’t take with you on your Delta flight. We’ll also give you some tips on how you can avoid paying baggage fees on the carrier.
In this post you'll learn:
Delta Air Lines Baggage Rules
Like many airlines, Delta’s baggage allowance varies based on route, fare class, and whether you have elite status with the airline or if you carry one of it’s co-branded credit cards.
You can check in online or in the Delta app 24 hours before your flight and let the airline know how many bags you are taking with you. If you check in online, you drop your bags at the baggage drop. Let’s go over the rules for carry-on and checked bags.
You can check the baggage calculator on this page for a planned trip, or you can estimate the cost of checking bags for a particular route by entering your departure and destination as well as the type of fare you plan to purchase on Delta including Basic Economy, Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, First Class, Delta Premium Select or Delta One.
You can also enter the dates of travel, your status with Delta’s SkyMiles frequent flyer program including whether you are a general member, Silver Medallion, Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion or Diamond Medallion, and the type of Delta credit card you have including the Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Reserve cards from American Express or the business versions of those cards.
Checked Baggage Allowance
If you’re seated in the main cabin for a flight within the US for example, you don’t get any free checked bags if you don’t have a Delta credit card or elite status. A passenger flying on a domestic flight with no status or co-branded credit card will pay $30 for their first checked bag and $40 for a second checked bag.
You generally get one free checked bag on International flights, but be sure to check Delta’s baggage calculator because that can vary by destination and fare class.
Whether you get a free bag because of your route, loyalty program elite status or Delta credit card, luggage must still be within limits or there will be an extra fee. Bags must weigh under 50 pounds, and the bag should not be more than 62 inches when you add up the length, width and height of the suitcase.
SkyMiles Elite Status
If you have Silver, Gold or Platinum Medallion status in the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program, your first checked bag is free. Medallion members traveling in basic economy, main cabin or Comfort+ seats between the US or Canada and any international destination can also check a second bag up to 50 pounds for free.
Medallion members traveling in Premium Select can check up to three free bags up to 50 pounds each, and Delta One or First Class passengers can check three free bags up to 70 pounds.
SkyMiles Credit Cards
If you carry one of six Delta SkyMiles credit cards by American Express including the Gold, Platinum or Reserve cards or business versions of those cards and you book your flight using the card, your first checked bag and a checked bag for up to eight more people traveling on your reservation is also free.
The Delta SkyMiles Gold card costs $95 a year, but the annual fee for the first year is waived. The SkyMiles Platinum card costs $250 a year, and the premium Reserve credit card costs $550 a year. Each card comes with additional benefits. For more details on sign-up bonuses and perks of holding the card, check here for details.
Include your SkyMiles number in your reservation, and the fee for the first bag for each passenger in the reservation will be waived. The free bag benefit does not apply to overweight or oversized bags.
Excess Baggage Fees
Each passenger can check up to 10 bags on Delta or Delta Shuttle flights and up to four bags on Delta Connection flights, but they have to pay a fee for each bag beyond their allowance. Overweight and oversized bags, and items with a unique size, shape or weight are subject to extra fees. And if your bag exceeds both weight and size limits you could be charged fees for both.
If you are traveling within the US, USVI or Puerto Rico, a third bag will cost $150 to check each way, and each bag beyond that up to the maximum of 10 will cost $200 each to check.
Bags from 51-70 pounds in weight will cost an extra $100 one-way, and bags weighing from 71-100 pounds will cost $200 extra. Bags over 100 pounds are not allowed.
If the bag is bigger than the total 62 linear inches allowed, it is considered oversized. If the bag is 63-80 inches (length + height + width) it will cost $200. Bags that are over 80 inches are not allowed.
Those rates can go up for international travel based on the route. This chart has full details by destination or you can view them below:
Excess Baggage Fees for International Travel
|Traveling From:||Traveling To:||Bag #3||Bags 4-10|
|US / Canada + USVI, PR||US / Canada + USVI, PR||$150||$200 ea|
|US / Canada + USVI, PR||Caribbean||$150||$200 ea|
|US / Canada + USVI, PR||Central America||$150||$200 ea|
|US / Canada||Mexico||$180||$200 ea|
|Mexico / Caribbean / Central America||Mexico / Caribbean / Central America||$125||$200 ea|
|US / Canada||Honduras / El Salvador||$200||$200 ea|
|US / Canada||Guatemala City||$200||$285|
|South America||US / Canada / Mexico / Caribbean / Central America||$200||$200 ea|
|North / Central/ South America||Europe / North Africa||$285||$285 ea|
|US / Canada / Mexico||Tahiti||$285||$285 ea|
|Brazil||Everywhere else||$200||$200 ea|
|All other international destinations||$200||$200 ea|
If you don’t qualify for a free checked bag and you’re trying to avoid paying a fee to check your luggage, you might want to bring your bag on board. Delta allows one carry-on and one personal item per passenger.
The carry-on suitcase can go in the overhead bin and must be no more than 45 inches in size when you add up the length, height and width of the bag. In addition to meeting that overall size requirement, the carry-on cannot be more than 22 inches in length, 14 inches in width and 9 inches in height including handles and wheels, with the exception of small musical instruments that can fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.
There is no weight restriction for carry-on bags on most flights, but if you’re flying to Singapore (SIN) your carry-on should be under 15 pounds, and if your destination is Beijing (PEK) or Shanghai (PVG) your carry-on luggage should not be more than 22 pounds.
If the bag is too big or if the flight is very full and overhead space is limited, you will need to check your bag at the gate. There is no charge for the checked bag if it is because the plane is full. Also, if you are on a Delta Connection flight with less than 50 seats you can only bring a personal item on board.
In addition to a carry-on, each passenger is allowed to bring a personal item that they can store below the seat in front of theirs. Personal items include a purse, small backpack, laptop, camera bag, diaper bag or another item of a similar size.
You can also bring a few things that don’t count as your personal item like a jacket, umbrella, food and beverages purchased after you get through security, duty-free purchases, and special items like a stroller, wheelchair, child safety seat or assistive devices like a cane or crutches.
If you are planning to carry your luggage on board, keep in mind that there are restrictions on liquids, gels, aerosols and pastes. This includes beverages, hair products, toothpaste and suntan lotions. These items should not contain more than 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) of product even if the container is only partially full.
Liquids need to be in a clear, quart-sized plastic bag that you can seal, and you will need to put it in a bin when you go through security. If you need to bring liquids that are bigger than that, they need to go in your checked luggage. There are some exceptions to this rule for necessary items like medication, breast milk, infant formula or juice which can get a special screening.
Infants and Children
All children traveling on Delta must be ticketed, but if they are under two years of age they can sit on your lap and their ticket is usually 10% of the cost of the adult ticket. Other children’s fares are discounted based on route.
Baggage rules for kids vary depending on the fare purchased. If they are traveling for free, they don’t get any baggage allowance. When traveling on an international ticket that costs 10% of the adult fare, children are allowed one checked bag up to 20 pounds with a maximum size of 34 inches (length + height + width).
You can check strollers and car seats for free, and you can bring an FAA-approved safety seat on board the plane for use during takeoff and landing if there is an empty seat in your row or if you have purchased a seat for the child.
In addition to a carry-on bag, parents can bring an infant or booster seat, bassinet, and a breast pump and cooler bag for an infant traveling with them. Seats and bassinets must be secured by a seatbelt and must meet carry-on size restrictions.
If the child’s ticket costs at least 50% of the adult’s fare, then the child gets the same baggage allowance as an adult.
Bringing Pets Onboard
You can bring a small dog, cat or bird on board the plane if they fit in a small, ventilated carrier that fits under the seat. The pet counts as your one carry-on item, but you can still bring a personal item on board.
You pay a fee each way at check-in. Fees are $125 for flights within the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. It’s $200 for international routes or flights going to/from the USVI, and $75 for flights to/from Brazil.
If your pet is too big to fit in a carrier under the seat, they would normally have to be shipped aa cargo, but that is under embargo currently because of the pandemic. Check here for updates.
There are also some exceptions for small animals. Birds are only allowed on US flights excluding Hawaii, USVI, Puerto Rico and Guam. There are also currently some temporary suspensions on bringing dogs on board that were imported from countries that have a high risk for rabies, so check this link for more information on which countries are excluded and if the suspension is still in place when you plan to travel.
Valuable, Fragile and Other Items
In addition to items for infants and children, you can also bring medical supplies and equipment on your trip but rules vary. A wheelchair can be brought on board for example, but there are some rules governing battery operated ones. Let the airline know 48 hours in advance if you plan to bring one. You can also bring syringes on board as long as you have the corresponding labeled medication.
You can’t check valuable items like cash, jewelry, electronics, photography equipment, works of art and other high-value items in your luggage. You should bring those on board with you in your personal item or carry-on. If the item being checked is fragile, you will need to sign a limited liability waiver.
If the item is too large or too fragile to put in an overhead bin, you can purchase a seat with a bulkhead or divider in front of it for the item as long as the item doesn’t block emergency exits or the aisle. It cannot weigh more than 100 pounds and must be able to be secured with a seatbelt.
You can check sports equipment like a bicycle, but it will count as a checked bag and if it is overweight it will incur those extra fees. Bikes over 100 pounds or bigger than 115 linear inches are not allowed. For more details on restrictions on particular items like golf clubs, surfboards, ski equipment and other items, check the sports equipment page link above.
You can also bring musical instruments on board the airplane or check them. Small instruments can be carried on board as your free carry-on. Bigger instruments can be checked, but cannot exceed 150 linear inches and it can’t weigh more than 165 pounds including the case. You can also choose to purchase a seat for the instrument, but it has the same size and weight restrictions as instruments checked as baggage.
The Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) sets the rules for what you can bring on the plane or check in your luggage, so those rules are the same for all US carriers. The main things to avoid in checked bags are flammable items, and avoid bringing anything that can be used as a weapon on board.
Some things like dynamite, gunpowder, flammable liquids and other hazardous materials are obvious items to avoid packing. But there are also other prohibited things that are less obvious like cooking spray, chlorine for pools and smart luggage with non-removable lithium batteries.
You might think that alcohol is prohibited, but you can bring up to five liters of alcohol in your checked luggage if it is under 70% alcohol (140 proof). Wine is not included in this limit. And if you want to bring mini-bottles of liquor on the plane, they must fit in the quart-sized bag that has your other liquids in it.
If you’re unsure about whether an item is allowed, you can check the TSA site or reach out to the agency on Facebook or Twitter at AskTSA.
When to Pay for Baggage
Many people avoid checking bags and just pack what they can fit in their carry-on in order to avoid paying fees, waiting for luggage at their destination, and to avoid possible delayed or lost luggage. But that’s not always practical.
If you are staying a week or more, especially at a colder destination that requires bulkier clothing, you may not be able to fit everything in a carry-on. When you’re traveling with children, especially infants, you often have to bring extra gear. And if you’re planning to surf or play golf and bring your own equipment, you’ll need to check those items. These are just a few examples of times when you will need to check baggage.
Credit Cards That Reimburse You For Checked Baggage Fees
If you do have to check bags and pay a fee, be sure to check your wallet to see if you have an airline credit on a premium credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum card.
Or you can erase the charges by using points on a travel credit card issued by Capital One or Barclays. With the Capital One Venture card for example, you can use 3,000 points to erase a $30 baggage fee.
Exclusions & Waivers
There are some exceptions to the rules. For example, active members of the military including United States Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard that are traveling on military orders are allowed to bring up to five free bags that are up to 80 linear inches and up to 100 pounds each regardless of fare class.
Military members traveling for personal reasons get two free bags up to 50 pounds each if they are booked in basic economy, main cabin or Comfort+. And if they are ticketed in first class, Premium Select or Delta One, they can bring three free bags up to 70 pounds each.
You also need to be careful about what airline you are on even if you booked through Delta as that carrier may have different rules. If your flight is on a Delta SkyTeam alliance or codeshare partner airline, then be sure to check on that carrier’s baggage rules.
If you have purchased duty-free items at the airport, they will not count as part of your baggage allowance or personal item. They will be delivered to your plane and you can pick them up before you board.
The best way to avoid baggage fees is to limit what you are bringing with you to a carry-on suitcase and a personal item. That’s not always possible though, so if you want to avoid baggage fees on Delta and you don’t have elite status, the easiest way to get a free checked bag is by having one of the carrier’s co-branded Amex cards.
Be sure to measure and weigh your luggage to avoid overweight and oversized baggage charges, and check the baggage calculator on the airline’s website so you are clear about how many checked bags you can bring on your flight so there are no surprises at check in.
If you do have to check bags and they are not free, be sure to check if you have any credit cards that will reimburse you for airline incidentals or allow you to erase travel charges on your card and be sure to use that card to pay for your checked bags so you can get a refund from the card issuer.
Once your bags are checked, you can track your luggage using the bag tag, confirmation or file reference number. And Delta has a 20-minute guarantee. If the bags don’t arrive at the carousel within 20 minutes of landing, you can fill out this form and get 2,500 Delta SkyMiles as compensation.