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Luggage Restrictions in European Flights

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As stated in another thread, my friend and I will be traveling to Spain and England in June. The transatlantic flight is with a US Airline (Delta) but when we are in Spain we will probably take Iberia Express round trip Madrid to Santiago de Compostela and back. And between Madrid and London we are booked on KLM through Amsterdam (switch planes in Amsterdam).

My questions here have to do with luggage and what to expect.

1. My favorite carry-on roll-aboard bag does not fit under any airplane seat, but it is just at the KLM limit of 55 x 25 x 35 cm. (Counting wheels and handle it measures 54 x 20 x 33 --107 total). Iberia's stated limits are a tad more generous (dimensions: 55x40x20 ) but they warn that for small regional flights the cabin luggage may have to be checked. It is not clear to me if this is the ordinary "gate check" I am used to from the US or if I will incur additional fees, a complicated procedure to retrieve my luggage or anything else that might make me want to avoid gate-checking. Can anyone tell me what "gate checking" is like in Europe?

2. I have not been able to find any specific dimensions for the "personal item" allowed by both airlines in carry-on, though I am aware that the airlines will weigh the personal items along with the carry-on. Can someone give me an idea of what sorts of things would/wouldn't be permitted as "personal items"?

3. I have back problems and usually travel with a special pillow. On US flights I have never had any objection to my bringing it in addition to my carry on. It spends the whole flight behind my back and thus takes up less space than a coat. However, I have heard horror stories about draconian rules on EU flights which would force me to make space for my pillow in my luggage. Should I worry?

4. Regarding checked luggage, can anyone recommend a good, lightweight, not too expensive 24 in bag?

Thanks in advance.

F

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