You know how stressful the baggage situation on a commercial aircraft can be. You have to review the policy on free luggage allowances, which may be different for every airline and class of ticket. You have to make sure bags weigh less than 50 pounds, or that they’ll fit overhead or under the seat in front of you. What if you forget your book or magazine in the overhead compartment? What if the tube of toothpaste you brought is a little bit too big? Losing luggage or having to leave something behind can ruin a trip.

In private aviation, you are not bound by many luggage-related rules, which means your pet can fly in the cabin unrestrained, and you can carry on six bags and your own Yeti cooler, if you want. However, you may be space-resricted by the physical size of the aircraft and its storage limitations.  Reduce the headaches by doing your research and making an informed decision when selecting an aircraft. Here are some things you should consider:

  1. Will you be able to access your luggage from the cabin? For some of you, it won’t be necessary. For others, this can be a huge point of contention. The longer the range of the aircraft, the more important it becomes. If you have documents or a change of clothes in a bag that you need access to during the flight, it’s important to know whether or not the aircraft has baggage compartment access from the cabin.
  2. Is the baggage area pressurized? If not, the last thing you want to do is stick an aerosol can in your luggage. At high altitudes, the air is much colder and thinner, meaning that hairspray can will explode all over your stuff. No thanks.
  3. How much baggage do you have? On smaller aircraft, large items like golf bags and skis probably won’t fit. Even on larger aircraft, you might have trouble with irregularly shaped items. If you’re taking a golf trip with eight other guys, a light jet definitely won’t do the trick. If you’re traveling with a full cabin of divas or duvas (that’s what we call male divas around here) with lots of bags, you might want to think twice about shopping on the trip.
  4. How many people do you need to fit? Some aircraft allow you to remove passenger seats for extra cargo capacity. Some even have bigger doorways for loading those large, oddly shaped items. Pilatus, Cessna and Kodiak actually have private aircraft that are designed specifically for cargo capacity.

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An average Light Jet seats six or seven passengers, and has an average baggage capacity of 55 cubic feet. With seats full, each passenger can bring a small roller bag and one personal item, like a backpack or briefcase. Skis and golf clubs may not fit, although Cessna did create a ski tube as early as Citation II models.

Turboprops, especially the King Air models, have cargo space in the rear of the cabin, separated from passengers by industrial netting. Sometimes you can put spare passengers on a jump seat back there too. There are all sorts of jokes about the extra baggage to be made there! (Miranda Lambert’s song Baggage Claim comes to mind!) As a modification, wing lockers can be added behind the props for extra capacity, which can hold small roller bags or duffles.

The average Midsize Jet seats eight passengers, and has about 60 cubic feet of baggage space. Each passenger can bring one medium roller bag and a personal item. Skis and golf clubs may or may not be accommodated, depending on how many passengers are on board and how much luggage is being taken. Hawkers are one of the models with all baggage capacity inside, which makes bulky bags a problem.

Super Midsize Jet typically seats eight and has a baggage capacity of about 90 cubic feet. All eight passengers can bring two medium-sized roller bags and one personal item. A super-mid will usually have room for skis and golf clubs in addition to your typical luggage.

Large Jet usually seats 10-12, and will have 125 cubic feet or so of luggage space. Each passenger can bring two large roller bags and a personal item. There will be plenty of room for skis and golf clubs, both in the cabin and externally, with the rest of the luggage. We’ve had a movie crew with all of their equipment, wardrobe changes and props stowed away on a Falcon 900, which has a great storage capacity.

So you find yourself in front of an airplane that won’t be able to handle all of your gear… what do you do? Don’t panic, you have a few options. On shorter flights, consider taking a turboprop instead of a light jet. It might take a bit longer to get there, but you’ll have more baggage space, and it will probably be cheaper. You can upgrade to a larger jet, though it will be significantly more expensive, or you can ship your luggage to your destination ahead of time, so it will be waiting for you when you arrive. Jet Linx, for example, offers a service to their members called “Ship Sticks” and “Ship Skis,” both of which are pretty self explanatory, shipping your skis or golf clubs to your destination at a reasonable price point, so they’ll be there when you arrive.

Really, the importance of baggage capacity depends on your mission. If you’re typically taking just one or two-day business trips, and you’re only taking a duffle bag and a briefcase, a light jet with little room for baggage will get the job done. If you typically take your plane on vacation with your whole family, however, it’s a different story. In that case, the aircraft’s baggage capacity and cabin accessibility can play a major role in your decision to purchase an aircraft.

If someone is nice enough to take you along on their private plane, remember to pack soft-sided bags that can be scrunched into small spaces. It can make a huge difference.