Can a Backpack be a Personal Item?

‘Backpack’ is an umbrella term that contains everything from the small string bags used by sports to the huge backpacks a thorough hiker might carry. Therefore, it is not what it is labeled that determines if anything can be considered a “personal item,” but rather whether it will fit beneath the seat in front of you. Therefore, the answer is yes if your backpack will fit underneath the front seat of you.

We are here to clarify your queries and provide significant airline personal item policies to save you from hassle during the flight.

What is a Personal Item?

What is a personal item?

A personal item is a small, secondary bag that can fit under the front seat. You would mostly see people fastening their item bags on the carry-on. It could be anything from a crossbody bag, totes, laptop backpack, or a camera case, etc. Your personal item bag will go with you on the aircraft.

A personal item cannot typically exceed 9in x 10in x 17 inches. Before leaving for the airport, it is essential to confirm each airline’s item policy.

A carry-on is different from a personal item. It is a significant primary bag you’ll store in the overhead compartment. It is commonly known as hand luggage or cabin baggage. They are often kept in the overhead storage area above your seat and are checked in after your journey.

 A carry-on could be a suitcase, duffle bag, or backpack; it fits within your airline’s carry-on size limits. The typical size for cabin baggage is 22in x 18in x 10 inches.

Is a Backpack a Personal Item?

Can a backpack be a personal item?

The answer is yes. Backpacks are the most common personal item which people carry during their flights. The reason is straightforward; they are easy to carry and transport and can hold all your essentials. Most airlines recommend personal item bags such as ‘pursue, laptop bags or small backpacks.

Most backpacks can be used as personal items, but if you truly push the limit and bring anything too large, you might be required to check it at the gate or keep it in the overhead compartment, which could result in additional fees. So long as you avoid carrying oversized backpacks, it is the best choice as a personal item.

See Also: Different Types of Backpacks

What is a Personal Item Dimension Limit?

Personal item dimensions limit

Unlike carry-on baggage, personal items don’t have a standard dimension or size limit. Many airlines have no size restrictions, and some have more strict standards than others. However, the personal item must fit under the seat in front of you, regardless of the airline you travel with.

The maximum dimensions for a personal item on airlines that do enforce genuine size restrictions often range from 16″ x 13″ x 7″ to 18″ x 14″ x 8″. You can also check the size of your carry-on or personal item at airport checkers. When you utilize these luggage checkers, you’ll find that even while a backpack could be a little larger than an item like a handbag or a briefcase, it can typically be compressed to the appropriate size, even if they are a little larger.

Domestic Airlines Personal Item Policies

Domestic Airlines personal item policies

Every time you fly, you will have a varied policy for bags and personal items depending on the airline. Most airlines accept rucksacks and backpacks as a personal items if they meet the airline dimension requirement. You can refer to a few of the airlines listed below to learn about the size restriction.

American Airline

American Airlines allows one carry-on and one personal item on its domestic and international flights. Backpacks are considered personal item if its dimension falls under 18 x 14 x 8 inches. These things don’t include personal items like diaper bags (one bag per child), child safety seats, strollers, or medical or mobility gear. They may be transported on board in addition to a carry-on bag and personal items.

Delta  Airline

Regarding luggage policies, Delta is relatively straightforward: if anything can fit beneath the seat in front of you, that is your personal item. There is no standard size for that. They give examples of handbags, briefcases, compact backpacks, camera bags, diaper bags, and laptop bags but will accept any bag as long as it can fit under your front seats. Other than personal items and carry-on baggage, you can also bring some additional items free of charge, like jackets, umbrellas, food and beverages purchased at the terminal, strollers and kid safety seats, etc.

United Airlines

United Airlines is strict with its policies. Backpacks smaller than 17 x 10 x 9 inches and must fit underneath the seat in front of you are categorized as personal items. Unfortunately, this disqualifies many regular-sized backpacks that are broader than 10 inches. In addition to carry-on and personal items, you can bring additional items, including jackets, umbrellas, diaper bags, assistive gadgets, child seats, cameras, and reading material.

JetBlue Airline

According to JetBlue, a backpack qualifies as a personal item, provided it can fit under your front seat. It permits a backpack that measures no more than 17 x 13 x 8 inches to be considered a personal item. That should fit the majority of regular-sized backpacks. They list purses, daypacks, laptop bags, and approved pet carriers as a personal items.

Southwest Airline

Unlike the other two, Southwest Airlines has no predefined dimensions for your item. They claim that the general rule is that a bag can be considered a personal item if it can fit under the seat. However, if your item can fit in the overhead compartment, you can still carry a smaller item, like a bag or a purse, and store it under the seat.

Frontier Airline

The frontier allows personal items that fall under dimensions of 18 in x 14in x 8 inches and must fit beneath the seat in front of you. The personal item that each flyer brings is free. Additional free goods you can bring on board include coats, canes, assistive equipment, diaper bags and foot rugs.

Alaska Airline

Alaska allows one personal item, and there are no size or weight restrictions as long as the item fits under the airplane seats. Only that it should be compact, like a purse, briefcase, or laptop bag, is specified. Along with carry-on luggage and personal belongings, there are some things that you are free to bring on board, such as coats, caps, umbrellas, travel cushions, food, reading materials, child seats, and assistive/medical equipment.

International Airlines Personal Item Policies

International Airlines personal item policies

British Airways

With a carry-on, British Airways allows a second, smaller bag or personal item to fit beneath the seat in front of you. It must fall under 40cm x 30cm x 15 cm and weigh 23 kg maximum. It could be a small handbag, backpack, or an airport purchase.

Cathay Pacific

On Cathay Pacific flights, each passenger must bring one carry-on bag that cannot exceed 56 x 23 x 23 cm and a personal item that can be a laptop bag, small backpack, or purse. The item has a 7kg weight restriction.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines allows each passenger one personal item along with carry-on luggage. Its dimensions would be 15.7 x 11.8 x 3.9 inches. They list personal items could be a handbag, camera bag, briefcase, laptop, or notebook bag.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic offers free onboard baggage allowances of one carry-on and one personal item for economy and premium class passengers, two free carry-on bags, and one personal item for passengers traveling in upper-class cabins. It allows personal items that might be anything small, like a purse, briefcase, laptop, backpack, shopping bag, etc., and must fit under the seat in the front.

See Also: Airline Carry-on Luggage Size Guide

Things you must know before bringing a Personal Item

Things you must know before bringing a personal item

Before you bring your personal items on flights, these things are essential to consider before.

  • Pack all your essentials (like books, medication, headphones, etc.) in a personal bag so you’ll get them more conveniently from under your plane seat.
  • If the bag is constructed of flexible fabrics and isn’t overfilled, it’s usually acceptable to be 1-2 inches over the personal item size restriction. Compared to carry-ons and checked bags, personal items are measured in size far less frequently.
  • In addition to your carry-on and personal items, most airlines let you bring several extra items. These typically include reading materials, strollers, child restraint seats, umbrellas, jackets, other clothing, diapers, food in disposable containers intended to be consumed on the airline, and duty-free products. Although they often don’t count toward your hand luggage allowance, each airline has its policies.
  • All your handbags, including carry-on and personal items, must pass through x-ray scanners at the airport security checkpoint. They will examine their hand luggage for forbidden goods, including flammables, guns, sharp objects, and other hazardous items.

See Also: What are the Essential Things to Bring on a Plane

How to Shop Best Personal Item Backpack?

How to shop best personal item backpack?

While buying a personal item backpack, consider if it can fit under the seat in the front. So here, hiking and travel backpacks are disqualified. You can use them as carry-on but not as a personal item.

 The second factor you must consider this that you are bringing a laptop during the flight. If yes, buy a laptop backpack that can accommodate your chargers, cables, and other hardware while protecting your laptop.

A daypack is a better option if you don’t typically carry a laptop or if you’ll be packing your laptop in your carry-on. To wear it all day long at your destination, pick one that is compact and lightweight.

What to Pack in your Personal Item?

Things to pack in your personal item

Packing is an intelligent technique that only some know. So, before you start packing, learn to pack your as lightly as possible in your personal item. The ultimate goal is to avoid opening your carry-on during the flight. You should have everything you’ll require in your personal item for the duration of the journey.

Personal Item Packing List

  • Wallet, id, passport, and travel papers
  • Sleeping mask, pillow, and earplugs
  • Pen and notebook
  • scarf, pashmina, or travel blanket
  • A jacket or extra clothes
  • Snacks
  • Laptop or tablet
  • Portable charger
  • Water bottle
  • Travel issues or napkin


You can use the backpack as a personal item, but it must fit under the seat in front of you. Additionally, if airlines announce size restrictions, your backpack should be within such restrictions. Make sure you have a backpack within their recommended guidelines.


Can a duffel bag be used as a personal item?

Yes, A duffel bag is a permitted as personal item. It is a more typical kind of personal item, though. For personal belongings, briefcases, purses, and compact backpacks are the more widely used styles.

Can I bring two personal items on a plane?

Passengers are not allowed to bring more than two personal items aboard planes. You are typically only permitted to bring one small carry-on suitcase and one personal item, which can be a tote, backpack, purse, or anything comparable regarding hand luggage.

Do personal items get checked in at the airport?

Personal items are a form of hand luggage, so they are not checked in and are kept in the airplane’s main cabin under the seats. You can skip the check-in line at the airport check-in counters and head right to the security checkpoint if you bring a personal item and carry-on.

Can a bookbag be a personal item?

In air travel, bookbags can be personal items, as long as they fit under the seat in front of you and meet airline size and weight restrictions. As a secondary carry-on, it can hold all the essentials for the flight.

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