Most airlines allow passengers to bring both a personal item and carry-on onboard, but does a purse count as a carry on?

Does it count towards that all important carry-on allowance, is it considered a personal item, or is it neither?

While most airlines won’t consider a purse to be a carry-on item, it will usually count as the one personal item that a passenger is allowed to take on a plane.

But let’s take a closer look at if airlines count a purse as a carry on or personal item, as well as the maximum dimensions allowed, on an airline-to-airline basis

By Airline

  • American Airlines

American Airlines count a purse as a personal item and state that it must fit under the seat in front of you.

Dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm).

  • Allegiant

Allegiant consider a purse to be a personal item.

It must be able to be stored completely underneath the seat in front of you

The maximum dimensions allowed are 7 x 15 x 16 inches (17.8 x 38.1 x 40.6 centimeters).

  • Delta

Delta counts a purse as a personal item.

The only requirement is that the purse is able to fit underneath the seat in front of you

  • Frontier

Frontier consider a purse to be a personal item.

A purse must be no larger than 14” tall, 18” wide, and 8” long and comfortably fit underneath the seat in front of you.

  • JetBlue

JetBlue also considers a purse to be a personal item.

The airline states that personal items cannot exceed 17″ L (43.2 cm) x 13″ W (33 cm) x 8″ H (20.32 cm) and must fit under the seat in front of you.

  • Southwest

Southwest count a purse as a personal item.

A purse must fit in the 16.25” (L) x 13.5” (W) x 8” (H) space under the seat.

  • Spirit

Spirit also consider a purse to be a personal item.

Personal items must not exceed 18” x 14”x 8” (45x35x20cm).

  • United

Unsurprisingly, United also state that a purse counts towards your personal item allowance.

Any personal item must not exceed 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm).

As you can see, all airlines consider a purse to be a personal item, but the maximum size allowed varies.

A Purse Might Be Considered a Carry On

If you want to bring a purse on a plane, but it exceeds the maximum dimensions allowed for personal items, it will be considered a carry-on.

If you already have another item that counts as a carry-on, you will be charged an extra fee for traveling with another carry-on item onboard.

You may be able to avoid paying an extra fee if you are able to fit your purse inside your carry-on, though.

What You Can Put in Your Purse

You can pack plenty of small items in your purse, including personal care products, food items, and even sharp items like scissors, sewing needles, and nail clippers.

The most important thing to be aware of is to know how many ounces you can take on a plane.

In short, if the item is a liquid, gel, or aerosol and is in a container that exceeds 3.4 oz/100ml, it will not be allowed through airport security. The item will be confiscated.

Other items like pocket knives, pepper spray, and tasers are not allowed in your purse under any circumstances.

Number of Carry-on and Personal Items You Are Allowed

While it can depend on the type of airfare, most airlines allow passengers to bring one carry-on and one personal item on a plane.

Exceptions include United’s Basic Economy ticket that only allow you to bring on board one personal item depending on the destination.

JetBlue’s Blue Basic fares also does not allow a carry-on bag.

Difference Between a Carry-on and Personal Item

The main difference between a carry-on and personal item is that a carry-on can be larger and does not have to fit under the seat in front of you.

A carry on item must usually be no bigger than approximately 22 x 14 x 9 inches, while a personal item must not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches.

These dimensions can vary by airline, though not significantly.

What Counts as a Carry-On

Any item that is larger than a personal item yet within the maximum dimensions allowed to bring on a plane is considered a carry-on.

This can include items like large backpacks, small rolling suitcases, and duffle bags.

The item doesn’t have to fit under your seat, but is expected to fit inside the overhead bin.

What Counts as a Personal Item

Airlines consider the following items to count as a personal item:

Items That Neither Count as a Personal Item Nor a Carry-On

There are several items that count as neither a personal item nor a carry-on, which means they don’t count towards your allowance and are free to carry on your flight.

  • Jacket
  • Umbrella
  • Duty-free merchandise
  • Food or drink purchased past the security checkpoint
  • Diaper bag (this can vary by airline)
  • Camera
  • Strollers
  • Wheelchairs
  • Child safety seats
  • Crutches

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).