If you have an upcoming flight, you no doubt want to know whether the item you want to bring on a plane will count as a personal item.

If it doesn’t, you may be charged a fee for going over your allowance.

There tends to be a general rule for what counts as a personal item, though it can vary by airline and the type of ticket you bought.

What is Considered a Personal Item on a Flight?

A personal item you want to bring on a plane is considered any item that is able to fit under the seat in front of you.

So, personal items may include:

  • Small backpack
  • Purse
  • Briefcase
  • Laptop
  • Camera Bag
  • Fanny pack

Airline Personal Item Policies

As mentioned, the general rule is that a personal item must fit under the seat in front of you, but some airlines go one step further and also mention size restrictions too.

  • Alaska Airlines: Personal item must fit under the seat in front of you
  • Allegiant Air: Personal item must be no larger than 7” x 15” x 16”
  • American Airlines: Personal item must be no larger than 18” x 14” x 8”
  • Delta: Personal item must fit under the seat in front of you
  • Frontier Airlines: Personal item must be no larger than 18” x 14” x 8”
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Personal item must fit under the seat in front of you
  • JetBlue: Personal item must be no larger than 17” x 13” x 8″
  • Southwest: Personal item must be no larger than 18.5” x 8.5” x 13.5”
  • Spirit Airlines: Personal item must be no larger than 18” x 14” x 8”
  • United: Personal item must be no larger than 17” x 10” x 9”

Do Personal Items Have a Weight Limit?

Most airlines generally won’t enforce a weight limit for personal items because personal items are by their nature small and therefore likely to be lightweight.

If an airline does enforce a weight limit for a personal item, it would typically be 15-22 lbs.

What Isn’t Considered a Personal Item?

Some items you may think count as personal item actually don’t.

Items that don’t count as a personal item are usually those that are considered essential for passengers, which may include:

  • Diaper bag
  • Child safety seats
  • Strollers
  • Medical or mobility devices (wheelchair, cane, crutches etc.)

There are other items that airlines usually don’t count as a personal item either, including:

  • Jacket
  • Umbrella
  • Food

How Strictly Do Airlines Enforce Size and Weight Restrictions?

Even though airlines have size restrictions that passengers are meant to adhere to, this doesn’t mean that they will measure each passenger’s personal item that they want to bring on a plane.

If it is suspected that your personal item clearly doesn’t meet the airline’s size regulations, you may be asked to place it in a baggage sizer, but that is about the extent of how strict airlines will get.

Having said that, expect budget airlines to enforce restrictions more strictly.

Can You Bring Two Personal Items on a Plane?

Most major airlines will allow you to bring one carry on and one personal item on a plane, though this can depend on the ticket you bought.

Again, expect budget airlines to have less generous policies.

Spirit, for example, will allow you to bring a personal item free of charge but will charge for a carry on.

The same applies to a JetBlue Basic Fare.

Two personal items can’t be brought onto a plane because there is only space to fit one personal item in the seat in front of you.

What to Pack Inside Your Personal Item Bag

We recommend using a bag or backpack for your personal item, so you can maximize what you can bring on the plane.

A small backpack will count as a carry on.

If possible, you should place your laptop or purse in the bag or backpack, so it won’t count as an additional personal item you want to bring on board.

Generally, you should pack valuables, essentials, fragile items, medicine, and any other items you want to have easy access to.

This may include:

  • Passport, boarding pass, visa
  • Wallet
  • In-flight entertainment accessories (headphones, earphones, laptop, tablet, power bank)
  • Comfort items (pillow, eye mask, socks)
  • Snacks
  • Valuables
  • Toiletries
  • Medicine

Items Not Allowed in Your Personal Item Bag

There are several items that aren’t allowed in your personal item or carry on bag, as the TSA restrict these items.

What is Considered a Carry on?

Carry on items are larger than personal items, but smaller than checked bags.

While it can slightly vary by airline, your carry on must generally be no larger than 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 8 inches high.

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