The majority of airlines include a few examples of items that fall within the “Backpack a Personal Item” category, including a briefcase, laptop bag, or handbag, however, they often do not include “backpacks” on those lists.
This is perhaps because “backpack” is such a broad phrase, containing anything from the little string bags used by sports to the enormous loads a through-hiker on the Pacific Coast Trail would carry.
Therefore, it is not what it is labeled that determines if anything may be considered a “personal object,” but rather whether it will fit beneath the seat in front of you. Therefore, the answer is yes if your bag is small enough to fit beneath the seat in front of you.
When you travel on a budget airline or have a basic economy ticket on a major carrier, this distinction becomes very crucial. On such tickets, it is more customary to charge for a piece of carry-on baggage, although often, travelers are still permitted to bring one “personal item” for free.
Additionally, even if your ticket includes a free carry-on bag, being able to bring a backpack inside the cabin may save you money by preventing you from having to check a bag.
Always read the fine print before clicking the “purchase” button since additional costs for items like carry-on luggage might cancel out any savings on a flight that seems to be low.
Also, keep in mind that the size restrictions for carry-on and backpack personal Items fluctuate often between domestic and international flights. Also, read about the 15 best luggage sets & travel bags for your next adventure.
Which Airlines only Allow a Backpack with Personal Items with a Basic Economy Fare?
- Air Allegiant
- Airways JetBlue (Those with Blue Basic tickets going to or from London and those with Mosaic status are exceptions; both are permitted to bring a carry-on bag for free.)
- Airline Frontier
- Airline Spirit
- Southwest Airlines
- American Airlines (United passengers on transatlantic flights to and from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, on transpacific flights to and from the US, and on flights to and from El Salvador, Panama, and South America are the only ones who are allowed to bring a free carryon bag.)
What are the Maximum Dimensions for a Backpack to qualify as a Personal Item?
- The dimensions of the Alaska Airlines bag are 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 35.5 x 22 cm).
- Inches (17.8 cm x 38.1 cm x 40.6 cm) for Allegiant Air, 7 x 15 x 16 inches
- Airline: 18 x 14 x 8 inches (46 x 35.5 x 20 cm)
- The dimension of the Delta Air Lines luggage is 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 35.5 x 22 cm).
- A Frontier Airlines bag measures 18 x 14 x 8 inches (46 x 35.5 x 20 cm).
- The dimensions of this Hawaiian Airlines bag are 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 35.5 x 22 cm).
- It measures 17 x 13 x 8 inches (43.2 x 33 x 20.32 cm) for JetBlue Airways.
- Southwest Airlines: 18.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches (47 x 34 x 22 cm)
- It measures 18 x 14 x 8 inches (46 x 35.5 x 20 cm) for Spirit Airlines.
- A United Airlines bag measures 9 by 10 by 17 inches (22 by 25 by 43 cm).
Airline Carryon and Personal Item Rules
- Passengers are allowed to bring one personal item and one carry-on bag for no additional cost, however, if you have both, the personal item must be stored beneath the seat in front of you.
- On both domestic and international flights, passengers flying with American Airlines are permitted to bring one personal item and one carry-on bag free of charge. The personal item must be stored beneath the seat in front of you if you have both.
- Allegiant’s personal item policy states that carry-on bags are not included with tickets; just one personal item is allowed. A carry-on bag begins at $10 when added to a ticket.
- On internal and international flights, passengers flying with Delta are permitted to bring one personal item and one carry-on bag free of charge. The personal item must be stored beneath the seat in front of you if you have both.
- Frontier’s personal item policy states that carry-on bags are not included with tickets; just one personal item is allowed. A carry-on bag begins at $30 when added to a ticket.
- Hawaiian’s free carry-on and one personal item allowance require that the personal item you bring be stored beneath the seat in front of you if you have both.
- Spirit Airlines only allows one personal item per ticket; carry-on bags are not permitted. A carry-on bag begins at $36 when added to a ticket.
- Keep in note that United’s personal item size restrictions are less restrictive than those of other typical backpacks. The only complimentary item offered as part of basic economy tickets is a personal item (with the exclusions noted in the section above). A carry-on bag begins at $30 when added to a Basic Economy ticket.
How to Pack for a Trip with just a Personal Item?
No matter where we’re going, we’re huge supporters of packing lightly. Bbut when we have to pay more for a carry-on bag, it’s much more important to us.
Here are some suggestions to make packing easier, even if it’s far more difficult to include everything you’d need for a month-long January trip to Norway than a beach weekend in Maui.
- Consider doing laundry as you go. You don’t need to pack separate clothes for every day of your vacation. This is particularly true for tiny items like socks and underwear that are simple to wash in hotel room facilities.
- Purchase toiletries locally. Don’t worry about carrying them home with you; just use them while traveling.
- Employ packing cubes. To further optimize space, you may want to try the ones that shrink when they are filled.
- On the aircraft, dress in your bulkiest attire. Carry your thick winter coat and don your bulky hiking boots, even if they aren’t weather-appropriate for one end of the trip or the other. Also, if you’re traveling someplace chilly, pack a large scarf or wrap that you can use as a blanket on the plane.
- Limit your footwear to one pair. Even though it may not always be practicable, leaving the second pair of shoes at home can free up a tonne of room in your backpack with a personal item bag.
The Airport bag Trick
There are obviously restrictions, but for the most part, airlines won’t classify a bag of products bought at the airport as supplementary baggage. Gate agents may not blink an eye if you arrive with a modest bag from an airport store that has some snacks, a book, and some bottled water.
However, if you attempt to escape with a bag that is overstuffed with additional clothes, shoes, or other goods that belong in your backpack, you can be stopped and instructed to combine your bags.
The Pillow Hack for extra Luggage at no Cost
Did you know that genuine pillows don’t qualify as personal items? You presumably already know that U-shaped neck pillows, which many travelers like, don’t.
Pillows are allowed as checked luggage by airlines, thus there is a packing trick that takes advantage of this. In a TikTok video, a user shows how she uses a decorative pillowcase with a zipper closing as a pillowcase by stuffing it with clothes.
Additionally, since the pillowcase is large, it may be used as a cushion if you have a window seat that you can lean against. This allows you to pack a little bit more for your trip.
Although it’s a clever technique, bear in mind that we don’t advocate or endorse it; use it at your own peril.
How strict are most Airlines with the Personal Item limit?
Trying to get away with a larger number of backpacks a personal Items than what the laws permit will always be perilous. Gate agents may not notice if your bag is just slightly larger than the permitted size;
However, the larger your item is in relation to the standard size, the more likely it is that they will measure or weigh it. Keep in mind that gate agents from the airline, not TSA, are responsible for enforcing the rules.
You may be able to remove some elements to make your item smaller and demonstrate that it can fit beneath your seat if it is too large and has a pliable form (like a soft-sided backpack).
The worst-case situation is that you’ll either have to gate check the item, which may be expensive or in very rare circumstances, you could even have to return outside of security to the check-in counter.