First of all, let us define what a personal item really is. By definition, a personal item needs to fit under the seat of the passenger in front of you. Yep, no matter what you have heard or seen, it’s not a gigantic carry on, nor a backpack that you can hold on your knees during the entirety of the flight.
However, the truth is that many airlines aren't too strict when it comes to laying down the law and sticking to their policies, so you can usually get away with a slightly larger-than-allowed personal item. Just don’t tell them you heard it from us.
The rules are getting stricter
All joking aside, but it seems that most airways are tightening their policies when it comes to personal item size and weight. Unfortunately, the glory days of getting a big carry on for free might be behind us, so it might be better to just honor the rules. The last thing you’d want is to be forced to pay extra fees for just a slightly larger carry-on bag.
What should you select as your personal item?
Unlike the carry-on bag, personal item is even smaller in dimensions, which means you need to be economical with the stuff you pick. We would advise you to select some personal items you need to have at arm’s reach at all times, such as documents, smaller electronics, medication, and for those that travel with small children, stuff like diapers and other essentials.
One of the biggest U.S. carriers also has an impressive allocated space for your personal item, standing at 18×14x8in! This helps rank it at the very top of this list, so kudos to them.
No specific size, but the item needs to fit under the seat in front of you. With an explanation like this, can we really be surprised with the amount of people trying to cram a huge backpack there, only to fail miserably, and have the whole situation escalate into an all-out war of words?
The only thing that’s specified as a personal item with Southwest is that is has to be one “smaller” item. Not much of a specification, if we’re being honest. Still, unlike most other airlines, Southwest sometimes counts pets as a personal item, which is a cool gesture. Once again, the cage size isn’t necessarily specified, so be careful, as you might end up paying for a carry-on anyways.
Finally, here’s an airline that provides some more space for its passengers. With the personal item allowed dimensions of 16x15x7in, Allegiant is head and shoulders above most of its competitors. While it might not look like a lot, it can be the difference between the smallest bag you have and the medium one. Sounds good enough to me.
While a personal item that fits under the 17x10x9in guides isn't necessarily considered all that awesome, it’s awesome that United also allows for items such as umbrellas, jackets, some light reading material and pet carriers for passengers with basic economy tickets, all free of charge.
Here’s another airline that does not specify the size of the personal item, but only describes it as a space for a laptop computer, briefcase or a purse. Similar to the above mentioned airline, Alaska also allows for some additional luggage components in the cabin.
A personal item for this carrier is limited to the size of 17x13x8in. No additional details are provided, so take it as you go. In our opinion, these dimensions fit around most briefcases perfectly, which is a welcomed sight for all the business travelers.
While personal item size is not specified, people from Hawaiian Airlines also advise us to stick with regular purses or smaller laptop bags and backpacks. Hey, at least their carry-on dimensions are not bad compared to most other carriers.