Updated August 2022
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.
This airline allows passengers to use carry-on bags as long as they do not exceed 24x16x10in when it comes to size and 35 pounds in weight. When it comes to personal items, it is allowed to have one bag that fits under 18x14x8 inches. However, you’ll need to be a part of their Elite flyer club to avoid paying extra fees. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at some additional costs, so take that into consideration.
The allowed dimensions of personal items are a bit different with Spirit Airlines compared to some other entries from the list. You’ll be looking at 18x14x8in when it comes to a personal item. However, in case you have even one extra bag, you’ll have to pay additional fees, so be careful to pack light ahead of your flight.
While the allowed dimensions for carry-on luggage are identical to the previous entry from the list, at 22x18x10in, the weight of the luggage can be a rather impressive 51 pounds! Even more surprisingly, the same weight limitations are valid for personal items as well, while the dimensions stand at 16x12x6in. So, if you like to travel carrying around heavy items, British Airways may be the way to go.
With no weight limitations when it comes to personal items, Air Canada is a lot different from most airlines based in the United States. When it comes to the dimensions, these are limited to 17x13x6in. Many bags might not be able to fit in those dimension parameters, so be sure to check the size of your personal item to avoid any surprises.
This perhaps lesser-known airline which was founded in Ireland also offers some flights for U.S. passengers, and if you happen to be on one of their flights, know that the limitations when it comes to the size of personal items stand at 13x10x8in. Many might find these dimensions to be pretty uncommon, so we advise you to double-check your items ahead of your flight in case you’ve chosen this airline.
When it comes to Cathay Pacific, their regulations on personal item dimensions are more frequently used 16x12x6in. There are no clearly defined weight parameters, so if you plan to carry heavier items, perhaps it would be best to contact them to make sure that everything fits inside the set parameters.
The regulations with Etihad also vary slightly compared to most other airlines, as they offer a weight allowance of 11 pounds, but do not clearly specify the preferred dimensions. This is not surprising, being that Etihad is known as a high-quality 4-star airline, offering more luxury to their passengers than many budget airlines you can find in this article. This does not necessarily come cheap, but hey, if you want to travel in style, you know where to look.
Lufthansa is a world-famous German carrier and one of the biggest airlines in Europe. However, even while that is true, don’t be surprised by the fact that their personal item dimensions stand slightly lower compared to industry standards, set at 15.75x11.8x4in. This is a known problem that can lead to a lot of frustrations with passengers, but the airline still refuses to change its regulations regardless.
The low-cost carrier from Ireland is well known for their extremely affordable prices, but that usually comes with some compromises, and one might be the allowed size of personal items, which stands to 15.75x10x7.9in. Still, if you use their services frequently and you love to travel on a tight budget, you have to be prepared to make some sacrifices now and again.
With no weight limitations and allowed dimensions of personal items at 16x13x6in, WestJet follows the standards set by most airlines today. That means that if you use the services of the second biggest airline in Canada, you will be able to travel comfortably like with many others carriers.