Does Backpack Count As Personal Item?

If you’re like many travellers, you know that packing for a trip can be tricky. You must ensure you fit all your items in one bag and don’t exceed the airline’s weight limits. With all the rules and regulations, knowing which items count as personal items cannot be very clear. So, does a backpack count as a personal item when flying?

Is a Backpack Considered a Personal Item?

Generally speaking, most airlines consider backpacks to be personal items. That means you can bring your backpack on board the plane with you and store it under the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin if space is available.

However, not all airlines consider backpacks personal items, so it is essential to check airline-specific policies before travelling.  

For example, American Airlines states that “personal items must fit completely under the seat in front of you.” In contrast, United Airlines states that “a full-sized carry-on bag plus a standard-sized personal item (purse, briefcase, laptop bag) is allowed.”

This means that if your backpack fits only partially under the seat in front of you for American Airlines flights but does for United flights, it is considered a personal item for United but not for American Airlines. It is also important to note that if your backpack exceeds the size requirements set by the airline, it will need to be checked into luggage, and additional fees may apply.

When deciding whether your backpack counts as a personal item or needs to be checked into luggage, it is also essential to consider how much weight your bag contains relative to other items in your luggage allowance.

For example, suppose you are allowed 10kg/22 lbs of baggage allowance, and your backpack weighs 7kg/15 lbs. This leaves little room for other items, such as clothing or souvenirs, unless additional fees are paid for extra luggage allowance.

How big can a backpack be for a personal item?

What Counts as a Personal Item?

A personal item is typically defined as a purse, laptop bag, or small backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you while seated in the airplane cabin. Your item needs to fit into an overhead bin that measures approximately 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). It should be within these dimensions, or else it will count as your carry-on luggage and may be subject to extra fees.

Size Limit for Backpacks as a Personal Item

Most airlines do not have specific size limits for backpacks used as personal items; however, they require them to fit within their general size limit for personal items noted above. Generally speaking, most backpacks designed for use as personal item measure around 17 x 12 x 6 inches (43 x 30 x 15 cm), which means they should easily fit under an airline seat.

However, suppose your backpack is more significant than this limit. In that case, it may not qualify as a personal item and could be considered carry-on luggage subject to additional fees.

Tips for Choosing the Right Size Backpack

When choosing a backpack for use as a personal item, there are several things that you should take into consideration. Firstly, consider how much you will need while traveling—do not overpack.

Secondly, make sure that the backpack has adjustable straps so that it can be adjusted to fit within the size limits noted above. Finally, look for lightweight materials such as nylon or polyester so your bag won’t add too much weight to your total luggage allowance.  


Generally speaking, most airlines will count a backpack as a personal item; however, there can often be slight differences between policies from different carriers, so it is always best practice to check airline-specific policies before traveling.

It is also important to note that even if your backpack counts as a personal item, this does not necessarily mean all of its contents will also count towards this allowance, so make sure you consider this when packing!