Is a Backpack a Carry-on?
Here’s All the Details You Need

Is a backpack a carry-on? : carry-on backpack in overhead bin compartment

‘Is a backpack a carry-on?’ is a common question that has been asked many times by many people who want to make sure they won’t have to check in their backpack.

If you’re also asking the same question, you’ll want to pay more attention as this post seeks to provide clarity and give all the answers you need so you can be better prepared for your upcoming travels.

Read on as we delve deeper into the question.

Is a backpack a carry-on? : carry-on backpack size check

The answer is yes! Most airlines allow you to bring two items – a carry-on and a personal item. A backpack counts as a personal item, and as a carry-on as long as it meets the size requirement of the airline.

The personal item must be able to fit under the seat in front of you, while the carry-on must fit in the overhead compartment with ease, or you may have to check it at the gate.

A backpack is a perfect carry-on because it allows you to keep all of your important belongings like your laptop, close to you without having to worry about them getting lost or stolen.

Make sure to double-check with your airline ahead of time to see if it fits the size or weight restrictions.

The maximum allowable size for a carry-on backpack for most airlines is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, so make sure your backpack is under that size.

Anything larger than that may be checked in as luggage.

A good rule of thumb is to pick a backpack that is under 45L in size, to ensure that it will fit within the carry-on restrictions.

To be on the safe side, a smaller backpack like a daypack or laptop pack will be easier to carry and store in the overhead compartment on a plane, while bigger sized rucksacks and backpacking backpacks may not qualify.

Remember, some airline has strict policies with regards to carry-ons, so it’s wise to verify with your airline before every trip.

With that being said, remember that each airline has its own size restrictions, and size limits may vary for domestic and international flights, so always verify with your airline ahead of time.

The main difference between a carry-on bag and a personal item is that a carry-on bag is designed to be stored in the overhead bin, while a personal item can be stored under the seat in front of you.

In general, a personal item should be smaller and lighter than your carry-on bag.

While most airlines allow passengers to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item on board, some budget airlines charge a small fee for carry-on.

The specific dimensions and weight limits vary by airline, so it’s important to check the requirements before packing.

Backpack as a carry-on on Airlines FAQs

Although individual airline policies may vary, in general, most airlines allow you to bring a small backpack as a carry-on item.

Typically, the backpack must fit within the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

There may be size restrictions in place, so it’s always a good idea to double-check the dimensions of your backpack before heading to the airport.

If you’re unsure about a particular airline’s policy, it’s best to check their website or contact them directly. 

Below are answers to FAQs regarding backpacks as carry on different airlines.

The Alaska Airlines flight allows you to bring a carry-on and a personal item for free.

For a backpack to qualify as a carry-on, it must not exceed 22” x 14” x 9”/ 45 linear inches and should fit under the seat in front of you, or overhead bin compartment.

Is a backpack considered a personal item on Allegiant Air?

Allegiant Air allows passengers one free personal item, while a fee applies for the carry-on luggage (22 x 14 x 9 inches).

So if your backpack doesn’t exceed the personal item size of 15 x 16 x 7 inches (40.6 x 38.1 x 17.8 cm), it’s free, but a fee applies if you want to bring a large backpack carry-on bag on board.

Is a backpack a personal item on American Airlines?

The American Airlines flight allows passengers to take one carry-on (22 x 14 x 9 inches) and one personal item (18 x 14 x 8 inches).

It’s mandatory that your backpack carry-on must fit in the sizer at the airport, and also fit in the overhead bin or under the seat, otherwise, they may need to be checked.

Can you bring a backpack on basic economy Delta?

Each passenger flying with Delta Airlines can bring one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge.

Your backpack carry-on luggage size must not exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm).

Can you carry a backpack on Frontier for free?

The Frontier Airlines flight allows passengers to take one carry-on (24 x 16 x 10 inches) and one personal item (8 x 18 x 14 inches).

Your backpack carry-on must be able to fit either underneath the seat or in the overhead bin.

Does a backpack count as a personal item on Hawaiian Airlines?

You are permitted one carry-on bag (9 x 14 x 22 inches) and one personal item on Hawaiian Airlines.

Your backpack as a carry-on must not exceed 25 lbs., and should either fit under the seat in front of you or the overhead bin.

Passengers on JetBlue are permitted one carry-on bag (and one personal item, except for Blue Basic Fares customers who are only allowed a personal item (purse, small backpack, briefcase, laptop, etc.). 

Your backpack must not exceed a 22 x 14 x 9 inches carry-on size or personal item limit of 17 x 13 x 8 inches.

Customers are limited to one bag plus one smaller, personal-type item on Southwest Airlines.

For your backpack to quality as a carry-on, it must either be sized as 24 x 16 x 10 inches to go to the overhead bin or must fit under the seat in front of you.

Spirit Airlines allows passengers one free personal item (18 x 14 x 8 inches) while standard carry-on (22 x 18 x 10 inches) is paid for.

Is a backpack a carry-on United Airlines?

Backpacks count as a carry-on on United Airlines as long as the dimension is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, while the personal item is 17 x 10 x 9 inches and must fit in the seat in front of you.

If you fly under Basic Economy, you’re however only allowed a personal item, which essentially means a small duffel or bag that fits under the seat in front of you. 

Backpacks are allowed as carry-on luggage on Virgin Atlantic, the requirement is that the maximum size must be around 9 x 14 x 22 inches (23 x 36 x 56cm).

Also, you should be able to place the backpack into the overhead bin by yourself, without any help.

How to pack a backpack for carry-on travel

Final thoughts – is a backpack a carry-on?

Is a backpack a carry-on? : carry-on backpack

So, is a backpack a carry-on? The answer is yes, as long as you meet the certain size requirements of the airline.

The standard size backpack will usually meet dimension requirements, but if your backpack is bigger or designed for backpacking trips like camping and extended hiking, it may have to be checked.

I recommend you always double-check with your airline before heading to the airport to avoid any surprises.

Have you ever traveled with a backpack? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

For any other general luggage-related questions, you are sure to find some answers in my Ultimate Guide to Carry-on Luggage and the Ultimate Guide to Checked Luggage posts. 

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