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Delta Small backpack Personal item

Does anyone know exactly what Delta means by a small backpack as a personal item? I plan on carrying on a North Face backpack 22 x 14 inches instead of a purse. It will not be overstuffed. It would fit under the seat in front of me if I weren't in a bulkhead seat. I will also have a regulation carry-on suitcase. So 2 items will have to go in the overhead bin.

Posted by
7050 posts

In worst case, they will make you check the carry-on. A personal item is supposed to fit under the seat, not the overhead bin. They may/ should give you leeway since you have no seat in front of you. But the definition of personal item is exactly what it says - laptop bag, briefcase or item of similar size (not carry-on size). So, to be totally safe, just make sure that the backpack's dimensions are noticeably smaller than a carry-on (max 22" x 14" x 9").

Posted by
33 posts

I'm fairly certain that Delta doesn't have a size requirement for personal items but it should appears smaller than your carry-on.

If this is helpful - I have diamond status with Delta because pre-covid I would travel (within the U.S.) a lot for work.
I typically carry 3-bags.

  • A carry-on - a hard shell spinner (H: 22 in x W: 14 in x D: 9 in)
  • A laptop Backpack (H: 16.5 in x W: 11.5 in x D: 3.5 in)
  • And, a crossbody wallet (7.5 x 4.9 x 1.6 inches)

I have never had a problem with this, as long as my crossbody is loaded into my backpack prior to boarding.

I've seen a lot of leniency regarding carry-ons as long as you only have two items. They may be more strict on overfull flights and smaller planes.

And yes, when in a bulkhead seat you're allowed two items in overhead. :)

Posted by
4478 posts

I've been using a school-size Jansport backpack.

Posted by
1662 posts

In addition to what the above poster wrote - worst case they may have you check your standard carry-on. Just in case, put anything of great value in your backpack so you are not fumbling at the last minute. I've seen people at the airport having to do this.

Also, according to clever, they list 17 major airlines and their current baggage measurements. Of course, Delta was not as specific as the other airlines.

Some airlines are more generous than others, but the average under-the-seat seems to be between 15 and 18 inches.

It is best if you call Delta airlines and ask what the allowable measurements are for under the seat on the planes you'll be on.

For example, I book with British Airways. Within the flight details, it gives me jet and Airbus models for those particular flights.

Posted by
3903 posts

Like cala, I also am stuck in the 80’s/90’s and carry on my Jansport school backpack.

I will affirm sue’s experience. Delta historically has not done much policing of carryons. Its partners, however, heavily police them. As long as you are on Delta metal, you should be fine. If any part of your trip is on an Air France or KLM plane, the calculus changes.

Posted by
15709 posts

It depends on how full the flight is, how well the backpack fits under the seat, the size of the plane, what type of ticket you have, status with the airline, etc. A 22 x 14 backpack is the size of a carry on item so in a sense you will have two carry on size items.

What Delta means by a small backpack is one that might be used to carry a laptop computer not a full sized carry on. Similar to say a briefcase or a large purse. Do you normally carry a purse that is 22 x 14? (55 x 36 cm)

And once you are onboard, and your backpack doesn't fit in the seat in front of you--and that means completely under the seat in front of you--the flight attendant will help you find a place for it. That place may be rows away or behind you which means good luck trying to get off the plane quickly.

I have flown Delta 14 times in the last 3 months and every gate agent was different. It's all up to the gate agent. But my suggestion is try to cut down to a smaller backpack.

Posted by
10362 posts

Don't you have the connecting flight on the tiny regional plane first? Chances are you'll have to at least gate check the suitcase there. Sounds like the backpack is crushable into a smaller size--as long as you aren't filling it and people aren't giving you last minute gifts to bring home to the Netherlands that stuff it full..

Posted by
594 posts

Too funny - my international flight personal item is also a Jansport backpack. Didn’t expect to see others using them too. It’s usually fully stuffed and no one has ever asked me to check it or looked dubiously at it. We use Delta exclusively for international travel.

Posted by
6102 posts

I almost always fly Delta. I've never had a problem with personal items. Typically, I carry on a rolling suitcase that goes in the bin, and both a purse and backpack. The purse is small and could fit in the backpack if I were to be called on it. I've also noticed certain things don't seem to "count". I once carried on a pillow (threw it away when I got to my destination), and another time a small, personal sized cooler bag.

Posted by
2 posts

I fly Delta often, and I use the Spirit guidelines for personal bag: 18” x 14” x 8”. I often use daybags that are slightly over this, in one dimension, but under pack them, so they fit (both under the seat, and in the "box" for Spirit). So your not-over-stuffed North Face will be fine.

If you have a 22 liter bag or smaller you are safe. The Rick Steve Appenzell backpack is like a family sized day pack, but would be acceptable. 27 liter max. Anymore than that and you are really pushing your limits.

For the above posters, Jansport is still going strong. My teenager and her classmates use Jansport for school, travel, and sports.

FYI - - osprey daylite tote pack. This is the absolute maximum I would try to stuff under a seat. Even then, I would under pack it.

I am concerned about TNF dimensions of 22” x 14”. I would try to keep it under 20”.

Posted by
1097 posts

I board with Comfort+ (or zone 1) and I never used to get stopped by Delta for having three things. However, I flew domestically in November and here in Greenville (small airport) they made me consolidate before I could board. I was beyond annoyed because this is so inconsistently applied and all my stuff together was smaller than some other people's rollers. And the item I had to cram in my suitcase was in a gift bag so I had get rid of the small box and my gift bag got crumpled. I'm venting, LOL. All that to say, your mileage may vary. I think small airports are worse about being sticklers than somewhere like ATL where they are just herding cattle onto the plane.

Posted by
6102 posts

Celeste, you make a good point. It probably depends a lot on your departure airport and the staff working there or really the staff at any airport. And, once you get used to something, it's bound to change, as well

Posted by
4478 posts

Sun-baked and others-see how young at heart we are-not to mention cheap!

Posted by
1450 posts

Oh, Frank II, you are running the risk now of being swarmed not only by the jansport aficionados, but also the Women With Purses of a Certain Size

My friend Jean was eating her pretzel in a sparsely filled section at a Kansas city royals game when a pop fly landed in her open purse

My friend Kay was going to transport her husband's ashes to Florida for dispersal..... she briefly considered checking the ashes but we talked her out of that (perhaps an idea for another thread?).... I said I think you have a purse large enough, her response was, "oh, yes, several"

Posted by
1199 posts

I fly Delta, and I like aisle seats. My head and shoulders can attest that many Delta gate agents let some folks who are loaded down like Sherpas board the plane and bang their way down the aisle with multiple large bags.

But, yes, it's entirely up to the GA, and Delta's European partners are way more scrupulous about enforcing carry-on size/weight/quantity limits.

Posted by
313 posts

If you plan to fly internationally, be aware European carriers have lower limits (typically 20% less weight/size) and do enforce the limits more strictly. Lufthansa once made me gate-check a carry-on that was smaller than many bags I regularly see crammed into the overheads on US domestic flights.

Posted by
11516 posts

Approved Personal Items

Bringing a personal item? Pick an item like this or of a similar size to store beneath the seat in front of you* during your flight.
1 purse, briefcase, small backpack, camera bag or diaper bag
1 laptop bag (computers cannot be checked, unless directed to by security)
1 item of similar or smaller size to those listed*

The key issue for the 'personal item' is that it must fit UNDER the seat

Posted by
4175 posts

My shoulders are past pull date for the cross-body bags I typically have carried on as a personal item in the past. I've realized that I can handle a very small cross-body purse, but I'm going to have to switch to a backpack for my carry-on personal item.

I fly Delta and think that the very reasonably priced 21L Rangeland 16x12x7 backpack linked below will be okay. It will certainly fit under a seat and make a comfy place to rest my feet. I learned about it in another Forum discussion.

I was sorely tempted buy the camo, but I ordered it in the mustard color, which seems to be gone now. It arrived in more of a light yellowish olive green and the interior is more fuschia than pink. I like both colors better. I love the very simple design and structure that is soft but not purse-y shaped. I can hardly wait to use it.