Skip to flight searchSkip to main content

The Difference Between Cabin Baggage and Personal Items

Carry-on Baggage and Personal Items

You don't want to make the mistake of arriving at the airport with a cabin bag to discover you're only permitted a personal item. Use this guide to learn more about the difference between cabin baggage and personal items.

What's the Difference?

Carry-on Baggage and Personal Items

Airline baggage policies can sometimes be confusing and seem to be getting stricter. But you'll want to pay attention to the terminology used to describe what you'll allowed to carry onto the plane with you, to save having to pay additional fees at the airport. Find out more about the difference between 'personal items' and 'hand luggage' or 'carry-on baggage' below.

Women walking along with a pink suitcase

What are Personal Items?

In most cases, an airline will allow you to bring one carry-on baggage and one personal item. A personal item is normally something like a purse, laptop, backpack or camera case. Personal items should always be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you. You may also be eligible to carry an umbrella, jacket or bag for an infant. The maximum size for a personal item is normally 22cm x 25cm x 43cm (9in x 10in x 17in). However, it is always important to check individual airline policies on personal items before leaving for the airport.

Hand luggage

What is Carry-On Baggage?

Carry-on bags, sometimes known as hand luggage or cabin baggage, are items of luggage that are taken into the plane's cabin. They are not checked in before your flight and are normally stored in the overhead storage compartment above your seat. Individual airlines tend to have strict policies about the height or weight of carry-on baggage, but, generally speaking, the standard size for cabin baggage is 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in).

Trusted globally

Rated Excellent on Trustpilot

We’re super proud of our Trustpilot rating, but don’t just take it from us. See why millions of others love booking their flights through Alternative Airlines


What is a personal item on a plane?

A personal item is a small procession, for example a purse, laptop, umbrella, camera case, book, or small backpack. Personal items need to be small enough to be stowed securely and safely under the seat in front of you. In many instances, an airline will allow you to bring one personal item in addition to your one carry-on bag allowance.

Is a backpack considered a personal item on a plane?

Every airline will have different weight and/or size restrictions when it comes to qualifying what a personal item is. In most instances, if your bag will fit comfortably under the seat in front of you, it will be considered a personal item. Therefore, small backpacks or handbags are usually considered to be a personal item. However, be sure to check your airline's restrictions before you travel to the airport.

What's the difference between a cabin bag and carry-on luggage?

Whether its called hand baggage, cabin bag or your carry-on luggage, all of these refer to the piece of baggage that will take onto the plane with you. This piece of baggage should generally be small enough to fit into the overhead compartment. If your hand baggage is too large to fit in the overhead lockers, you may have to check it in for an additional cost. For this reason you should always check the airline's baggage policy before leaving for the airport.

If you feel like you've bought a flight with too small a baggage allowance and you need to book additional baggage, please visit our page on 'How to Book Baggage.'

Discover how to book sports equipment or bicycles onto your flight.

What's the cabin baggage allowance for easyJet?

easyJet allows passengers to bring one item of hand baggage with maximum dimensions of 56cm x 45cm 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in). For more information on easyjet's baggage policies, please visit our easyJet page.

What's the cabin baggage allowance for United?

United Airlines allows each passenger to bring one carry-on and one personal item. The maximum dimensions for your personal item are 9 in x 10 in x 17 in (23 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm).

Can I add cabin baggage to my booking?

Yes, in many instances you can add additional baggage to your booking, although this will depend on your airline and ticket fare. If you have already made your booking, you can log-in to your Alternative Airlines account to manage your booking. This also includes the option to add additional baggage, if this option is available. Alternatively, you can also contact our Customer Service Team and we'll take a look into this for you.