So, I will be flying with Delta (from Europe to the US, if that matters) soon and I'm trying to understand what I can take with me to my seat.

The following conditions were copied from Delta's official carry-on policy.

We know, you’ve probably heard it before, but just in case you need a reminder: you’re only allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard at no charge. Just make sure they fit into the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Cram sessions are not pretty — and they slow things down.

So What Exactly Is Allowed?

Approved Personal Items

  • 1 purse, briefcase, camera bag or diaper bag
  • or 1 laptop computer (computers cannot be checked)
  • or 1 item of a similar or smaller size to those listed above

Followed by

Carry-on Size Restrictions It won’t fit. Three words you don’t want to hear when trying to board. To avoid delays and possible checked bag fees, follow these size requirements:

  • Baggage may not exceed 45 linear inches (or 114 cm) in combined length, width and height, including any handles and wheels, with the exception of small musical instruments that fit in the overhead compartment space or under-seat space available at the time of boarding
  • Baggage must meet carry on size limits (approximately 22" x 14" x 9" or 56 x 35 x 23 cm). Reference size check templates located at ticket counters and gates.

Here's the part I don't understand. A laptop is an electronic device, it is not bag, nor is it an electronic device in a bag. A laptop backpack with a laptop inside, according to what's above, would count as a carry-on (backpack) and one personal item (laptop), leaving no room for a proper carry-on like the one below (which, for the purpose of this question, the reader should assume it complies with the size restrictions above). carry-on

I'm finding the literal interpretation ridiculous (I'm not an experienced traveler). Who takes their laptops without their laptop bags? Are people supposed to just hold on to the laptop at all times? What about other components frequently coupled with laptops like mouses, chargers and USB drives?

I think a much more reasonable interpretation is that I'll be allowed a laptop within its proper backpack/bag, plus a carry-on as described above.

I've reached out to Delta repeatedly, but they are not giving precise answers, always erroring on the side of ambiguity, hence this question.

Can anyone clarify for me whether or not I'm allowed to take a laptop inside its proper backpack, plus a carry-on like the one in the image above?

  • 1
    A laptop sleeve or briefcase-style case can be considerably smaller than a backpack. That said, my daughter has flown Delta dozens of times and has boarded successfully with what you describe: a laptop backpack and a carry-on suitcase. I've flown Delta hundreds of times, both domestically and internationally, and have never had a problem boarding with a 22" hardside carry on and a large tote (e.g., a Longchamps 12.25" x 11.75" x 4.25")
    – Giorgio
    Nov 25, 2018 at 15:10
  • Since when can computers not be checked? Nov 26, 2018 at 0:00
  • 3
    @AzorAhai Large lithium batteries aren't allowed in the cargo hold. Nov 26, 2018 at 9:43
  • @DavidRicherby So this would mean that desktop computers, which contains no lithium batteries, can be checked? Nov 26, 2018 at 12:50
  • 1
    @FedericoPoloni It wouldn't be against IATA regulations. You'd have to check with the airline to be sure but I assume that Delta are just writing for the 99.99% of people for whom "travelling with a computer" means "travelling with a laptop". Nov 26, 2018 at 13:00

4 Answers 4


I think you have been overthinking it a bit. However I believe you get it right when you say

I think a much more reasonable interpretation is that I'll be allowed a laptop within its proper backpack/bag, plus a carry-on as described above.

I also think of carry on's like this:

You are allocated two slots for carry on's. One slot is in the overhead bin and the other slot is under the seat in front of you. As long as your carry ons can be accommodated in your allocated slots, then you are OK.

However the size of overhead bins depends on the aircraft in question, so for a smaller plane you may need to gate check your overhead bin carry on if it is too large for that particular aircraft.

Also you may not have a seat in front of you, in which case both cary ons have to go in the overhead bins.

Finally, cabin staff are aware of all the potential issues and will try and accommodate you as best they can.

Of course if there is room (or you are first on the plane) you can put your carry ons wherever you want, and the decreased space becomes the problem of the passengers that get on after you.

  • I fly Delta extensively, about four times a month. Delta is very lenient with carry on especially the personal item. Your laptop bag can be almost as big as a regular carry on bag. I use a backpack for my personal item and it can almost fit the contents of a regular carry on. Nov 25, 2018 at 17:18
  • @HonoraryWorldCitizen At Ft Lauderdale I saw a JetBlue customer service agent enforcing carry on bag size before people went through security. That was a new experience.
    – Peter M
    Nov 25, 2018 at 17:28
  • 1
    I have never flown Jet Blue, maybe once. I do expect the low cost carriers to be sticklers on enforcing baggage. I err on the side of caution with all airlines except Delta and American. American IMO has very generous carry on policies. Nov 25, 2018 at 17:32
  • 1
    I found this policy always a bit weird and a colleague is abusing this. He has a big laptop backpack and a maximum size carry on luggage so he doesn't need any checked luggage at all as he fits everything for a week or two in these two "bags".
    – Thomas
    Nov 26, 2018 at 10:11

You're being overly literal. The regulations refer to items brought separately onto the plane.

  • If you have a laptop inside a laptop bag inside your roller bag, that is one item: the roller bag.

  • If you have a laptop inside a laptop bag, and also a roller bag, that is two items: the laptop bag and the roller bag.

  • If you have a laptop outside its bag and a roller bag, that is three items: the laptop, the laptop bag and the roller bag. However, practically speaking, the staff will almost certainly allow you to take this combination on the plane. They realise that, if they object, you will just comply with the letter of the policy by putting your laptop inside its bag until you're on the plane, and then taking it out again. It would be pointless to make you do that.

  • This absolutely. I have boarded several different airlines (including DL; also AA, B6, WN) carrying a tablet and a Switch along with my roller bag and nobody has ever said anything. Yes, I can put them in the bag, but then I'll hold up boarding to take them out again once I'm on the plane. Oct 10, 2023 at 19:39

Can anyone clarify for me whether or not I'm allowed to take a laptop inside its proper backpack, plus a carry-on like the one in the image above?

I just flew on Delta last week with my laptop in a laptop bag. The laptop bag fit under the seat in front of me and I had no issues. Remember that TSA will still require you to remove the laptop and separate it from the bag when going through security.

The basics here are

  1. You always have the space under the seat in front of you (except bulkheads, policies vary some there). If it fits, it ships flies. Most laptop bags will fit here.
  2. You might have overhead bin space. Priority boarding and Zones 1 and 2 tend to always get space. Zone 3 gets iffy and you can basically forget it for Zone 4. They still courtesy check carry-ons (i.e. no fees)

My tips for carry-on are

  • Find a decent duffle bag or backpack for your stuff. I've flown with a friend a couple of times and they were a bit more lenient on the duffle than my small 21" carry-on suitcase (i.e. they let him on while forcing me to check mine)
  • Invest in the smaller 21" carry-on suitcases. The older and larger sizes they still allow take up more space. The 21" can fit in vertically and wheels first, meaning there's a far greater chance you can find a spot (and thus avoid unpleasantries like this)

The easiest way to think is "one carry-on bag and one personal item" so two items only. If you have a laptop sleeve, a backpack, and a roller bag. That's three. Plan for two items and you'll be safe.

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