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I have a soft backpack which I like to stuff things in when flying. I always stow it under the seat in front of me in the airplane. I assume that this means it is considered a “personal item” rather than a carry on.

However, for a flight I will be going on soon with Air Berlin, an airline I have never used before, I will have to take a carry-on. I’m hoping be able to also take my backpack, and I assumed they’ll let me without issue, but I was looking at their website and found this on 2016-05-17:

On each flight, you can take one item of hand baggage into the cabin, which may weigh up to 8 kg. The dimensions may not exceed 55 cm x 40 cm x 23 cm. Please check the size of your hand baggage in the racks provided at check-in.

In addition one of the following items (max. 40 cm x 30 cm x 10 cm; 2 kg) may be taken into the cabin free of charge:

  • a laptop case

  • a lady’s handbag, a lady’s purse or a gentlemen’s handbag

The back of my backpack can be 50cm but, begin soft, can be squished down to 40/41cm when my laptop is packed in it. And my backpack’s width is 35cm and it might have a bit of give if squished. And its depth will probably be at least 23cm even if I pack it sparingly.

Is it safe to bring my backpack as my personal item in addition to my carry-on? Would I be able to be 100% confident that if I bought a laptop case that fit the smaller specs/should I probably pursue that option?

  • Excellent question! Have anyone ever seen an Air Berlin sizer? They will weight your bag, yes, but ... is there a sizer? I can't remember seeing one. – chx May 17 '16 at 5:12
  • @chx Nope, but I might or might not in a week :-p – binki May 17 '16 at 5:14
  • if it's not too big of a request, have a measuring tape with you if you actually see a sizer, it'd be valueable information for others to get actual sizes. For example, see travel.stackexchange.com/questions/23624/… – chx May 17 '16 at 5:16
  • @chx I'll probably skip that just so I have one less thing to worry about. Sorry, but sounds like a cool idea – binki May 17 '16 at 16:38
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The fact that you stow it under the seat in front of you does not make it a "personal item". A personal item is as defined in their specs, a purse, a laptop carrier, etc, something small, that is part of your everyday personal life, not a 2nd piece of luggage for travel items (daypacks float on both sides of this aspect since many travelers use them primarily for personal items like electronics, food, books, etc, while others use them as their luggage / carry on bag).

Can you carry your backpack on as a personal item in addition to your carry-on bag? If it is under the personal item size limits no problem. But as you are in violation of their size limits, that will be a judgement call by the gate agent and perhaps even the cabin crew. The fact that Peter, Paul and Mary got away with carrying an oversized personal item, does not mean you will. And what are you going to do if they say NO?

Personally I would use the laptop bag. With a multitude of flights under my belt, I find it easier to abide by the rules rather than argue with airline staff.

  • Good points. I think I've been using my backpack as a carry-on all this time without realizing that it was a carry-on. – binki May 17 '16 at 16:41

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