Airlines often define exactly what size and weight a carry-on bag can be, but then also allow you to bring a 'personal item' (a purse or laptop bag) of often undefined size. Sometimes airlines give specifications, but these vary, and often the advice is for it to 'fit under the seat in front of you'. I for one want to pack as much as I can without causing trouble for others, which is pretty hard to achieve with the information I have. So is the space under a seat standardized across planes?

Browsing this site and elsewhere, I can find exact specifications for some airlines, but that doesn't help much when your airline (as is my case) says:


You can also bring one small personal item on board. This could be a little handbag or a slim laptop case that fits comfortably under the seat in front of you.

Make sure you don't overpack!

Bulky hand bags, shopping bags or large laptop cases may not qualify as a small personal item. If you have too much baggage, you'll have to pay to check it in.


In addition to [carry-on] allowance, all passengers are allowed to bring a handbag or small laptop bag onboard for free.

I'm hoping that if this question is answerable it would help more than the people who happen to use these airlines.

  • 4
    The space underneath a seat is variable. In some seats you have an IFE box taking up half your floor space, if you're in an exit row or bulkhead you cannot store anything on the floor for take off typically.
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 12:30
  • Sure, but I assume that the limits would be based on a standard seat. I think everyone will understand that people with nonstandard seats won't actually be able to fit their personal item under the seat, and they have the same limits as the others.
    – Heihej
    Jun 10, 2016 at 12:41
  • 1
    Ok, but on a typical aircraft half the seats might have an IFE box
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 12:42
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Additional cabin handbag on flights Jun 10, 2016 at 13:35
  • 1
    @KateGregory meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3638/…
    – Berwyn
    Jun 10, 2016 at 14:54

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately there is no easier answer to this. Even on a singleplane the space can vary significantly from row to row, presence of IFE box, window vs. middle vs. isle, exit row, economy plus, etc. Then of course there are many different planes for many different airlines in many different configurations. As far as I know, airlines don't publish specs, probably because it's impossible to find a single spec that fits all planes without being overly restrictive.

There are some measurements here: http://www.dogjaunt.com/guides/airplane-under-seat-measurements/ but I'm not sure how good they are.

It's also dependent on how much you want to put up with: the more space you allocate to your luggage, the less you have for your legs. Not being able to stretch a bit on a 16 hour long haul can be an issue for some people.

In general the flight attendants will allow you to stuff down there whatever you want as long as it doesn't protrude too much in the visible foot space and may prevent you and your fellow row mates getting out quickly in an emergency situation.

I found that a medium sized backpack (good enough for a 15" laptop) will work almost anywhere, including smaller turbo prop airplanes. Anything bigger may be trouble.

  • 2
    My great solution for leg streching: Once in the air move the rucksack or whatever it is under the seat in front of you backwards and strech your legs out above of it ;)
    – Jan
    Jun 10, 2016 at 18:36
  • In my experience, as long as your carryon baggage doesn't take up so much space that it forces you to put your feet up on it, you're good. (I fly Southwest.)
    – Vikki
    Oct 12, 2019 at 21:51

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