What Size Bag Fits Under An Airplane Seat? A Detailed Guide

Traveling light is key when flying these days. With airlines charging for checked bags, more people want to just bring a carry-on bag. But what size bag will actually fit under an airplane seat? This comprehensive guide will walk you through exactly what dimensions your bag needs to be to fit under an airplane seat.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: the maximum size for a bag to fit under an airplane seat is 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). This includes personal items like purses and laptop bags. Most airlines strictly enforce these size limits now.

Standard Airplane Seat Dimensions

When it comes to choosing the right bag to fit under an airplane seat, understanding the standard dimensions of airplane seats is crucial. Here are the key dimensions to consider:

Row Pitch

The row pitch refers to the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front or behind it. This measurement determines the legroom available to passengers. On average, the row pitch for economy class seats ranges from 28 to 34 inches.

However, it’s important to note that this can vary depending on the airline and aircraft model.


The width of an airplane seat is another important factor to consider. It determines the amount of space you have to sit comfortably during your flight. Economy class seats typically have a width ranging from 16 to 18 inches.

However, some airlines offer wider seats for added comfort, especially in premium economy or business class cabins.


Legroom plays a significant role in passenger comfort during a flight. It refers to the space available for your legs between the seat in front of you and the back of your seat. Legroom can vary greatly depending on the airline and aircraft model.

For example, low-cost carriers often have more limited legroom compared to full-service airlines. On average, legroom can range from 28 to 34 inches in economy class.

It’s important to keep in mind that while these are the standard dimensions, there can be variations across different airlines and aircraft models. Some airlines may offer more spacious seats or have different configurations.

It’s always a good idea to check with the specific airline you’re flying with to get accurate information about seat dimensions.

For more information on specific airline seat dimensions, you can visit the official websites of airlines or use flight comparison websites that provide detailed information on seat dimensions and amenities.

Websites such as SeatGuru and SeatMaestro can be helpful resources in finding the right bag size to fit under an airplane seat.

Maximum Carry-On Bag Dimensions for Under Seat

Personal Item vs Carry-On

When it comes to air travel, it’s essential to know the size restrictions for your carry-on bags to ensure a smooth journey. While most travelers are familiar with the rules for larger carry-on bags that go in the overhead bin, the dimensions for bags that fit under the seat in front of you are equally important.

Airlines typically allow passengers to bring two bags on board: a carry-on bag and a personal item. The personal item is usually a smaller bag, such as a purse, laptop bag, or backpack, which must fit under the seat in front of you.

It’s important to note that the maximum dimensions for the personal item can vary from airline to airline, so it’s always a good idea to check with your specific carrier before you fly.

Most Common Maximum Dimensions

While the dimensions for personal items that fit under an airplane seat can vary slightly, there are some general guidelines that most airlines follow. As a rule of thumb, the maximum dimensions for a personal item are typically around 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm).

These dimensions allow for a range of bag sizes, including small backpacks, totes, and laptop bags. However, it’s important to note that these dimensions are not set in stone, and some airlines may have slightly different requirements.

For example, some airlines may allow slightly larger personal items, while others may have stricter size limits. It’s always a good idea to check with your airline before your trip to ensure that your personal item meets their specific requirements.

Tighter Restrictions on Some Airlines

While most airlines adhere to the general guidelines for personal item dimensions, it’s important to be aware that some airlines may have tighter restrictions. Certain airlines, particularly budget carriers, may enforce stricter size limits for personal items to maximize cabin space.

For example, Ryanair, a popular European airline, restricts personal items to dimensions of 15.7 x 9.8 x 7.8 inches (40 x 25 x 20 cm). Similarly, Spirit Airlines in the United States has a maximum dimension of 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm) for personal items.

It’s important to check the specific restrictions of your airline before your trip to avoid any surprises or potential fees at the gate.

Factors That Affect Underseat Space

When it comes to fitting a bag under an airplane seat, there are several factors that can affect the available space. Understanding these factors can help travelers choose the right size bag and ensure a comfortable flight experience.

Plane Size and Layout

The size and layout of the airplane can greatly impact the underseat space. Different aircraft models have varying dimensions, including the distance between seats and the height of the area under the seat.

For example, smaller regional jets may have less underseat space compared to larger commercial planes. It is essential for passengers to consider the specific plane they will be flying on when determining the size of their underseat bag.

According to Airbus, one of the leading aircraft manufacturers, the A320 family of planes typically offers ample underseat space, with dimensions that allow for bags up to a certain size. However, it is always advisable to check with the airline for any specific restrictions or guidelines.

Seat Location

The location of the seat within the aircraft can also affect the available underseat space. Seats in certain rows, such as those located near emergency exits or bulkheads, may have limited space due to the presence of equipment or a lack of storage compartments.

Passengers seated in these areas may need to stow their bags in the overhead compartments instead.

Full Flight vs Empty Flight

The occupancy of the flight can impact the availability of underseat space. On a full flight, passengers may need to be more mindful of the space they take up, as each seat is likely to be occupied. In such cases, it is best to choose a bag that fits comfortably under the seat without encroaching on the legroom of neighboring passengers.

On the other hand, during less crowded flights, there may be more underseat space available, allowing passengers to utilize larger bags. However, it is still important to be considerate of the comfort of others and not to overcrowd the underseat area.

Ultimately, understanding the factors that affect underseat space can help travelers make informed decisions when selecting a bag and ensure a pleasant flight experience. Taking into account the plane size and layout, seat location, and the occupancy of the flight will help passengers determine what size bag fits under an airplane seat.

Tips for Choosing an Underseat Bag

Hardside vs Softside

When it comes to choosing an underseat bag for your travels, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to go for a hardside or softside bag. Hardside bags are typically made of rigid materials like polycarbonate or ABS plastic, offering better protection for your belongings.

They are great for keeping fragile items safe during your journey. On the other hand, softside bags are made of flexible materials like nylon or polyester, making them more lightweight and easier to squeeze into tight spaces.

They also often come with external pockets for easy access to your essentials. Ultimately, the choice between hardside and softside bags depends on your personal preferences and travel needs.

Wheeled vs Non-wheeled

Another important factor to consider is whether you want a wheeled or non-wheeled underseat bag. Wheeled bags, usually equipped with two or four wheels, provide convenience and ease of movement, especially in busy airports or train stations.

They allow you to effortlessly roll your bag alongside you rather than carrying it on your shoulder or in your hand. Non-wheeled bags, such as duffel bags or backpacks, are more versatile and can be easier to maneuver in crowded spaces or uneven terrains.

They give you the flexibility to carry your bag in different ways, depending on your comfort and preference. Consider the type of transportation you’ll be using and the nature of your trip when deciding between wheeled and non-wheeled options.

Backpack vs Tote vs Briefcase

When it comes to the style of your underseat bag, there are several options to choose from, including backpacks, totes, and briefcases. Backpacks are a popular choice among travelers due to their ergonomic design and ability to distribute weight evenly on your shoulders.

They are great for those who need to carry a lot of items or want to keep their hands free. Totes, on the other hand, offer a more fashionable and versatile option. They come in various sizes and designs, making them suitable for both casual and business trips.

Briefcases are ideal for professionals who need to carry laptops, documents, and other work-related items. Consider your personal style and the purpose of your trip when selecting the style of your underseat bag.

Bag Materials

The materials used in the construction of your underseat bag play a crucial role in its durability and performance. Look for bags made from high-quality materials that can withstand the rigors of travel.

Nylon and polyester are common materials used in softside bags, known for their lightweight and water-resistant properties. For hardside bags, materials like polycarbonate and ABS plastic offer excellent durability and protection against impact.

It’s also worth considering bags with additional features like water-resistant coatings or reinforced corners for added durability. Keep in mind that the weight of the bag itself will contribute to your overall luggage weight, so choose materials that strike a balance between durability and weight.

What To Do If Your Bag Doesn’t Fit

If you find yourself in a situation where your bag doesn’t fit under the airplane seat, don’t panic! There are several options available to you to ensure a smooth travel experience.

Check Your Bag Plane-side

If your bag is too large to fit under the seat but meets the carry-on size restrictions, you can request to check your bag plane-side. This means that you will be able to bring your bag with you to the gate, and it will be checked and stored in the cargo hold right before you board the plane.

When you disembark at your destination, your bag will be brought back to you at the plane’s door, avoiding the need to wait at the baggage claim area.

Move Contents to Personal Item

If your bag is slightly too big, you may be able to redistribute some of its contents into your personal item. Personal items, such as a small backpack or purse, are typically allowed in addition to your carry-on bag.

By transferring some items to your personal item, you can free up space in your carry-on and make it easier to fit under the seat.

Gate Check at Boarding

If your bag is too large to fit under the seat and you don’t want to check it in plane-side, you can request to gate check it at the boarding gate. Gate checking allows you to bring your bag with you through security and to the gate, where it will be tagged and stored in the cargo hold.

You can pick up your bag at the plane’s door when you arrive at your destination. It’s worth noting that gate checked bags are typically returned to you at the baggage claim area, so be prepared for a short wait after landing.

Resize Your Bag

If you frequently encounter issues with your bag not fitting under the airplane seat, you may want to consider resizing it. There are many compact and collapsible luggage options available that are specifically designed to fit in tight spaces.

Additionally, some airlines have specific size restrictions for personal items, so double-checking those requirements before your trip can help you avoid any last-minute surprises.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to check the airline’s website for specific guidelines and regulations regarding carry-on and personal item sizes. By being prepared and proactive, you can ensure a hassle-free travel experience and avoid any potential stress or delays.


We hope this guide gave you a clear idea of what size bag can fit under an airplane seat. The key dimensions to look for are 18 x 14 x 8 inches for your carry-on bag. Just remember that the underseat space can vary slightly depending on the airline, plane, and seat.

Give yourself the best chance of fitting your bag by choosing a size right at the maximum allowed dimensions. Safe travels!

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