Last Updated on May 7, 2021
Delta is one of the few airlines that don’t publish a personal item size limit.
That can be confusing when you are attempting to pack your bags and it’s probably why you ended up landing on this page.
This post will attempt to help you understand what a personal item is on Delta Airlines.
Delta Personal Item Dimensions
Here’s the slim information that the Delta website provides about personal item dimensions.
The wording on their website leads to confusion. Since they have a list of “approved” personal items it suggests that other items absent from the list might be unapproved.
That’s not the case.
Any bag that you can fit under the seat is “approved” by Delta. It would be better to change this wording to “Example Personal Items”.
Delta also says “1 item of similar or smaller size to those listed above”. Meaning you can bring any bag that is the same size as a purse, briefcase, camera bag, or diaper bag.
Could you be more vague Delta? I don’t know if you realize but purses come in lots of different sizes these days!
So we can make 2 conclusions.
- Your 1 personal item on Delta can be any type of bag
- It must fit under the seat in front of you
That allows us to answer this FAQ:
Does A Backpack Count As A Personal Item With Delta?
Yes, you can bring a backpack so long as it will fit under the seat in front of you.
You can also bring a duffel bag, a weekender bag etc…
It doesn’t matter what the bag is called so long as it fits under the seat in front you can call it your personal item.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is Delta answering a question they’ve had 1000 times about taking a backpack as a personal item:
So that leads us to the $100 million dollar question…
What space is available under the seat? How do I know if my bag will fit under the seat on a Delta flight?
The Delta Underseat Dimensions
In many ways, it’s actually sensible that Delta doesn’t publish size limits for personal items.
That’s because they have about 20 different types of aircraft in their fleet and not every aircraft has the same space available under the seats.
The space under the seat on a Delta flight depends on 2 things:
- What type of aircraft are you flying on?
- Where is your seat on the plane? Main cabin? First-class? Aisle? Middle? Window? bulkhead seat?
If Delta were to publish a size limit that would work with the smallest aircraft it might be needlessly restrictive for their larger aircraft.
It effectively means that Delta is saying… you can bring a personal item, it must fit under the seat in front of you… no, we’re not telling you how much space is under the seat in front of you.
Well, that’s what their website is saying but there is a way to get more information.
You can contact Delta directly and ask about the under-seat space on your flight for your seat.
Delta Boeing 737 Under Seat Space
If you contact Delta and tell them what flight you are on they should be able to give you more concrete information about under-seat space. Like Benita Ma did on Twitter:
So Benita discovered that on a Delta 737 flight the under-seat space for personal items is
- Aisle – 20 x 14 x 9 inches
- Center – 20 x 19 x 7 inches
- Window – 20 x 17 x 7 inches
Usually, they only discuss this privately with confirmed passengers. Delta wants you to slide into DM’s before they’ll talk about under-seat dimensions.
For most people taking a regular-sized purse or briefcase, you should be able to fit it under your seat without any problems. Small backpacks should be okay too.
As a rule of thumb, I’d say you can consider the Delta under-seat dimensions to be 18 x 14 x 8 make sure your bag has some squeezability. That’s not their official size but if it works for other airlines with similar fleets it should work for Delta.
It’s really only people who are trying to take an exceptionally large personal item that should worry.
If you plan on taking a large personal item, for example, something that’s near the sizes all the other airlines publish you might be best to contact Delta and ask them before you attempt to board.
This leads to the question. What will happen if your personal item is too large?
How Strict Are Delta About Personal Item Size?
Delta is not very strict about personal item sizes.
As well as your carry on you are allowed to take a personal item, and an umbrella, and a jacket, and a bag of shopping from duty-free, and food and drink that you purchased after the security checkpoint.
So if you are lumbering on with all these bags, jackets and umbrellas they are unlikely to get the measuring tape out to check the size of your personal item.
Delta is still a full-service airline. That means that they make their profit on the ticket price rather than aggressively trying to stick their passengers with luggage penalties.
That said, you do need to be able to put it under the seat. Here is want might happen if your item does not fit under your seat:
“it will need to be gate checked or you may be denied boarding” – so probably the worst that will happen is that your bag will need to be checked. But this can be inconvenient if there are items that you need during the flight or that can’t be checked like a laptop.
Personal Item Etiquette
Please remember to put your personal item under the seat and not in the overhead bin. If all passengers put their little bags in the overhead it means there is not enough space for luggage carry on size. Your carry-on bag is stowed in the overhead and your purse or briefcase goes under the seat.
It annoys the heck out of people like David:
The delta personal item size remains a bit of a mystery. I’m sorry that I can’t give you a definite answer here.
I’m not sure if I think Delta is the only sensible airline here by not listing size limits or if they are making things more complicated than they need to be.