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Travelers Frustrated As Some Airlines Start Measuring Personal Items

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It's safe to say travel is back in 2023! After a rough patch during the recent pandemic, travelers are thrilled to be able to fly mask-free and have a sense of normalcy again. However, if one were to scroll through social media, there are often days when a passenger is trending for acting out. The bottom line is there is a noticeable shift in behavior. Travelers are frustrated, and one of those reasons is that many airlines are cutting back on the baggage they allow, which results in unexpected exorbitant fees.

woman with luggage at airport

Nobody likes paying for the extras on budget airlines, but that’s just the way it goes. Many travelers opt for airlines like Southwest, who do not charge additional fees for bags. Their slogan is “bags fly free.” In contrast, if one were to fly on Spirit airlines, customers feel as though their slogan should be “bags fly for our mortgage.” 

All domestic airlines allow what’s known as a personal item. The dimensions vary slightly for each airline. It’s not just the ultra-cheap airlines that are charging sky-high fees. Even major airlines like United now offer a class called Basic Economy, where passengers have to pay extra for a carry-on bag.

luggage bin at airport

Across the board, airlines have very similar definitions of what is considered a carry-on versus a personal item. Chances are, if it has wheels, you’re paying for it. Some backpacks and handbags are allowed but must meet strict dimensions provided by the airline.

No Allegiance With Allegiant

On a recent flight in Key West, frustrated TikTokers had a bad experience with Allegiant when checking in. The nameless gate agent alleged the bag was oversized, but she refused to provide any additional information.

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allegiant plane flying

Being charged $75, the passengers rightfully asked for clarification on the airline's policy, but they were met with pushback at every question. The situation reached a boiling point when the agent refused to provide her name and threatened not to allow them to board the flight they had already purchased. 

@bbuyzzz Allegiant Supervisor advised it would be $75 for the size of my luggage and went crazy when I asked for specific size requirements #worldprincessweek #stitch #fyp #foryoupage #allegiant #terriblecustomerservice #makethisviral @allegiantairlines #keywestflorida #police #traveltiktok #keywestairport #vial #policecame ♬ original sound – BB

In a nutshell, it seems Allegiant wants passengers to pay as they say and don’t ask further questions.

Frontier Frustrations

A pair of loyal Frontier jet setters recently ran into trouble with Frontier when they were charged $200 for their personal items. Claiming to fly with this airline often, they were shocked and outraged at this fee that was tacked on seemingly out of nowhere. The travelers claimed the bags fit the listed dimensions and have been used often. However, Frontier disagreed, causing them to question their loyalty to the budget airline.

@lightertravels @Frontier Airlines stole money from us against their guidelines! BEWARE! No more frontier for us #shameonyou #fyp #viral #frontier #lightertravels ♬ Made You Look – Meghan Trainor

On a recent Frontier flight from Denver, every passenger who lined up at the gate with a backpack on was pulled aside and told to put their bag measuring bin. Oftentimes, passengers were pulled aside again if their bags exceeded the dimensions and were herded like cattle to another line to pay outrageous fees.

This caused some tense interactions between travelers and gate agents. Ultimately, the only option is to throw away some items in your bag to make it fit or to whip out the credit card.

Another terrible experience was had by a Frontier passenger. She claims that Frontier couldn’t make up their mind on the same personal item for two different flights. At her departure airport, the small bag made it onboard unquestioned. When she arrived at her connecting flight, other Frontier agents said the big didn’t meet their requirements. 

@delanielynne Here to call them out #delanielynne #seltzersquad #bestie #frontier #whiteclaw #travel #airlines #frontierairlines #TheQuickBooksJump ♬ Piece Of Your Heart (Cg Remix) – Official Sound Studio

This resulted in a $99 fee for the same exact bag on the same exact airline. This a perfect example of how travelers are frustrated. 

A New Industry Is Born

Due to the frustrations many travelers experience, a new industry of budget airline bags has been born. Seen throughout social media and Amazon, bags that fit the personal item definition are being sold so travelers won’t have to go through the hassle of paying extra money at the airport. 

@taliacosentino Comment for details 🤍✈️ #packingtip #amazonpick #amazongem #personalitem #youngwivesclub #betchesbrides #honeymoonpacking #engagedtok #travelstyle #airportstyle ♬ Bad Habit – Steve Lacy

It seems like it could be a good investment for frequent travelers, even for those who fly bigger airlines. After all, a recent study noted American Airlines alone made over $1.2 billion just off baggage.

A new bag for a reasonable price versus an outrageous fee going into the airlines' pockets, which would you choose? 

Personal Item Definitions


Personal items will need to fit under the seat in front of you, so they must be 9 in. x 10 in. x 17 in. (22 cm. x 25 cm. x 43 cm.) or smaller. Examples: small backpacks, laptop bags and purses


Every passenger's ticket comes with the option to have 1 personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. This could be a purse, laptop bag, small backpack or an approved pet carrier. These bags cannot exceed 17″ L (43.2 cm) x 13″ W (33 cm) x 8″ H (20.32 cm).

luggage at airport


Personal item dimensions must not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm). This includes handles and wheels. Any other bag will incur a fee.   


Delta allows all passengers on carry-on bag and personal item for free of charge. Personal item must fit under the seat in front of you.


A personal item such as purse, small backpack or briefcase must be put away under the seat in front of you with dimensions not exceeding 8 in. x 14 in. x 18 in. (20cm x 35cm x 45cm)


Dimensions: 14″H X 18″W X 8″D, including handles, wheels, and straps

Examples: diaper bags, small backpacks, purses, tote bags and briefcases

Frontier has also added the following note:
The size of the personal item will be checked during the boarding process. Items exceeding the dimensions are subject to an additional surcharge.

american airlines travelers


Your personal items, like a purse or small handbag, must fit under the seat in front of you. Dimensions should not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm).

The following are not considered a personal item or carry-on:

  • Diaper bags (1 per child)
  • Breast pumps
  • Soft-sided cooler for breast milk
  • Child safety seats, strollers, and medical/mobility devices


A small personal item, such as a purse, briefcase, or laptop bag, and medical essentials are allowed on the flight.

Another piece of carry-on-sized luggage with a maximum dimension of 22″ x 14″ x 9″ or 45 will be allowed at no charge

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This article originally appeared on

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Dirk Disco

Friday 10th of February 2023

It's about time. I'm sick of seeing people bring multiple pieces of luggage and big bags as carry on. Fine them!


Thursday 11th of May 2023

@Dirk Disco,

The problem is airlines charging for checked luggage. We need a regulation that every passenger gets two free checked bags. Then there will be no carry-on problems.


Friday 10th of February 2023

Pro-tip: If you are concerned about a potential bag fee, always carry: a laundry bag & a small garbage bag and fly with beat up luggage. Then if you are told to pay, step out of line & put your items into either the laundry or garbage bag & toss the luggage! Your 'bag' will now fit & you can replace the luggage that you were already going to anyways! I've done this leaving Italy on a cheap EU airline. They couldn't believe it!


Friday 10th of February 2023

The airlines have rules on size of carry-on bags. People just don't want to comply. The result is that overhead bins are packed & people get frustrated when they can't find a spot for their bag. Twice I saw large carry-ons that would not fit in the overhead, on the floor at their feet in the emergency exit row. On a recent Iceland Air flight they required all carry-ons to fit in the size frame & then tagged it. No tag - you paid extra to check it. Good for them. Let's all play by the same rules.


Thursday 11th of May 2023


No, the problem is we let airlines get away with luggage fee shenanigans. Every airline should be required to allow two free checked bags per passenger. Problem solved.


Friday 10th of February 2023

All North American Airlines are Federally Regulated. The federal agencies should create a standardized baggage regulation for ALL airlines operating within their jurisdiction. A good place to start is with IATA. The international agency to co ordinate world wide.


Friday 17th of February 2023


I was thinking the same thing, there should be a universal standard. That would eliminate these issues.