The difference between carry-on luggage and personal items?

Pauline wants to know exactly how much luggage she can take on board her next flight.

The difference between carry-on luggage and personal items?

Pauline wants to know exactly how much luggage she can take on board her next flight.

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Q. Pauline
I have noticed that people are getting away with bringing on more than one piece of carry-on luggage, claiming a second big bag as a personal item. I thought a personal item was something akin to a handbag. What is the difference between a personal item and carry-on luggage? How much can you take on-board with you on a flight?

A. Different airlines have different rules, but you are right that most allow one piece of carry-on luggage and one personal item.

The specifications for the bags allowable as carry-on luggage and as a personal item will differ between airlines and that may mean that you have to check luggage that was allowed on a different leg of your journey if you change airlines.

Carry-on bags are usually allowed to be larger than personal items. They have to fit in the overhead storage compartment and most airlines will apply a weight restriction. Although the size and weight restrictions will differ between airlines. The airlines will usually have a display outside the boarding gates so you can see if your luggage exceeds the size limits.

A personal item is normally another bag that is smaller than the allowed size for a carry-on item.

As you mention, handbags are a good example of a personal item, but this can also include laptop bags, backpacks and tote bags. It is not hard to find very large tote bags these days, which is definitely where you start to see people taking advantage of what they are allowed to take on board.

Personal items, though, are normally required to fit under the seat in front of you. Some airlines do have size limits for what will be considered a personal item, so it can be worth checking before you arrive at the airport.

Skyscanner.com.au has compiled the below table to show what different airlines allow.

Airline

Allowance

Max Dimensions

Max Weight

AirAsia

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

56cm x 36cm x 23cm

7kg

Air New Zealand

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

Sum of length, width and height must not measure more than a combined 118cm

7kg

British Airways

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

56cm x 45cm x 25cm

23kg

Cathay Pacific

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

56cm x 36cm x 23cm

7kg

China Airlines

1 cabin bag

56cm x 36cm x 23cm

7kg

Emirates

1 cabin bag

55cm x 38cm x 20cm

7kg

Etihad Airways

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

50cm x 40cm x 25cm

7kg

Fiji Airways

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

55cm x 40cm x 23cm

7kg

Garuda Indonesia

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

56cm x 36cm x 23cm

7kg

Japan Airlines

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

55cm x 40cm x 25cm

10kg

Jetstar

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

55cm x 36cm x 23cm

7kg

KLM

1 cabin bag

55cm x 35cm x 25cm

12kg

Lufthansa

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

55cm x 40cm x 23cm

8kg

Malaysia Airlines

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

55cm x 35cm x 25cm

7kg

Qantas

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

48cm x 34cm x 23cm

7kg

Qatar Airways

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

50cm x 37cm x 25cm

7kg

Scoot

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

54cm x 38cm x 23cm

7kg

Singapore Airlines

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

Sum of length, width and height must not measure more than a combined 115cm

7kg

Thai Airways

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

56cm x 45cm x 25cm

7kg

Tigerair

2 bags

54cm x 38cm x 23cm

7kg

United

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

56cm x 35cm x 22cm

No limit

Virgin Australia

1 cabin bag + 1 personal item

48cm x 34cm x 23cm

7kg

What luggage do you take on-board with you when flying?

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COMMENTS

To make a comment, please register or login
SuziJ
17th Aug 2019
9:01am
I take a backpack, laptop computer & a small handbag which can fit into the backpack if it needs to.
Maggie
17th Aug 2019
12:48pm
I honestly feel that as we grow older we want to carry less and less.

And, having been made to suffer the inconvenience and discomfort of a fellow traveller's leg and foot protruding into my floor space because her bag was so large she couldn't get her feet into her own space, I am dead against it.

Besides, airlines have weight restrictions for safety reasons.
Bobby'sgirl
17th Aug 2019
1:52pm
A CPAP machine is not counted as either carry on or personal hand luggage. It is medical equipment. I agree with Maggie. The less you have to carry the better. Also less likely to lose something.
Monkey
18th Aug 2019
10:41am
Cpap machine is now counted in your 7kg carry on with Jetstar . I unfortunately had an awful experiencein April this year at Sydney airport when jetstar staff made me get the weight down by layering on clothing otherwise I would have to pay $60..previously it was never an issue. Quote.."it will not count if its for use inflight "
Colours
18th Aug 2019
11:13am
The difference between carry-on luggage and personal items is irrelevant - it's the total weight that they get you on.
Monkey
18th Aug 2019
11:36am
Colours ..that's exactly right..and they got me...#jetstar
sunnyOz
18th Aug 2019
12:33pm
I was recently on an Aust flight where the hostess was weighing items before going on plane, had a set of scales. And they were weighing every item carried...down to the newspaper. Handbag, umbrella, laptop, mobile phone, everything. Any one with more than 7 kgs - sent to a desk to pay extra.
Karl Marx
18th Aug 2019
7:36pm
SunnyOz what airline and was it a domestic or international flight. Bit full on if you are made to empty your pockets.
Ted Wards
19th Aug 2019
8:56am
I flew from Brisbane to Sydney and back again in June on Virgin. They were checking everyone's carry on, including the weight of handbags. When I got my boarding pass the person told me that it is a combined weight of 7 kgs, not just the weight of you carry on luggage. Both my handbag and carry on were weighed and it just came in under 7 kg.
Cat
20th Aug 2019
4:58pm
I had a really bad experience over my fairly small/average sized handbag with a certain airline on a flight back to Austraila from the US. They changed my seating and put me in a seat directly i n front of a wall near front of the plane and told me how lucky it is that i had this wall i n front of me now instead of a seat. The wall was so close in front of me that i could not even straighten my arthritic knee out and no seat in front to put my handbag under. I put my handbag behond my feet as there was no underneath to my seat and the stewardess came up to me acting like a headmistress chastising me telling me I have no choice but to put my handbag in an overhead cabin but when there was no room in the one above my seat I refused because I had valuables, passports, cards, money etc in it. She lurched forward and forcably wrenched my handbag off me and took off with it up the back of the plane. She could see how worried I was and when she walked past afterward I asked her where my handbag was and she refused to disclose to me where it was and just said up the back end somewhere and I will just have to try and find it. I was coming back from my father's funeral and was having to travel alone and I'm afraid to even fly anywhere now after that. Someone could easily end up with all of my ID, as well as my bank cards, passports and who knows what they could do with all of that and I doubt t he airline would take any responsibility for causing that with that kind of callous and irresponsible behaviour that had nothing but total contempt for my personal property.
Karl Marx
20th Aug 2019
8:28pm
So what airline was it & did you make a formal complaint to the airline about the behaviour of their staff, did you make a complaint to the chief steward or whatever their title is.
Pity you had a bad knee & unable to follow her.
How did you get your handbag back, did you have to stay back & search for it or was it presented to you on landing.
Maggie
20th Aug 2019
5:45pm
I don't understand why you are so reluctant to name the airline?


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