Under The Seat in Front of You

San Francisco Airport (SFO) 2009 12th October - 135We  all know the rules. Carry-on bags must fit either in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Best case scenario the carry-on goes in the overhead and your personal item goes under the seat in front of you.

But what if the overheads are full? Will your bag fit under the seat or is it relegated to “checked” hell?

The airlines never tell us how big the area is “under the seat in front of us.”

The answer is complicated because it varies depending on airline, type of aircraft and even seat number. But there is a way to get a general idea……and here’s the secret:

Most airlines will allow one or two small animals on board. They must be kept in a regulation size pet carriers UNDER THE SEAT IN FRONT OF THE OWNER.

If you do some searching on your airline’s website, you’ll find information on taking pets on board and the maximum allowed size of pet carrier. Since that pet carrier has to fit underneath the seat in front of you, it means any bag that size or smaller, will also fit. And it it’s a soft sided bag that’s not too full but slightly exceeds the published dimensions, it might be able to be squished in.

Wait, you’re not done. Once you have the dimensions, go over to Seat Guru and check your aircraft to see if there are any obstacles under your assigned seat. If there are, change your seat.

If you’re not familiar with Seat Guru you really should be. I always consult it when choosing flights. Lots of excellent information on seats- (the good or bad, size information, problems, obstructions, noise issues, etc), in flight amenities on your aircraft, photos and reviews. The site also has airline baggage information and in some cases information on pets–including size of pet carriers. (That’s secret number two….you might be able to get all that information from Seat Guru.)

But I would still check with the airline’s web site first to make sure you’re getting the correct information. Remember, an airline can change policy at any time and that doesn’t mean a third party website will be updated immediately

There’s one more little secret that won’t  be pleasing to some of you but I might as well post it. If you’re like me and prefer the aisle seat, be aware the area under the seat in front of you will, in most cases, be smaller than the same area under the middle and window seats. In fact, it’s usually the middle seat that has the most room.

One last thing I need to mention since we’re talking about seats. You know that seat pocket in front of you holding the safety card, in-flight magazine, and Skymall catalog? Don’t use it. It is a breeding ground for unknown germs. People put all sorts of things in there and it’s rarely cleaned out let alone disinfected. The same goes for the fold down tray. Bring along a small travel sized pack of cleaning wipes and wipe down your tray table (you are going to eat there), seat rests and the controls for your in-flight entertainment if offered.

Now if we could just get the dimensions of the overhead compartments……..



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5 Responses to Under The Seat in Front of You

  1. hsuh says:

    Cool, the pet size trick really works. I just search for this information for a brazilian airline lthough, and the limits are just 14in x 13in x 9.84in. I’ll probably have to use the overhead!

  2. gafer says:

    Thanks for the tips. I don’t know that the dimensions of the overheads really matters. What matters is the bag sizer at the gate. On a recent AA flight I measured the overhead bin at 11 inches in height. This after they forced me to gate check my 10 inch wide bag because it wouldn’t fit their 9 inch bag sizer. On the upside, this incident lead me to become a one bag devotee. The overheads are plenty large. The airlines would rather we not use them.

  3. rica4do says:

    Great tips! Thanks Frank!

  4. BMEPhDinCO says:

    This works well most of the time – I just checked it with Frontier though and because of their new policy of charging for carry-on bags, they are a bit different. In particular, the max carry-on size AND the max pet “under the seat” size is the same – 10 x 24 x 16 but their free “personal item” is limited to 18 x 14 x 8. That said, I haven’t flown them yet on the new policy (for tickets purchased after 4/28/14) but they may be a bit lenient since a “backpack” is considered a personal item. Another reason to be wheel free – I bet those will be considered carry-on in most cases!

  5. tcl says:

    People with pets are usually restricted to a particular line of seats (usually the middle seat) per type of plane configuration, which is why there is usually some sort of requirement to contact the airline and speak to a live person instead of being able to do a 100% ticket purchase and seating assignment online with pet.