As passengers battle what is (un)affectionately known as the “incredible shrinking airline seat,” it’s common to pay attention to dimensions like legroom and seat pitch. However, there’s one crucial measurement that is often forgotten: the space beneath the seat.
Not only is it where we put our feet, all carry-on items not in the overhead bin must fit perfectly underneath the seat ahead. Any items that stick out could pose a safety hazard during emergency evacuation, so flight attendants are usually pretty stringent on this rule.
Related: The Best Underseat Luggage
If fighting for overhead bin space doesn't appeal to you (and who does it appeal to?), knowing the measurements of the under-the-seat space could save you time and stress.
It's important to note that the space under the seats varies depending on the aircraft — a Boeing 737 won't have the same seats as a Bombardier Q400 — as well as by individual seat. The middle seat, hated for every other reason, is likely to have the most space for underseat items. For those who want to know as exactly as possible how much room they’ve got to work with, here’s how much space each airline provides.
And to make the most of the space underneath seats, check out our choices for best underseat luggage that are still surprisingly roomy.
The airline does not release exact measurements for the space below seats, but to make sure your items fit, aim for less than 11” tall by 17” wide by 18-20” long. The maximum size for carry-on luggage is 24 inches (including wheels and handles) by 17 inches by 10 inches. The seat width is approximately 17 inches.
According to airline policy, any items to be stowed beneath seats should not exceed 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches.
Delta has a maximum carry-on size of 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches. No bag may exceed 45 linear inches combined. The space underneath the seat is 20 inches wide, 17 inches long and 11 inches tall. (Expect less space in the window seat.)
Under-the-seat baggage can not exceed 17 inches by 13 inches by 8 inches on all JetBlue flights. The airline's fleet is made up of Airbus A321s, which is why the size restriction is uniform.
The maximum size for a personal item on United is 9” by 10” by 17”. But if you forgo a larger carry-on, you can bring a larger item to stow under the seat, which is 17” deep, about 10” tall, and 20” wide (on a 757).
Virgin America does not disclose the exact dimensions of the space beneath the seat, but no personal item can exceed 36 linear inches, or 17 inches by 10 inches by 9 inches. Carry-ons cannot be larger than 50 linear inches, 24 inches by 16 inches by 10 inches. According to Dog Jaunt, the airline's A320s have a fixed under-seat height of 8.5” (which isn't much), and the aisle and middle seat are 18” wide. The window is 17” wide.
Southwest’s Boeing 737s have an underseat space of 19” long by 14” wide by 8.25” high. Middle seats are the same, except for a 19” width.