Stupid Airline Carry-on Rules: If It’s On Your Body, It Should Count As Part Of Your Clothes

A Delta Air Lines passenger declares a ‘crossbody hill she’ll die on’ – that these aren’t personal items that count against your baggage allowance. She’s frequently forced to gate check a bag because of this extra ‘pocket’. And while gate agents may be following their airline’s policy in requiring this, she’s right and the policy should be rewritten.

I am a woman. I travel for business. I’m often in work clothes, which have no pockets. A cross body is basically pockets for women. I am sick and tired of Delta’s stupid cross body policy, when it stays on my body like clothes. It’s a part of my clothing. There is a wallet and a phone in it. Like a god damn pocket.

Don’t make me put it in my luggage, and certainly don’t tell me to do it before the flight. When I’m going to immediately go put it back on my body.

A belt is part of your clothes, not a carry-on item. A belt that you can store items in is still a belt, and part of your clothes. A fanny pack worn across your body, basically a pocket as she says, is part of your clothes too.

Why? Because it doesn’t require overhead bin space (your full-sized carry-on) and it doesn’t require space underneath the seat in front of you (your personal item).

A man can wear cargo pants. Anyone can wear a jacket, even a heavy winter coat, and that doesn’t count against your carry-on allowance. We’ve forgotten the purpose here.

  1. carry-on allowances were cut after 9/11 (you used to be allowed two full-sized bags) to reduce the amount of items going through TSA security, since airport lines were insufferably long.
  2. reducing the number of items going onto the aircraft reduces the time it takes to board and the number of items needing to be gate-checked.

The TSA will require this to be screened separately. But they also require you to take off your winter coat, too.

Airlines, meanwhile, have no interest in banning items that don’t take up space and potentially delay departure. There’s no reason for them to enforce an item like this as a carry-on – just as there’s no reason for them to enforce the bag of food you picked up in the airport as one either, but some gate agents still do. Other agents will treat your newspaper as a separate item also, requiring you to stick it in one of your other bags (or check one item) which is just as dumb.

At least if you’re on a regional jet without full-sized overhead bins, your airline may let you check your items planeside rather than sending it to baggage claim.

To be clear this isn’t on the FAA, though airlines often say that it is. Section 121.589(a) of Federal Aviation Regulations require an airline to allow bags on board only in accordance with its own approved carry-on baggage program. The government requires airlines to follow their own rules, rather than setting the rules themselves (within certain requirements).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Man, if a gate agent ever says that my newspaper is my personal item, that is what is getting gate checked. Slap a tag on it and god forbid you lose it

  2. Nope AC. It’s an issue for about 1/2 of the airline passengers. When I was traveling extensively internationally for work, I did get stopped for my crossbody phone case, as a concierge key so I learned to wear jackets with pockets for my phone and always had a plan if stopped.

  3. First , the pax could have packed the phone into a checked bag .

    Second , the pax does not divulge how many actual giant carry-on bags the pax was carrying on .

  4. …and this is why I just ordered cargo joggers yesterday. Comfort + pockets galore. I understand they’re also cracking down on neck pillows as a personal item too – again, no overhead or under-seat space needed for those either.

  5. That’s why I wear pick pocket proof cargo pants when traveling. 8 pockets total including two massive cargo pockets. I could take enough parts to build an engine in those. They both zip and button so nothing is going to fall out. My wife gives me her purse sometimes to shove in one if she had an extra item. Plus if I ever have to do an emergency exit I’ve got everything important on me.

  6. @ Moihere Oui — Well, you obviously know the rule, no matter how stupid it may be. Follow it. Problem solved.

  7. Sadly many clothing manufacturers of clothing for women have decided to do away with pockets in their clothes. It is increasingly difficult to find a skirt, pants or dress with pockets. Even some jackets no longer have pockets. I do not care for large purses so when I travel, I wear a small crossbody for essentials. I have been made to stuff it in my carryon more than once.

    However, have you wondered why someone boarding with two carryon bags, one for the overhead and one under the seat, and they have a bag of food or snacks for the flight that they are also carrying on. I have never heard someone tell them to put the food in their carryon.

  8. I have been using a waist bag the past several years to carry mostly cell phones in. If I carry them in my jeans pockets it slows down my going through security. I also put my money belt in it so I have one less thing to take off at security. I usually fly with nothing in my jeans pockets, with everything in my waist bag or my jacket pockets. The waist bag could be carried cross body and I have done that some times. If gate agents have a problem with a cross body bag, put it in other luggage or under a jacket or coat where it cannot be seen. Then when you get to your seat, take what time you need to rearrange things as you like.

  9. I can see this both ways, honestly- it is a bag that is separate from your body and is arguably less likely to stay on your body the whole flight, but so, as you say, is a jacket or coat so why one and not the other? I also get the no pockets thing since I travel for work and what a pain it is but I purposefully pick out suit jackets with functional pockets so I can carry my cell phone on me, so in some ways that is really something this person is choosing to do for style reasons. And honestly- can you imagine the arguments people will have at the gate if the person in front of them is allowed to carry their cross body bag and a rollaboard and a briefcase for under the seat and they aren’t allowed to bring their purse and backpack and rollaboard? There is very little difference between a purse worn strap across the body and a “fanny pack” style cross body. But nobody is keeping a purse on their lap the whole flight (and I’d argue no one is keeping a cross body on their lap/body either). So, yeah, that’s why airlines have a hard stop on ANY bag over two is my guess. They have enough trouble with entitled prats putting coats and bags that should go under the seat in the overhead bin- they don’t want to deal with this nonsense too. Oh and for the person who posted – but why can you bring a bag of food on board? Because you’ll eat it and it will get thrown out, it doesn’t take up overhead or under seat storage.

    Just my two cents.

  10. @Lara S:
    > But nobody is keeping a purse on their lap the whole flight (and I’d argue no one is keeping a cross body on their lap/body either).

    While I will agree with you about a purse I disagree about fanny packs and cross-body bags. They are comfortable to wear all the time, why would people take them off for the flight? I have traveled with a fanny pack for decades–never once have I removed it on a flight.

    Also, note that a purse can’t stay on a lap–that’s prohibited during takeoff and landing–can’t have potential missiles if things go bad. However, a bag that’s strapped to you won’t become a missile, there’s no need to stow it. I’ve never had a FA question anything that’s strapped to me.

    Arguing over a cross-body is simply a revenue grab, nothing more.

  11. Once the airline agrees to a carry-on bag policy with the FAA then the airline has to adhere to it. So isn’t that basically making it an FAA regulation at that point?

  12. Well then is a backpack clothing as well? Where is the line? Sorry, but I’m with the airline on this. Wear more practical clothing while traveling if you want to carry stuff on you.

  13. “To be clear this isn’t on the FAA, though airlines often say that it is. Section 121.589(a) of Federal Aviation Regulations require an airline to allow bags on board only in accordance with its own approved carry-on baggage program. The government requires airlines to follow their own rules, rather than setting the rules themselves (within certain requirements).”

    Actually Gary, the catch here is that the airlines own rules have to be set with FAA approval, who will require/guide them to mimic what the FAA wants. Thus you’ll see why just about every single airline has the same requirements (aside from like PSA which is more restrictive as their flavor of FAA won’t allow rolling bags on the plane). If you look in an airline’s actual manual, and the Carry-On Baggage Program is typically a regulatory stand-alone manual, there is a stamp with FAA sign off on the manual in its entirety and just about every page of content.

  14. Here we go with this again. Yes…Fanny packs are like belts in that they go around your waist. The difference is, in an emergency evacuation, a belt is secured by several loops on a persons waste and then buckled closed. A Fanny pack simply clips around the waist and could become a catch hazard on an armrest in the event of an emergency evacuation. This is why you must remove it before flight and stow it. It is considered a stand alone carry-on because it must be stowed in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. If you don’t like it, but men’s jeans with lots of pockets and wear those.

  15. As other women have stated, it’s often difficult to find women’s clothing with functional pockets. Even some of my so called travel clothes have pockets that are too small for a wallet or phone. I finally found women’s travel shirts that have large enough chest pockets to hold my passport, cellphone. I don’t need slim and neatly tailored shirts, jackets and pants. I need clothes that I can put stuff without needing a purse. I do use a crossbody bag sometimes and I just tuck it under my jacket.

  16. A crossbody may not be on your body for take off and landing. Therefore, it must be stowed, counting as a carryon.

  17. Loren-not true about if it’s stapled to your body you don’t gave to stow it. If it had to go through an exray machine at security then it has to be stowed for take off and landing. The FAA reasons that it could interfere with you getting your seatbelt un buckled and slow and emergency evacuation.

  18. Checked-in “planeside rather than sending it to baggage claim”? That kind of language fails to factor in the fact that sometimes bags checked in plane-side, gate-side or on-board the plane are sent to baggage claim at the destination airport.

    Even valet-tag bags for plane-side and/or gate-delivery are sometimes instead delivered to the baggage claim area. I’ve had that happen repeatedly when flying on some barbie jets on the last flights of the day, but also had it happen even otherwise at times.

  19. I use a fanny pack as I travel and it stays on my body the whole flight. It usually has my passport, phone, cash, earphones and any meds I may need for the flight. It also seconds as a belt for my pants.
    I like to keep my hands free. This is used because clothing these days don’t have pockets and I don’t want to sit on my phone or reading glasses.
    Should not be a problem if it stays on my body the whole flight.

  20. H2oman sometime you should try to bring no bags at all, see if you can just pack everything you need in those cargo pants!

  21. strange hill to die on when your wallet and phone can go in your personal item and your crossacross can go in your rollaboard

    just HIDE THE DAMN THING for boarding and takeoff, and then to ensure you have “won”, remove your phone and wallet from your personal item and put them in the fannyfanny for flight, proudly wear your crossfanny ontop of your safely belted configuration SO THE CREW CAN SEE THAT YOU WON THE DAY!, then for descent and landing, place your wallet in your personal item and HOLD ON TO YOUR PHONE after you have again hidden the fannycross for landing, then upon crosscheck, when you standup, PROUDLY strap on your crossacross, place your phone and wallet in it, and exit the aircraft HAVING WON THE DAY, another victory, another hill claimed, in the personal combat war of commercial air travel; a chef’s kiss would be to set your phone alarm to go off as you walk up the aisle at maximum volume with a sound tone that mimics an inbound call which you can’t answer because you’re too important and are occupied ASSERTING YOUR AUTHORITAI as you exit the aircraft passing the FA’s of the world’s most spectacular airline

  22. So some designer took a fanny pack, simply put it around one shoulder instead of their waste and called “invented” the “Cross Body”?

  23. My Baggallini Crossbody is also the size of a pocket, and I can’t tell you how many times the gate Nazis have made me put it in my under seat carry-on. It lies flat against my body, doesn’t get in the way, and is the only way I can carry my phone in my wallet. it makes me crazy!

  24. A ‘crossbody’ can be tiny, or it can be huge. Because it is so easy detached, I don’t classify it the same as a belt — more like a purse. Some purses are tiny and some the size of backpacks, but a mini purse is still considered a personal item. To allow gate agent ‘judgement calls’ on whether a crossbody is a ‘pocket’ vs a personal item for carryon item count purposes is a can of worms best left unopened.

    Back in the day when we had paper tickets, for a long solo international backpacking trip, I was looking for a concealed, secure way to store my plane ticket, travellers checks(!), passport, etc. The things I found for sale were either really flimsy (thin straps around neck, thin material, cheap plastic closures, etc) or super bulky and not concealable on my body. My Mom made me a flat leather pouch that threaded thru a belt to be worn hidden on my body. I could wear it with the pants belt (then it was outside my pants) or I could use a 2nd belt and wear it inside my pants. It was fantastic, I even wore it at night in hostels! I wore a fanny pack over a Tshirt over this flat secure pouch inside my pants. On that trip on a crowded tram, I had my fanny pack professionally slit & my wallet stolen from the opening, but my important papers were safe & secure.

    On my last flight, I was wearing a sweatshirt over my Tshirt. TSA asked if I had a Tshirt under the sweatshirt – I said yes. She told me to take off my sweatshirt. I am a middle-aged, graying female. If I said No, would she just let me go thru, or put me in the extra wanding search area? If I were male, would she just tell me to take off the sweatshirt even if I had no Tshirt on underneath?

  25. I’d either wear a jacket with pockets, or put the bag in my carry-on that I leave accessible under the seat in front of me. If you’re just talking about a phone and wallet, they can easily fit inside another carry on, and you’re not walking around and need it on you, you’re stuck in a seat for the most part. Honestly I’m not sure why this bothers people. Unfortunately not one commenter who agrees has said specifically why it bothers them. Why do they need their phone and wallet attached to their body at all times?

  26. As flight crew, we make you take a cross body off for take off and landing. We should anyway. If it comes off for TSA, and it is not a sewn in part of your clothes, it is considered a carry on. You just carried it on a little differently. This id for your safety. I have personally witnessed a young woman getting her cross body tangled in her seat belt while trying to unbuckle. it. In and emergency (and isn’t that why we are there?) you could potentially become tangled and either not make it out or cause others to not make it out. It’s silly that anyone would choose this fight. Take the damn thing off and put it in your bigger carryon. You must have bigger fish to fry?

Comments are closed.