/ Travel & Leisure

A European hand luggage allowance would be handy

A full suitcase being squashed

It seems like every airline has a different allowance for hand luggage, leading to lots of confusion and surprises at the departure gate. Do you think airline hand luggage allowances are clear enough?

I’m perpetually confused when I arrive at the departure gate for a flight. Not because I don’t know where I’m going, but because I don’t know what’s going to happen to my hand luggage.

Quite often, I’m standing with my boarding pass in hand, holding one piece of hand luggage, a coat or jacket and some presents or drinks I’ve bought at the airport.

And I never know whether all three items will be happily allowed on to the plane, or if I’ll be told it’s too much and I’ll have to pay a fine.

I once found myself turned away because I had a suit carrier strapped to my hand luggage, meaning I officially had two bags. So I crumpled up the suit and forced it into the hand luggage and was happily allowed on the plane.

Hand luggage is hard to handle

But now I generally stuff everything I have into one bag to be sure there’ll be no awkwardness at the plane entrance. And I always choose a soft bag so it can expand to fit in my extras.

I find this the safest policy when rules on hand luggage sizes, weights and allowances vary so much between airlines.

For instance, EasyJet allows one bag (56x45x25cm) with no weight limit, and a ‘standard’ bag of airport shopping. Flybe has three options depending on the airport and class of ticket.

Monarch gives you two options. On scheduled fights you can take one 56x40x25cm bag up to 10kg, plus a small duty-free bag.  Or you can choose to have two bags, with a combined size and weight no bigger than the one bag option, plus a small duty-free bag. However, Monarch charter flights have a 5kg weight limit.

Ryanair has a strict limit of one bag no heavier than 10kg, measuring 55x40x20cm. Any shop purchases must fit inside.

And this is before you even get into the complexity of hold luggage rules. For instance, BA yesterday introduced a new ‘hand-luggage only’ fare on some short-haul Gatwick routes, which it says gives you a one way ‘discount’ of up to £15 if you have no checked in baggage. If you pick this option, but then add a piece of hold baggage later, it’ll cost you £20 each way.

One hand luggage allowance to rule them all

For me, travelling would be much easier if there was one rule for all airlines, so I always knew what I could take on-board. And that’s exactly what Euro-MPs are proposing, on the basis that passengers are consistently falling foul of the rules and paying fines because they are unaware handbags or duty free shopping are not allowed.

The European Commission appears to be lukewarm on the proposal, suggesting instead that better information from airlines may be the way to end the confusion.

Personally I think a European-wide minimum allowance would give consumers clarity and still allow competition between airlines as they could have different maximum limits.

What do you think is the answer? And what do you make of airline’s hand luggage allowances and the information they provide about them?


I completely agree! It’s crazy that your suitcase can be fine on one flight but disallowed on the next. I’ve not been caught out yet, but like you I always take a soft bag that can be squeezed (after noticing that Ryanair’s defined measurements were a sneaky few centimetres smaller than BA and Easyjet, I’ve been too scared to take any kind of suitcase in case they catch me out!).

I can’t see how this would be practical.

Airlines set restrictions on cabin baggage size and weight for all sorts of reasons, not just to make money. These include the configuration of individual aircraft, the dimensions of overhead lockers, under-seat space, safety and security. An EU-wide standard would have to cater for the lowest common baggage size that any airline or short-haul aircraft could reasonably accommodate.

We would then be back to some airlines offering increased allowances – which is kind of where we are now.

Anyway, I can’t see there is any excuse for a passenger not checking the baggage allowances with the airline every time they fly. There are all sorts of prohibited and restricted items that may not be carried on an aircraft for the safety of other passengers and crew. It doesn’t do us any harm to be reminded of these at the same time as checking how much we can squeeze on board.

Maybe having the luggage allowance on the boarding pass you have printed out would help.

I must say I agree with Ryanair’s approach that 1 bag means just that not – 1 bag + hand bag plus + large plastic bag full of duty-free.

Off-topic slightly I do like Easyjet’s policy of allowing averaging with the checked in luggage for a family, saves having to carefully balance the suitcases especially on the return flight.

I really like the idea of a Europe-wide standard allowance for cabin baggage, which ought to be the standard IATA size (56x45x25cm) and a reasonable weight like 15kg which most people can lift easily into the overhead lockers. Airlines would of course be free to be competitive by going one step further, such as what Easyjet already do with no weight limit. The main reason for airlines to impose unusually low limits on size or weight is to catch out passengers at the gate and levy an unfair surcharge; it is just another revenue stream for the airlines.

We also need legislation that forces airlines to include within advertised fares any charges that are paid by the majority of passengers on a particular route. This would prevent airlines from using surcharges as a means of legitimising a misleading indication of price.

I like what British Airways is doing – giving a discount off the advertised fare instead of misleadingly reducing the advertised fare and surcharging.

Ling Valentine says:
23 February 2013

Then fly with BA and stay away from the cheap carriers. More room on Ryanair for the rest of us, then 🙂


I like the concept of a European wide luggage allowance so that nobody gets caught out, particularly by Ryanair who seem to be predatory with anyone who is in the least bit over size or weight. I no longer use budget airlines when there is any alternative, they are rarely much cheaper and I do not like being herded like cattle.
I travel the world sometimes for extended holidays and take no more than 12 kg in one suitcase and no cabin baggage except a book to read. Anything I need I buy at my destination.

Is there any truth in the rumour that Ryanair will be introducing a surcharge for hand luggage that is underweight or smaller than the approved size? 🙂

And probably a surcharge for not turning up.

Try watching http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAg0lUYHHFc for ideas of what Ryanair might do next.

Ling Valentine says:
23 February 2013

This is an idiotic suggestion. This simply reduces competition, exactly as the electric tariff reduction will. Ryanair (as this is who the whinging moaners moan about, even though the author is careful to pretend it is others) have manages to transform short haul air travel prices, so many millions can now afford to travel. It has revolutionised the lives of many Irish people and Eastern Europeans, especially, who can now afford to visit their friends and family abroad. This was simply not possible before the budget airlines, for many people.

To moan about baggage is stupid, simply read the terms. If some people’s stupidity subsidises travel for the rest of us who actually pay attention, that’s great. Good for O’Leary. I cheer him.

I love stupid people. Keep paying the charges, folks, and everyone else can enjoy their cheap, frequent, on-time, budget flights.

Ling Valentine

never affected me at airport, i only take 1 piece of hand luggage anyway. what i think they should do is have a combined luggage + passenger weight restriction, so they heavier the passenger, the less luggage they can carry….the lighter the passenger, the more you can carry.