/ Travel & Leisure

Luggage allowance – have you been caught out at check-in?

Woman sitting on overstuffed bag

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the sound of suitcases being packed as the summer exodus begins. But will travellers be stung for extra fees when they get to the airport and discover they’ve packed too much?

All across the land, people are heading to UK airports to catch flights abroad.

Fast forward a few hours to airport check in and we’ll be hearing more than a few grumbles from those who are forced to pay extra charges because they hadn’t realised their bags are either over size or over weight.

While airlines have to include all non-optional fees in their headline price, over the years, baggage has somehow become ‘optional’ and the costs and measurements allowed can stay firmly in the small print.

Different rules for different airlines

Without any statutory regulation on the minimum size or weight of bags, airlines all have their own policies. We’re getting used to the idea of paying for checking in bags, and the airlines are using their policies for competitive advantage – a cheaper headline price may work out far dearer if you need to take luggage.

Working out what you can take on board with you also needs consideration. Ryanair, for example, only allows one item on board and it must be no bigger than 55x40x20cm and weigh no more than 10kg. If you get a carrier bag with purchases in the departure lounge, that would count as two items and make you liable for a £40 charge.

EasyJet and BA allow 56x45x25cm and, as long as you can lift it above your head in the overhead bin, any weight is allowed (start weight training now!). If you have more than your allocation, however, expect to pay. Other airlines are even more miserly – both Thomson and Thomas Cook only allow 5kg hand luggage.

In theory, if the airlines wanted to, they could do away with any free hand luggage at all, making us stuff our pockets with everything dear to us for the flight.

If this was the case, there would be bound to be uproar – if not from the airline’s insurers who would be forced to pay out more for damaged items in the hold, then at least from the fashion conscious – have you seen how unflattering those travel jackets are?!

How do you beat the system?

Stuffing a travel jacket’s multiple pockets full of your belongings is only way to beat the system. We put it to our Twitter followers this morning and we received some amusing responses.

‘I sneak my extra items into hubby’s case,’ said Heather (@fevsb). Phil (@BCC_SmartMeters) goes one step further, though: ‘I find not taking the wife or children helps with the luggage allowance,’ he jested.

Peter (@JunkkMale) saves on weight thanks to his two sons who pack light. ‘Last holiday they packed an iPod, swim cozzy & one pair of extra undies each. Seemed fine.’

What are your top tips for getting more onto the plane? Do you find the weight allowances generous enough, or have you been caught out by extra fees at the check-in desk?

BooDeLaHoo says:
20 July 2011

The airlines are really taking the mickey with “Ski Carriage” these days too.

A couple of years ago, taking skis or a snowboard bag on holiday cost about £18 return and there was no official weight limit. You could put all your gear – boards, bindings, boots, helmet, pads, goggles, pants and jacket, for two people – in one bag.

This year, with Thomas Cook and Neilson the charge was £35 per bag and there was a 10kg limit. To put that into perspective, my snowboard bag empty weighs 4kg. All I could put in the bag was the board itself. We had to buy a second bag for my girlfriend’s board – and both bags looked ridiculous as they were designed to carry more stuff.

Our regular cabin baggage allowance was made up mostly of all the other necessary safety gear. Hardly any room for clothes and other normal holiday items.

So we paid £70 instead of £18 and had much less allowance and an extra bag to carry. To say I was annoyed doesn’t come close.


Although we’re very sorry to read of your frustrating experiences (seems they aren’t uncommon), we have made your comment our Comment of the Week! You’ll be featured on our homepage for a full seven days. Congrats! =)

Paul Fisher says:
26 February 2012

As a light carrying passenger flying all over the world, I find people’s gripes about what they take and the charges redicuous.

The rates are the rates and if you want to take the kitchen sink then you have to pay, Simples.

Sophie Gilbert says:
20 July 2011

The travel jacket may look rubbish, but the idea is fab. I wish it were available in the UK. It would be useful to go to the pub as well, so as not to take a handbag with me. I got my handbag stolen in a pub sometime ago and since then I have appreciated inside pockets and outside zipped ones very much as I don’t take a handbag with me anymore when I go to the pub. It is unfortunately very difficult to find women’s jackets that look good and are functional at the same time.

As far as luggage allowance is concerned, things seemed to be streamlined before the advent of the “no-frills” airlines. I can’t help thinking that this is just another sting on their part, having a varying allowance between airlines, in order to charge us more, confuse us, make it easy for us to make mistakes, and make us pay for them.

I also can’t help thinking that some people always will take more than they really need on holiday, especially women, it seems. We don’t need to take four pairs of shoes, tons of make up and twenty different outfits with us to look good throughout a one-week holiday, but some women aren’t aware of that.

Finally, I will be interested to see what the reaction is if one day airlines decide to charge according to the weight of luggage added to the weight of the passenger…

BooDeLaHoo says:
20 July 2011

Now there’s an idea!


Hi Sophie
I think they are available in the UK too – we just linked to the one above as it illustrated the concept well. I’m sure if you google ‘Travel jacket’ you’ll find some.


Some of the examples here are hilarious – basically jackets with bags sewn on to them!


Totally agree that the weight of the person should be taken into account; not least in the seat allocation. I am more than a little fed up of being squashed for a few hours, and now always request an aisle seat.