Mar 7, 2016

Posted by in Features, Money Saving Tips | 64 Comments

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Can’t travel light? Which airline has the best checked-in luggage allowance?

Low-cost airlines have brought with them the trend of travelling with one piece of hand luggage only, packed to the gunnels. The aim? To avoid paying for checked-in luggage.

Holidays in the sun

And travellers have employed increasingly ingenious ways of carrying more on board – although we don’t recommend the antics of boy band member James McElvar. He was the guy who wore 12 layers of clothing last summer in an attempt to avoid paying £45 for baggage on an easyJet flight to Glasgow. He passed out due to heat exhaustion caused by his overdressing and ended up in an ambulance.

If you want to avoid resorting to tactics like this, it’s wise to weigh up your baggage options with various airlines when choosing your flight. Here are our top hold luggage tips.

Do airlines still offer free hold luggage?

Nothing in life is free. The concept of being able to check a bag in without a charge as part of the deal has all but vanished. Airlines may still claim that they include free checked-in bags, but it’s all built into the price, making it important to compare the total price of your flights including bags should you need them. So don’t think of it as a free bag, just that your fare includes that option built in.

Is it fair to charge for a bag?

If there is one thing that gets travellers going, it’s the cost of airline extras such as bag charges. But just step back and have a think about why these charges are there.

To get a plane into the air, airlines need fuel. The heavier the aircraft, the more fuel and therefore the higher the cost – and fuel is cited as the largest cost an airline incurs. According to Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures for 2014, the average British male weighs around 78kg, so a 20kg bag adds one quarter to the total weight, even without hand luggage of around 10kg. The proportion is even greater for women who average 71kg.

So, if an airline can cut weight, it can keep prices down. And, if you can travel without a checked-in bag, you can also save money – who would argue against that? Plus, going to the next stage of actually weighing passengers as well is something none of us would want to consider. Uzbekistan Airways announced they would be weighing passengers discreetly on their flights (including those from the UK) from August 2015 for ‘safety’ reasons. We are watching this with interest.

Which airlines still have a free allowance?

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Essentially, carriers offering long-haul flights or connections from the UK, with the exception of Norwegian on its Gatwick routes to the USA, will allow you to check in one bag for free as part of your deal.

If you’re travelling short haul, which would include all domestic flights in the UK as well as all those to European and North African destinations, some of the so called ‘legacy’ carriers such as British Airways and Lufthansa will include one checked-in bag in the fare, subject to the type of ticket you have bought. Not all fares include the freebie, so be cautious when buying the cheapest options on offer as the bag could be extra.

And, of course, low-cost airlines are the kings of taking money from you if you can’t travel light, while some holiday companies will now separate out your bag cost when you book a package break, just to make a bit of extra cash.

Which airline has the most generous free allowance?

The most generous airlines are those from the Middle East. Emirates, Qatar and Etihad fly out of several UK airports to destinations across the globe via their hubs in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi. Emirates offers a whopping 30kg allowance in economy in one bag, Qatar offers 30kg in one bag on many flights and Etihad offers allowances from 23kg on saver fares up to two bags of 23kg on economy freedom fares.

Next are the big worldwide long-haul carriers who generally allow one bag of 23kg within fares. For example, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United, Air France and KLM all offer this.

Which airline has the best-value paid-for allowance?

With the low-cost airlines, think about the allowance and cost together to give you a per-kilo rate. Many of these carriers do not have a flat luggage rate, varying it by route and charging it each way to boot.

Some airlines offer bag weights of 15kg (such as Ryanair), while Jet2 gives you a larger-than-average 22kg.

The highest costs are with Ryanair who will charge up to £2.33 per kilo for a 15kg bag on selected routes, such as those to the Canary Islands and Greece. Their highest cost is £90 return for a 20kg pre-booked bag in summer on their longer flights such as Tenerife.

The lowest charges are with a new-entrant to the UK: Norwegian – it charges from 35p per kilo on short routes, such as those to Spain. EasyJet charges from 65p to £1.20 per kilo for all routes and offers great value.

Airline Standard economy allowance -one piece Cost of one bag one way – pre-booked
Aer Lingus – European routes 15kg from £12 to £27, varies by date and destination
Aer Lingus – European routes 20kg from £15.50 to £35, varies by date and destination
Aer Lingus – European routes 25kg from £23 to £43, varies by date and destination
Aer Lingus – US routes 23kg Free
Air France 23kg Free for hold bag fares only
American 23kg Free
British Airways 23kg Free for hold bag fares only
Delta 23kg Free
easyJet 20kg From £13 to £24, varies by destination
Emirates 30kg Free
Etihad 30kg Free
Flybe 15kg £18.50
Flybe 20kg £19.00
Flybe 23kg £24.00
Germanwings 20kg £11.60
Jet2 22kg from £11.00 to £30.00 varies by destination
KLM 23kg Free for hold bag fares only
Lufthansa 23kg Free for hold bag fares only
Monarch 20kg from £15 to £36, varies by destination
Norwegian 20kg £7 to £50, varies by destination and flight type
Qatar 30kg Free
Ryanair  – at booking stage 15kg £15/£20 off peak £25/£35 peak, varies by destination
Ryanair  – at booking stage 20kg £25/£30 off peak £35/£45 peak, varies by destination
Ryanair – adding bags after booking 15kg £30/£40 off peak £50/£70 peak, varies by destination
Ryanair – adding bags after booking 20kg £40/£45 off peak £55/£75 peak, varies by destination
Thomas Cook – Flight only 20kg from £22 to £24
Thomson – Flight Only 20kg from £22 to £38
Turkish Airlines 20kg Free
United 23kg Free
Virgin Atlantic 23kg Free
Wizzair 23kg Approx £12-£27 low season and £20-£35 high season. Price varies by route

Top tip

Credit: credit Hero Images Inc AlamyThe last thing you want to do is get to the airport and find your bags are over your weight limit, so do check your allowance and stick to it. Otherwise, go online before you arrive for your flight and pre-book extra bags and weight for a reduced fee.

Don’t forget to max your hand luggage

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When looking at your bag costs, factor in your hand luggage allowance too. And, if you can avoid taking a checked-in bag. Then, of course, you can avoid checked-in bag charges full stop. Find out how to here.

Please note: This is an updated version of a previously-published article. All facts were correct at the time of updating.

  1. david wingate says:

    My daughter recently returned to China where she lives and works, travelling with Qatar Airways.
    She had one checked in bag of 30 kilos but she had an extra bag of 25 kilos. She was fully aware that she would be charged for this. Imagine her disgust when they charged her £800 for the extra bag. How on earth can they justify this when you can get a return economy ticket to China for less than that. It would seem that they have you at the airport and can charge whatever they please knowing t hat you have to travel.

    • Hi David

      That does seem like a lot of money.

      I had a quick check on the Qatar Airways website and they charge USD50 per kilo for a bag on a flight from the Far East to Europe at the airport and USD40 for pre-booking online. The rates are fairly clearly laid out.

      http://www.qatarairways.com/uk/en/excess-baggage-rates.page

      Do you know if your daughter checked this online before travelling?

      A great option for a second bag is to have it couriered. This can get the cost down to under £300 for a bag of that weigh with companies such as this;

      http://www.directbaggage.com/

      I have never used them so cannot endorse them and there are other companies out there who offer a similar service.

      This must have taken a huge dent out of her budget.

      Kind regards

      Bob

    • Anonymous says:

      For that price, I would have chucked the extra bag and bought all new!

  2. Heather M says:

    We flew from Edinburgh to Cologne in July, there was a sign at Edinburgh airport stating hand baggage allowance was 10kg which surprised us as we had read that it was 8kg. On our return ALL hand luggage was weighed, one of our hand luggage bags was around 9kg and we were told that it was too heavy so we had to redistribute items to comply with Germanwings rules.

    • Hi Heather

      I am a regular Germanwings (now Eurowings) flier and have never ever had my hand luggage checked.

      Their limit is 8kg, so not sure why there was a sign at Edinburgh indicating otherwise unless it was from another airline. I always double check with the airline website the day before I fly to ensure I am inside the limits. Otherwise I pre-book the bag online to save costs from airport prices.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  3. Christine Clothier says:

    Every time I fly , no matter how small my hold bag,it is always taken away at the gate, either going, returning, or both. Last time , Ipacked an overnight bag, which was a trolley bag, but half the size of other bags going through, including my husbands and it was still taken at the gate. I feel as though I have wind me up imprinted on my forehead! The reasons given are always different, from the over head lockers are now full, clearly untrue, as people behind me get through with their bags,to, it is oversized, again untrue. Easy jet is the worst culprit.

  4. Janet says:

    Hi
    I booked a holiday not through the Thomson site and the flight was a Thomson flight the luggage allowance was 5kg how can you go on holiday with just 5kg so you have no option but to purchase a hold bag 20kg. Just feel a little ripped off.

    • Hi Janet

      Thomson sell both their flights and holidays with the option of travelling hand luggage only (at no extra charge) or with a paid for hold bag. I agree that you can travel with barely anything with that kind of bag weight, however it is how they choose to work and there are other airlines on many routes which you can consider instead. Its a charge you can choose to avoid if you can travel super light, which a proportion of their passengers can do.

      We always advise to look at the total price of anything you may need for your flight before making your decision on boking.

      Kind regards

      Bob

      • I have travelled with Thomson Holidays for over 45 years and if you book a Holiday with them the hand luggage allowance is 5kg and the hold allowance is 15kg then you can choose to add extra kgs for an extra charge and I have never ever had my hand luggage weighed or had a problem with the weight allowance

  5. The cost for easyjet is not correct – i have just paid £43.50 return to Naples on Eayjet travelling this week wc 24/08/2015. This article needs correct reviews that also goes for Ryanair the cost are incorrect.

    • Hi there Cyn.

      Thanks for drawing our attention to the easyJet figure. We have re-checked with them and their highest charge one-way for baggage is now £22 one way, not £18 as our latest research had shown. The price they charge varies by route and by how busy the flights is/date of travel. We have adjusted our table accordingly.

      The Ryanair prices are correct as per their website and again are for one way travel. You can see those here;

      https://www.ryanair.com/en/fees/

      Kind regards

      Bob

  6. Gill Wilkinson says:

    I travel regular and have done for years, and then all of a sudden we are expected to pay for luggage! How on earth can you go on a weeks holiday with 10kg of luggage?? Also the liquid in hand luggage makes it impossible therefore forcing people to pay for a check in bag. It’s nothing more than day light robbery from the airlines! I pay enough for my holiday/airline ticket and don’t expect to have to pay the ‘extra’ for luggage. Also I have paid for the luggage with the low cost airlines then someone in the queue in front has had their bag taken from them & put into the hold free of charge! Disgusting!

  7. Michael Hill says:

    You can get a lot of kilos in pockets of a poachers jacket, netbooks, tablets, battery’s etc, worth thinking about, after check in, pop items in carry on if you can get them in

    • Hi Michael

      Good tip. In winter I have a jacket that can pack all sorts into the pockets. I use it for short breaks to avoid paying for hold luggage and pack heavy items into the pockets such as electrical items, books and chargers as well as my toiletries. I only actually wear it at the gate and decant everything into a second bag as soon as I get on board.

      Kind regards

      Bob

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi

      Won’t be long before they weigh your jacket too then?

  8. Benita Frayne says:

    the price for Monarch is incorrect also – I have just been charged £26 baggage for a one way to gibraltar, you need to recheck all these quotes as it is misleading.

    • Hi there Benita

      Thank you for updating us.

      Airlines are constantly reviewing charges and the information was gathered a couple of months ago now. We have updated our table to show the charges as we can see them today. Monarch seem to vary their bag charges not only by route but also by how busy the flight is, making it difficult to state how much a bag will be without completing a full search of individual dates. On flights to Gibraltar I have found charges this morning from £17.00 one way to £29.00 one way for a 20kg on the route.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  9. Douglas says:

    Regarding changing a flight with easyjet I am aware that you pay a difference in the original booking & the new booking,but to pay another £50 for a change ADMIN fee is scandalous! How are they allowed to get away with this. As the flt was a o/w change from the canaries also got stung on easyjet using their own exchange rate. They do not deserve any loyal customers. Can I do anything about the rip off or just got to accept it.
    Its no wonder passengers are taking airlines to task over big delays,airlines have to take more care in looking after people & be fairer.

    • Hi Douglas

      The terms and conditions of the flight are detailed when you make the purchase and these include the cost to make a change, along with the fare difference which will vary. This is common practice now and is in fact better than what the situation used to be before easyJet started operating. In those days airlines would not allow to change or alter any of the cheaper tickets. So if you could not fly you had to throw the ticket away and buy again.

      I know that it grates when we have to pay these charges, however we sign up to them when buying the ticket.

      Are you able to make an insurance claim for the need to change the ticket and recover the costs through that avenue at all?

      Kind regards

      Bob

  10. Maggie T says:

    You do not mention Aegean Airways – they offer one bag free certainly on the flight to Athens

    • Thanks for mentioning Maggie.

      Our list is based on some of the biggest airlines by passenger numbers from the UK, so its good to know that some of the smaller ones have great deals too on baggage.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  11. Have noticed on Ryanair flights that the last people who board usually after most have seem to have bigger cases than are allowed . Can these people just hold back and get past the people who check size of your bags after check in. At some airports also people check your bags for size and weight when booking in and fine you if to big or heavy but after they have made enough money they mive away to another booik in queue . secret seems to be to book in last if you have heavy cases

    • Hi there

      All passengers should face the same scrutiny from the airline or their handling agents. From personal experience I have found that the later I leave it to board a Ryanair flight, the higher the chance I have of my hand luggage being placed in the hold as there is already no room on board. Ryanair only guarantee the first 90 bags to go on board.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  12. David Hayes says:

    There are many comments re hold baggage prices.

    However, I am disgusted that Virgin Atlantic have now started charging £50.00 each way to pre book one’s seat.

    Being somewhat disabled I prefer to book a forward seat for easier access and exit.

    Even Thomas Cook only charge £20.00 each way.

    • Hi David

      It does feel wrong that we are now charged for these things, however it is a highly competitive cut throat industry and airlines are now charging generally.

      If you have particular needs due to an ability issue you should contact their customer services when booking to see what they can offer you as a general service without any fees. All airlines have differing policies, however it is always worth a try.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  13. Michael Quick says:

    Air China 23Kg allowance no problem

  14. Ian Hughes says:

    There are other costs associated with flown luggage; if an airline loses your bag, it costs them an average of £100 to find and deliver it to wherever you now are. Carry-on luggage avoids that possibility.

    On the other hand, flights are frequently delayed thru’ slow boarding caused by passengers not being able to stow their bag quickly in the overhead locker. Delays are averaged at £400 per minute, so it doesn’t take much to wipe out the savings from making passengers carry their own bag on board.

  15. Michael says:

    You don’t mention TAP who allow 23 kg on European flights (to Madeira, anyway) as well as 8 kg hand baggage as free.

  16. Anonymous says:

    You all seem to be missing the point. …don’t take loads of stuff! Pack what you need for 2 days , then buy the rest on site. I am speaking about Euro flights in general but if your going third world, why not buy there and leave it for someone to benefit!

  17. Steven Cohen says:

    Why is ElAl not listed ? The baggage allowance with ElAl with no extra charge is 23kg, the same as your top airline claim. You list all other middle eastern airlines so there has to be a reason why you’ve omitted Israel’s national carrier

    • Hi Steven

      We don’t have room to lost all airlines, so we picked the ones with some of the largest numbers of passengers departing from the UK. Unfortunately El Al does not make the cut on that basis having only around four flights a day from the UK. Great to see that they also have a generous 23kg allowance too.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  18. Its so true that nothing in Life is free, a very useful article though on luggage

  19. Linda Davies says:

    I travel regularly with KLM, Kenya Airways and am allowed 2 pieces of 23kg + 10kg hand luggage.

  20. Bernardo Perillo says:

    SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) offers 1 checked bag (23 Kg) free of charge (additional to the cabin bag), and, is a lot cheaper than the so-called low cost airlines (this February half term paid per person £120 return ticket to Geneva from Manchester, while Easyjet is £250 and no hold bag included, which is about £20 more per segment).

    • Michael says:

      As above again I agree, sometimes the “mainstream” airlines undercut “budget” ones especially if you cost in all aspects especially hassle-free travel.

    • Good shout Bernardo.

      Shows that shopping around pays off.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  21. ALAN CLARK says:

    CAN I TAKE A DISPOSABLE RAZER IN MY 10KG HAND LUGAGE

  22. Barbara says:

    I booked last December with Expedia to spend 4 days with my husband & sister & hubby for a special birthday surprise in Berlin where my brother lives. I checked our luggage allowance when reserving wide legroom seats in January and on the BA website, it said we had 23kgs. We packed 4 suitcases accordingly. My shock was when checking in on-line 24 hours before flying to find out that we had a Hand luggage only ticket and this was only revealed as I printed out our boarding passes. At no time had Expedia warned us they had only booked us such a ticket. I have discovered that BA do have a generous allowance but ONLY if you book directly with them and choose a price to include hold luggage. As we live on an Island, to avoid traffic problems or inclement weather, we were just about to leave home to catch a ferry to stay in a hotel overnight at Heathrow. On the way we called in to the airport to enquire as to our choices and because we managed to locate 2 small hand luggage cases just before leaving home, managed to change cases to have to take only 2 large hold cases instead & 3 allowed small hand ones. It cost us £240 – at the airport the next morning it would have cost us £520!!
    Expedia have compensated us after I made a huge fuss on our return (we also didn’t get our wide legroom seats but that’s another story!) but only to the tune of £75 per couple, a shortfall of 50% of the total extra we had to pay. It was a bitter pill to swallow and a lesson learnt with luggage allowances!

    • The thing that annoys me most is watching big burly guys, who weigh at least twice as much as I do, go through with their fully stuffed hand luggage, whereas I am scowled at for carrying a small extra handbag. (recent Easyjet flight)

      If it’s all about weight, as this article claims, maybe they should start taking passengers’ weight into account as well.

    • Hi Barbara

      Sorry to learn you got caught out there. However its a real lesson for everybody.

      Kind regards

      Bob

  23. I don’t agree the biggest drop in fuel prices in decades and NO change in flight costs despite this fact, and every year they look to add more and more “extras” and reduce loads through baggage. However when they increase baggage charges fuel costs are Always sited

  24. check the fine print before booking
    Ignorance is not an excuse
    found out the rules and exploit them
    don’t let the airlines exploit you

  25. Darren parker says:

    Thought I would add details of a couple of good airlines for baggage, one of which has a huge allowance.
    Garuda is 30 kg
    AVIANCA is a huge 46kg as they allow you 2x23kg cases.

  26. Anthony says:

    I understand some airlines offer double luggage allowance for one-way flights. Is this correct? If so, are there any terms you should know?

    • Hi Anthony

      Some airlines will offer additional luggage allowance on specific fares. These fares are for people who are emigrating, traveling on maritime fares to join ships they are working on and some other specific types of fares. Normal one way fares do not carry any other form of additional free baggage. You would need to talk to the individual airlines about these or through a specialist travel agency. You should way up the cost of one of these fares alongside a standard cheapest fare and paying the additional luggage charges.

      You could also consider some of the luggage transfer services that have started up in recent years of parcel services such as DHL. An example of one is here;

      http://www.directbaggage.com/

      Where are you planning to travel to and under what circumstances?

      Kind regards

      Bob

  27. victor says:

    Hi Bob,
    I’ll be traveling from Bangkok to Geneva (or Amsterdam depending on the deal).
    I’ll have 3 luggages all around 23kg.
    What would be your suggestion the keep the price reasonable!?
    I’ll fly economy of course..
    Thanks a lot.
    Victor

    • Hi Victor,

      Your issue here will be around excess baggage as most airlines will only allow you one piece of checked luggage with a weight of 20-30kg.

      The Middle Eastern carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – all allow one piece up to 30kg. Additional bags/weight are treated as excess.

      For example, Qatar Airways will charge 40 US dollars per kilo over your 30kg limit on a flight from the Far East to Europe – you can see that here: http://www.qatarairways.com/us/en/excess-baggage-rates.page

      Therefore, your bill for the excess bag/s could be more than $1,500. My advice would be to maximise your 1 piece of luggage plus your hand luggage and send the rest by a parcel service, such as DHL. Google these in Thailand to find the cheapest way of doing it, but it should be cheaper than paying the airline.

      Additionally, compare online the cheapest business class fares. Again, Middle Eastern airlines have some of the best rates and they also have enhanced luggage limits as well as extra hand luggage. This may then be cheaper than an excess bag in economy or a parcel service, and will result in a nicer flight for you.

      Thanks,
      Tom

  28. Eduardo says:

    Why would not include TAP airlines??? They offer 1 piece 23kg in europe and 2pcs of 32kg each international destinations apart from probably being the most comfortable airline ..

  29. Huseyin K. says:

    I was wondering why Turkish Airlines is not on the list? As far as I know Turkish has the best deal!

    http://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/travel-information/baggage/free-baggage-allowance

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