Packing guides

Hand luggage size guide: Which airlines have the best allowance?

Photo of Steph MarinkovicPhoto of Steph Marinkovic
By Steph Marinkovic

24 May 20244 min read

Short-haul holiday? Ditch the checked baggage, avoid the bag-drop queues and embrace the art of travelling with light!

Holidaying with hand luggage only can be easier than you think, especially if you choose a carrier with a generous free allowance.

Before you book, it’s important to know your airline’s hand luggage size and weight restriction as they can vary – and going over them, even slightly, can result in a hefty fine. Even if you've travelled recently, it’s important to double check as they’re known to change.

Our comprehensive guide breaks down maximum hand luggage sizes and weights for popular airlines and reveals where you’ll get the most generous allowance.

Hand luggage sizes for popular airlines

AirlineFree allowanceMax. hand luggage sizeMax. weight
Aer Lingus – European routesOne personal item33x25x20cmN/A
Aer Lingus – Transatlantic routesOne cabin bag, plus one personal item55x40x24cm10kg
British AirwaysOne cabin bag, plus one personal item no larger than 40x30x15cm56x45x25cm23kg
easyJetOne underseat cabin bag45x36x20cm15kg
EurowingsOne cabin bag40x30x25cmN/A
Jet2One cabin bag, plus one personal item56x45x25cm10kg
LufthansaOne cabin bag, plus one personal item no larger than 40x30x10cm55x40x23cm8kg
Norwegian AirOne underseat cabin bag38x30x20cm10kg
RyanairOne underseat cabin bag40x20x25cmN/A
TUI AirwaysOne cabin bag, plus one personal item55x40x20cm10kg
Turkish AirlinesOne cabin bag, plus one personal item no larger than 40x30x15cm55x40x23cm8kg
Virgin AtlanticOne cabin bag, plus one personal item56x36x23cm10kg
VuelingOne underseat cabin bag40x20x30cmN/A
Wizz AirOne underseat cabin bag40x30x20cm10kg

* The allowances above are generally for passengers travelling on the lowest fare types – higher fare types and frequent flyers may be granted higher allowances. Please consult your airline for further details.

Which airline has the free best hand luggage allowance?

British Airways has one of the most generous hand luggage allowances on its basic fare, with one 23kg cabin bag sized 56x45x25cm and one personal bag up to 40x30x15cm included.

Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic’s basic fares are also generous – both allow one carry-on bag weighing up to 10kg, plus a small personal item that must be able to fit under the seat in front of you.

To get the best value for your money, it’s worth totting up the cost of adding hand luggage to a ticket with a low-cost carrier such as Ryanair. It still may work out cheaper!

What about paid-for hand luggage?

Many airlines offer the option to pay for an extra cabin bag if the free allowance isn’t enough. Often, they are bundled together with added perks like priority boarding or extra legroom seats. Prices can start from as little as £6 per way (such as with Ryanair and easyJet) but can be up to as much as £50.

A top tip: you can save money on your paid-for hand luggage by skipping the priority boarding bundles offered early in the booking process and adding just the bag in the later stages.

What is a personal item?

Some airlines allow you to take a ‘personal item’ as well as your hand luggage on board. This usually means a backpack, handbag or laptop bag.

Jet2, British Airways, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic welcome you to take both on their economy fares, as do certain Aer Lingus routes and fares.

Is hand luggage weighed?

Hand luggage is generally measured by its size rather than its weight, but be prepared to have yours checked if your bag looks bigger than the allowance.

What happens if you exceed the hand luggage limit?

If your hand luggage is over the limit, you may need to place it in hold and will almost certainly be charged an excess baggage fee. To avoid this, always pre-book an extra bag online rather than risk being charged at the gate, which will cost you more.

Make sure you know the hand luggage restrictions for the airline or airlines you’re travelling with, especially if you are connecting from one to another or if you are returning on a different carrier. These can vary and will affect bag size, number of bags allowed and whether there is any weight limit.

In general, choose a soft bag for carry-on luggage if you can – it will be easier to cram into overhead bins and is likely to be lighter, giving you more weight for your items.

Can you combine your hand luggage allowance?

Most airlines will not allow you to pool your hand luggage allowance across a party of people, so ensure that each bag is not over the limits where a weight limit applies.

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