Which airline has the best checked-in luggage allowance?

October 14, 2019

(Updated September 6, 2020)

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

And it's working – more travellers are cutting the cost of flights by packing lightly, especially on shorter breaks. But for longer trips or if you prefer to bring a few home comforts on your holiday, it’s wise to weigh up your baggage options with various airlines when choosing your flight.

Our top hold luggage tips will help make sense of it all.

Do airlines still offer free hold luggage?

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 hold luggage should you need it.

So don’t think of it as a free bag, just that your fare includes that option built in.

Which airlines still have a free allowance?

Often, it’s the carriers offering long-haul flights or connections from the UK who will usually allow you to check in one bag for free as part of your deal, although this varies from airline to airline. For example, Norwegian does not provide free checked luggage on its Gatwick routes to the USA.

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 may 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.

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 30kg allowance with their Flex ticket, Qatar offers 30kg in one bag on many flights and Etihad generally offers 23kg in one bag on economy fares.

Next are the big worldwide long-haul carriers. British Airways' baggage allowance, for example, generally allows at least one 23kg bag on most fairs. Other big carriers including Virgin Atlantic, United, Air France and KLM also offer this as part of their standard economic fares (this is dependent on the route so always check the small print).

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

Norwegian and easyJet offer good value hold luggage rates, with one-way, pre-booked prices starting at £13 and £6.99 respectively.

Most airlines offer a range of weight options, generally between 10kg and 30kg so consider the allowance and cost together to give you a per-kilo rate. Keep in mind that many of these low-cost carriers do not have a flat luggage rate, varying it by route and charging it each way to boot.

Please note: Prices for online bookings. Some costs may be converted from euros and were accurate at time of last update (September 2020).


Standard economy allowance - one piece

Cost of one bag pre-booked, one way

Aer Lingus – European routes




40kg in two bags

From £24 to £49, varies by date and destination

From £28 to £53, varies by date and destination

From £60 to £75, varies by date and destination

Aer Lingus – US routes


Free with Smart and Flex fares

Air France


Free for most fares (excluding Economy Light tickets)

American Airlines


Free for most transatlantic flights (£57 for Transatlantic Basic Economy tickets)

British Airways


Free for hold bag fares only



Free on most transatlantic routes


15kg or 23kg

From £6.99 to £37.49, varies by destination


20kg - 35kg, depending on fare type




Free (dependent on fare)



From £13



from £8 to £45, varies by destination



Free for most fares (excluding Economy Light tickets)



Free for most fares (excluding Economy Light tickets)



Free for LowFare+ and higher tickets.
Between £13 and £50 on direct flights.








£10-£17.50 online, £10-£25 at airport


£25-£35 per item for each one-way flights (online), £40-£50 per item for each one-way flight (airport)

TUI – Flight Only

20kg or 25kg

From £22, varies by route

Turkish Airlines

Minimum 20kg but varies by route





Virgin Atlantic


Free on Economy Classic and Delight fares



Between £8 and £79 in the low season, and £12 and £97 during high season. Price varies by route


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. 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?

Top tip

The 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.

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.

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