Hand luggage allowances have shrunk – these are the stingiest airlines in the sky

The best airlines for hand luggage policies 2024
Many popular airlines have introduced minimalist rules that penalise even the lightest of travellers - izusek

Enticingly affordable flight tickets often hide an uncomfortable truth: bringing nothing more than the most humble of rucksacks on board might incur an extra fee, not included in that initially promising fare.

The increasing complexity of cheap tickets has now extended to the contents of the overhead bins – and popular budget carriers, like Ryanair and EasyJet, have introduced positively minimalist rules that penalise even the lightest of travellers.

Some might long for the glory days of being able to bring on their favourite suitcase without balancing it on the bathroom scales first; others just long for standardised measurements, which aren’t currently in place across airlines.

With the risk of higher fees at the boarding gate and items being shoved in the hold, it pays to check the requirements for a specific carrier before flying. Read on to find out the rules for BA, Ryanair, Virgin and other carriers. Of course, regardless of your bag size, remember to take out those lingering liquids and gels before boarding.

British Airways

BA, while mimicking low-cost carriers in many respects, still has one of the most generous baggage allowances, and they often text passengers before busy flights offering to check luggage into the hold for free.

Hand baggage can weigh up to 23kg, and have a maximum length of 56cm, a width of 45cm and a depth of 25cm (22 x 18 x 10 inches). This has to include wheels, handles, side pockets and any other appendages, so make sure the whole bag is in accordance with these dimensions. If it’s larger or heavier, there’s the risk that it will have to be checked into the hold.

You can take an additional, smaller item on board too, like a laptop bag or a handbag. This can have a maximum size of 40 x 30 x 15cm (16 x 12 x 6in).

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin has a slightly smaller cabin bag allowance than BA. Hand luggage must be 56 x 36 x 23cm (22 x 19 x 14 inches) in size and weigh up to 10kg; those in Economy and Premium Economy can bring one item, while travellers in Upper Class can bring two as long as their combined weight doesn’t exceed 16kg. Travellers must be able to put it in the overhead bin unaided.

Small handbags or rucksacks can also be brought on as long as they don’t contain items that could be fairly categorised as ‘baggage’. Laptops need to fit into the hand luggage.


Both Economy and Premium Economy travellers can bring on bags that don’t exceed 55 x 38 x 20 cm (21 x 15 x 7 inches) in size, although economy passengers only get a paltry 7kg compared to Premium Economy’s 10kg.

In Business and First Class, travellers can take on a 7kg carry-on bag plus a briefcase, handbag or garment bag of the same weight. The briefcase may not exceed 45 x 35 x 20 cm (17 x 13 x 7 inches); the handbag may not exceed 55 x 38 x 20 cm (21 x 15 x 7 inches); the garment bag can be no more than 20 cm (7 inches) thick when folded.

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EasyJet’s standard cabin bag allowance is 45 x 36 x 20 cm (17 x 14 x 7 inches), with a maximum weight of 15kg. Perhaps as importantly, the bag must fit under the seat in front.

That is, unless customers have easyJet Plus membership or pay more to add a large cabin bag to their booking. In those circumstances, travellers can also bring on board a slightly bigger bag – 56 x 45 x 25 cm (22 x 17 x 10 inches) – as long as you can fit it in the overhead bin.


Ryanair also has a slightly complicated policy. The standard airfare – those incredibly cheap rates you see advertised – includes a small personal bag of around 40 x 25 x 20cm (15 x 10 x 7 inches), which must fit under the seat in front.

If you’d like a larger allowance, book ‘Priority Plus’ tickets, which allow you to join the (often longer) ‘priority’ queue and, crucially, allow a 10kg bag with dimensions of 55 x 40 x 20cm (21 x 15 x 9 inches).


Things are slightly more simple at Jet2. There’s a 10kg allowance, and the bag shouldn’t exceed 56 x 45 x 25cm (22 x 17 x 10 inches). A small, personal item (like a laptop bag or handbag) can also be brought onto the plane as long as it fits under the seat in front.


Flybe allows a 7kg bag, with 45 x 36 x 20cm (17 x 14 x 7 inches) dimensions, plus a small bag under the seat in front.

Aer Lingus

Not all Aer Lingus flights automatically include carry-on luggage, although you can add it for €9.99 (£9.99) if not. Regardless, bags must have a maximum weight of 10kg, and be 55 x 40 x 24cm (21 x 15 x 9 inches) in size. You can also take a small handbag or laptop bag on board.

This doesn’t apply, however, for regional Irish flights – in those circumstances, the heaviest a bag can be is 7kg.

Qatar Airways

First and Business Class travellers can take two pieces of luggage on board, as long as the total weight doesn’t exceed 15kg and the maximum dimensions of 50 x 37 x 25cm (19 x 14 x 10 inches) per bag. Economy customers are allowed a bag that weighs less than 7kg.

Laptops need to fit within the hand luggage allowance, but items like a handbag, small briefcase or an infant’s carrying basket are permissible as additional items.

Tui Airways

Passengers are entitled to one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 10kg, with the maximum dimensions of 55 x 40 x 20cm (21 x 15 x 9 inches). A Trunki case can be brought on board as hand luggage as long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum weight.

Package holidays booked with Tui include at least 15kg of checked hold luggage (for some holidays, this is increased to 20kg). Flight-only passengers have the option of paying for checked luggage.

Find more advice in our investigation into the best (and worst) budget airlines in the UK.

This story was first published in June 2023 and has been revised and updated.