Hand luggage allowances differ from airline to airline, check before you travel to avoid excess baggage fees.

What are baggage allowances and how to prevent excess charges

Baggage is the worst thing about air travel. It’s hard to pack, heavy to carry and you almost always don’t have room for everything you want to bring back with you. To make things worse, it’s all too easy to get stung by an unexpected fee for a bag that’s an inch too big for your hand luggage, or a suitcase that’s a few grams too heavy for the hold. Avoid any nasty surprises at the airport by knowing your hold luggage restrictions, checking your baggage allowance, and remembering to pre-book any excess charges to make sure you always pay the lowest fees.

Hold luggage

Pretty much everything you own can be flown in the hold of a plane (including pets, bikes, musical instruments and coffins), but each airline has a strict set of restrictions and hold luggage allowances that can end up costing you a lot of money if you ignore them. Within reason, most airlines will let you check as many heavy bags as you like into the hold, but they will usually charge you an excess fee for doing so – which are always much more at the airport than they are online. If you’re planning on flying with a lot of hold luggage, make sure you pre-book your extra bags before you leave home. Most airlines let you do this when you book your ticket, and they often give you a second chance when you check-in online.

If you’re flying with anything valuable in the hold, make sure it’s covered by your travel insurance policy. Unusual extras and expensive items (including golf clubs, skis and business equipment will sometimes be listed as an optional extra, so it’s worth checking your policy schedule carefully before you pack.

Avoiding the baggage allowance charges

If you want to make sure you don’t pay any extra for your hold baggage, you need to follow the rules carefully. When you get to the airport, your checked bags will all be weighed (and sometimes measured) to make sure they’re within the limits set out in the airline’s hold luggage restrictions. Simply put, if you don’t want to pay for any extra baggage, don't bring any with you. Weigh your packed bags at home before you leave and make sure they’re not over the limit.

You can weigh a packed suitcase easily enough by buying a set of luggage scales (less than £5 online, and often available at airport shops), but don’t make the mistake of filling your suitcases right up to the weight limit. If you’re planning on bringing any gifts or souvenirs back from your trip you need to make sure you’ll be able to pack them without paying for exceeding the checked bag limit. A cheap bottle of Spanish wine can get very expensive if you end up having to pay extra to fly it home.

Remember your hand luggage limits when buying duty free

Knowing your checked bag limits

Each airline will have a different set of allowances and restrictions for hold luggage, which will usually vary from route to route. These rules can change at the last minute too, so it’s always worth double-checking the airline website before you leave. Based on economy fares, the following rates and luggage restrictions apply to the following airlines (as of January 2018):

Aer Lingus

  • No free allowance
  • €5-€85 per extra bag
  • No size restriction
  • Extra bags priced by weight (15kg, 20kg, 25kg or 40kg across 2 bags)


Air France

  • 1 free bag included for some routes
  • £22-£89 per extra bag
  • 158cm total per bag (length + width + height)
  • 23kg per bag


British Airways

  • 1-2 bags free (depending on route and fare)
  • £36-£140 per extra bag
  • 90 x 75 x 43cm per bag
  • 23-32kg per bag (depending on route)



  • No free allowance
  • $60-$100 per extra bag
  • 157cm total per bag (length + width + height)
  • All bags priced by weight (23kg and 32kg)



  • No free allowance
  • £8.99-£47 per bag (plus an extra £12 for each kg over 23kg)
  • 275cm total per bag (length + width + height)
  • All bags priced by weight (15kg and 23kg)



  • 1-2 bags free (depending on the route)
  • £63-£315 for extra bags, charged per kg at the airport
  • 300cm total per bag (length + width + height)
  • 20-32kg per bag (depending on route)



  • No free allowance
  • £19-£48 per bag
  • No size restriction
  • All bags priced by weight (15kg, 23kg and 46kg)



  • No free allowance
  • £10-£45 per bag (plus an extra £12 for each kg over 23kg)
  • No size restriction
  • 22kg per bag



  • 1 free bag (only on intercontinental routes)
  • €25-40 per extra bag up to 23kg, €110 for bags between 23kg-32kg
  • 158cm total (length + width + height)
  • 23kg per bag



  • 1 free bag (only on intercontinental routes)
  • €25-€55 per extra bag up to 23kg, €50-€150 for baggage 23kg-32kg
  • 158cm total (length + width + height)
  • 23kg per bag



  • No free allowance
  • £7-£80 per bag (depending on the route and the season) 250 x 79 x 112cm, with a maximum circumference of 300cm.
  • 20kg per bag



  • No free allowance
  • £25-£40 per bag up to 20kg, plus £10 per kg for baggage 20kg-32kg (and an additional £10 per bag for flights during peak travel seasons)
  • 81cm x 119cm x 119cm
  • 15kg-20kg


Thomas Cook Airlines

  • 1-2 free bags (depending on the route)
  • £23-£85 per extra bag (or £10-£16 per kg at airport)
  • 158cm total (length + width + height)
  • 20kg (charges apply in increments of 5kg above 20kg)


Virgin Atlantic

  • 1 free bag
  • £65 for a second bag (or an overweight bag), £140 per each additional bag, and £40 for each oversized bag.
  • 90 x 75 x 43cm
  • 23kg per bag

Take out a travel policy with Post Office.