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Baggage allowance, weights and costs explained

We’re ready to pack our bags and get away in 2022.  But we might be a little out of practice, particularly with packing. And unfortunately, going over your luggage allowance could lead to a hefty baggage charge. Every airline has a different baggage allowance too, which complicates things further. Here’s what you need to know about baggage allowance, and some tips so you don’t go over your baggage weight. We’ll also look at what baggage is covered on your travel insurance.

Suitcases with plane behind


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What is baggage allowance?

Baggage allowance is the amount of baggage you’re allowed to take on the plane with you.

This is split into two types: hand luggage and hold luggage.

You keep hand luggage with you on the plane. It’s usually two small bags.

The first piece you stow away in the overhead compartment. Airlines usually specify dimensions for this type of luggage, and you must be able to lift it yourself.

The second piece of hand luggage must be small enough to fit under the seat in front - this could be a small hand bag or rucksack. It’s also called ‘carry-on’ luggage or cabin baggage.

Hold luggage is usually your biggest bag and goes in the plane’s hold - it’s also sometimes called ‘checked’ luggage.

You might get up to a certain weight free -this is usually around 23kg per passenger- but it varies between airlines.

On some airlines you can buy extra luggage weight if you think you’re going to go over the limit.


Baggage allowance by airline


Hold luggage

Hand luggage 

Can you pay for extra baggage?


10kg checked-in bag (55x40x20cm).

2 cabin bags:

  • A personal bag (40x20x25cm)

  • A 10kg wheelie bag (55x40x20cm)

You can buy up to 20kg hold luggage.


23kg checked-in bag. Maximum total size must be under 275cm.

1 cabin bag:

  • You must be able to lift it yourself. Dimensions must be 45 x 36 x 20cm (including any handles or wheels).

If you’ve booked extra leg room or more baggage, you can take on:

  • One large cabin bag with dimensions 56 x 45 x 25 cm including any handles or wheels. You must be able to lift this yourself.

  • You can buy up to a maximum of 32kg hold luggage.

British Airways

23kg checked-in bag.

(90 x 75 x 43cm)

2 cabin bags:

  • A small handbag up to 23kg (40 x 30 x 15cm)

  • A cabin bag up to 23kg (56 x 45 x 25)



23kg checked-in bag.

2 cabin bags:

  • A small bag which you must be able to fit under your seat

  • A cabin bag up to 10 kg weight (56cm x 45cm x 25cm)

Virgin Atlantic

23kg checked-in bag.

(90 x 75 x 43cm)

1 cabin bag:

  • A cabin bag up to 10kg weight.

Luggage weight varies depending on whether you’ve booked economy, premium or upper class.


What happens if my luggage is overweight?

For hold luggage, most airlines set a weight limit for single items of luggage. Usually this is 23kg.

If your hold luggage is over and you haven’t paid for extra, you might be charged. For example, Jet2.com charges £12 per extra kilogram.

Some airlines could refuse to carry oversized hand luggage.

Ryanair refuses any luggage in the cabin that’s over the allotted weight - charging a fee of £69.99 to store it in the hold in some cases.

With hand luggage, if it’s over the size limit or weight the airline might charge you to store it in the hold. 


Tips for not going over your luggage weight

  • Always read the small print of your booking information – this should give you exact information on weights and dimensions for luggage.
  • Book extra baggage allowance before you get to the airport – if you think you’re going to go over your baggage allowance it’s worth booking extra. It’s likely to be cheaper than risking it and being charged.
  • Buy an extra seat – some airlines, like Ryanair, let you buy an extra seat for items that don’t fit in with the luggage dimensions. For example, musical instruments.
  • Buy a luggage weight checker – you can get these relatively cheaply on Amazon
Check prices for luggage weight scales on Amazon



Are infants allowed luggage?

This varies depending on the airline and the type of ticket you get for your infant. 

You could get them a discounted ticket which means they sit on your lap throughout the flight. Or, if this doesn’t sound appealing you could pay full fare for them to have their own seat.

If your toddler is sharing your seat, they might have a smaller allowance, or in some cases no allowance at all.

Ryanair for example doesn’t allow hand luggage for infants who travel on their parent’s lap or in their own seat.

They may allow a 5kg baby bag (dimensions: 45x35x20cm) which you can add to your cabin baggage allowance.

If you’ve bought your child their own seat, they should have the same allowance as adults. But it’s always worth checking the small print on your booking.

Some airlines might let you take a pushchair and one other item, like a booster seat or travel cot. Sometimes this is free of charge but it’s always worth double checking.

If you take out a family travel insurance policy, your infant's baggage should be covered if their luggage gets lost, stolen or damaged. 


What can you take in hand luggage?

You can usually pack liquids in your hold bag. If you need to take liquids in your hand luggage, they mustn’t be more than 100ml. You’ll also need to make sure that they’re in a clear plastic bag. The bag must:

  • Not hold more than one litre of liquid

  • Seal, not tie – it must be able to fully seal with the liquids stored in it

  • Measure approximately 20 x 20 cm

Liquids include:

  • all drinks, including water

  • Soups, jams, honey and syrups

  • Creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss

  • Shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants

  • Toothpaste

  • Hair and shower gel

  • Contact lens solution

  • Any other solutions and items with similar consistency

You can find the full list on GOV.UK.

Remember that you’re limited to one plastic bag per person, and you must show the bag to security.

You should be able to take liquids with you on the plane if you’ve bought them at the airport. For example, in duty free. You must keep a receipt for these and keep them sealed in the airport’s security bag.

You’re allowed to take some liquids in your hand luggage if they’re:

  • For essential medical reasons

  • For special dietary requirements

  • Baby food or baby milk


Is my baggage covered under my travel insurance?

Travel insurance policies cover baggage as standard. So, if your baggage is lost, stolen or damaged by accident you’ll be able to claim for it on your travel insurance.

One less thing to worry about while you’re frantically weighing your bag before check-in.

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You could claim from the airline if your cabin baggage is damaged and it was the airline’s fault. The airline might cover basic costs, for example:

  • Bare essentials, like toiletries and underwear
  • Some of the cost of replacing your luggage

Although you can claim from the airline, you might not be able to claim for as much as you could on a travel insurance policy.

For example, if you claim from the airline they might pay up to £1,000 to cover the costs of your baggage. With a travel insurance policy you might be able to claim between £1,500 and £2,000. 

Make sure you check the small print on your travel insurance policy. Some insurers might impose single item value limits - for example between £200 and £300. 

Others might charge an excess. This is an amount you pay when you claim on your travel insurance policy. This can be up to £80, sometimes more. 

But the main upside of travel insurance is that it’s often easier to claim for your luggage than it would be if you claimed through an airline.

You might also be covered for more circumstances - for example if your luggage was stolen. 

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