Baggage allowance: An essential guide

Even if you aren’t new to traveling by plane, every time you’re packing for a trip, you stop and wonder exactly what you can bring with you. Can you take two carry-on bags or just one? Exactly how big and heavy can your suitcase be? Can you stuff everything you’ll need in there?

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Baggage allowance: What is it and why does it matter?

First, what does this term mean? It’s also known as baggage policy and it’s simple - that’s the baggage restriction per air passenger. In other words, what type and amount of bags and items you can bring on the plane.

Each airline has its own rules regarding this. You can easily get distracted while packing for your next flight, thinking about the last one you took (with a different airline), and get unpleasantly surprised at the airport when you suddenly have to pay extra charges. 

Remember: restrictions on size, weight and amount of pieces for both checked luggage and hand luggage differ between airlines!

These restrictions also depend on several other things:

  • Ticket category (type of fare / cabin class - the most common one is economy class, which brings the least benefits when it comes to baggage allowance)
  • Passenger status (for example, frequent flyer member)
  • Origin and destination of the flight
  • Total pieces
  • Suitcase measurements (weight and dimensions of luggage)

Note: There is a great variety of cabin classes, among which: business class, economy plus, premium economy, economy classic, economy flex, comfort plus, flexi, economy light, etc. Be careful when choosing because each comes with different baggage allowance.

If you don’t want to pay extra, you should make a habit of checking your airline’s baggage policy before each flight, as it can change with time too (and I’m not talking about their policy now allowing bigger bags; on the contrary).

What do you need to know about baggage allowance?

  1. Checked and carry-on luggage each have their own policy. You might be able to upgrade them for an additional fee when buying your ticket or later.
  2. Airlines define policies based on a piece concept or a weight concept. As the names suggest, they set a total weight limit to your baggage, as well as the number of pieces of luggage per person. 
  3. Size restrictions usually apply to carry-on luggage because it needs to fit into the overhead lockers or beneath the seat in front of you. If your carry-on piece exceeds the size restrictions, it will be put together with the checked bags and you will need to pay an extra fee.
  4. Weight restrictions apply both to your checked in baggage and carry-on one. The first is weighed upon check-in, while the latter may be weighed just before boarding.
  5. There is a specific oversized luggage policy for oversized luggage such as musical instruments and sports equipment.

How to find what an airline’s baggage allowance is?

Each airline should have its baggage policy clearly stated on their website.

However, allowances can vary, depending on the flight. You will see what yours is during the booking process, and you will be offered different upgrade options to choose from.

Important questions

Can you change your baggage allowance?

Many airlines provide you with upgrade options before the flight. The period of time in which this upgrade is possible varies between airlines.

If you need to upgrade your allowance, it’s best to do it when booking the flight or later, in the given period of time to do so. Otherwise, you will incur additional charges at the airport.

Can you combine luggage if traveling in a group?

No. Even if you’re traveling with several people who are under the weight restriction, you still cannot exceed your personal allowance.

On the other hand, you can ask your partner in advance to put a piece of clothing or a book in their hand or cabin baggage when they haven’t reached their allowance but you have.

Are there any standard baggage allowances?

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) has published some recommended baggage policies, as follows:

Carry-on baggage: maximum length of 22 in (56 cm), width of 18 in (45 cm) and depth of 10 in (25 cm). Some airlines set weight limitations too, typically starting at 5kg/11lbs.

The dimensions include the wheels, handles, side pockets, etc. of your cabin bag.

Checked baggage: Each bag should weigh less than 23KG/50LBS.

However, these are only guidelines and do not apply to all airlines. There are no uniform baggage rules. That’s why it is essential to always check the specific policies of each airline in advance. You might also find your baggage allowance on your boarding pass.

Additional information

Here are some useful articles for you to read if you’re wondering…

Check My Flight

To sum up

Every air traveller needs to be aware that there are certain baggage allowances, which can greatly differ between airlines.

For example, when flying with British Airways, you are allowed 2 pieces of cabin bags, while Ryanair allows only one (and much smaller) if you’re non-priority.

Don’t forget to check in advance what your allowance is because you might end up paying for excess baggage at the airport. Not only will this make your trip more stressful, it will be quite costly. But now that you’ve read this article, you’ll be better prepared.

Stay safe!