Hand Luggage and Hold Baggage

Information on luggage allowances, managing excess baggage and the requirements relating to carry on bags.

What does it mean?

Hand luggage is the luggage that you can take with you on the aircraft and store in the overhead compartment when on the plane. There are some restrictions as to how much and what you can carry.

Hold luggage is the luggage that will be checked and placed in the hold of the aircraft. This luggage will be taken from you when you present yourself at the check in desk or the bag drop area if you checked in online.

What should I be aware of?

Your luggage allowance may be an important factor when you decide which airline to travel with. Your allowance will vary depending on where you are travelling to, the airline you are travelling with and the class you are travelling in. 

Your air fare may not include hold luggage, and the luggage cost will not be shown in the price that you see initially when you’re booking.  Where you have to pay for a luggage allowance, it will be offered as an add-on when you make your booking.   The cost may be per sector rather than for a return flight. Check this section carefully and make sure you take the costs of the add-ons into account when comparing with other flights, as some airlines offer a luggage allowance in the airfare, so the price that initially seems the cheapest might not be.  Make sure you check that the airline does not automatically opt you in for paying for hold luggage allowance if you don’t want it. 

If you choose to take hold luggage make sure you check what your allowance is. Allowances vary across airlines and destinations. If you are travelling to Tenerife, your allowance could be 15 kilograms. However, if you are travelling to Florida with the same airline, it could be 23 kilograms.

Travelling in a group, with children or with a mobility aid?

If you are travelling in a group, you may be able to pool your allowance across a few suitcases, but do check with your airline if this is possible. When travelling with children they may also have an allowance, but it may be less than the adult allowance.

If you are travelling with a mobility aid, such as a wheel chair, this should be carried free of charge and is in addition to your luggage allowance – check with the airline what the procedures are for your mobility aid. It is important to notify your airline of your mobility needs at least 48 hours prior to departure. See our Special Assistance section for more information.

If you have a battery-powered wheelchair or mobility aid which you wish to take on the aircraft, you need to contact your airline to let them know. This is because battery-powered devices can be a fire risk on board aircraft, and the device will need to be electrically disabled before the flight takes off. Further information about your baggage allowance can also be obtained directly from your airline or travel company.

Hand luggage

In addition to the baggage being carried in the aircraft hold, airlines usually allow you to take a small amount of hand baggage into the aircraft so that you can place it in the overhead compartment. For security reasons there are restrictions on what you are allowed to carry in your hand baggage.

Exits and aisles of the aircraft must be kept clear, so airlines will only allow you to take on board items that can be adequately and securely stowed. These areas are usually the overhead luggage bins and beneath the seat in front of you. The amount and sizes of hand luggage you can take varies according to the airline and aircraft type. Make sure you check your allowance in advance with the airline, as some airlines will require you to check in bags that are too large to be hand luggage and many will charge you to do this.

How much can I take as hand luggage?

This will vary and depends on the airline you are travelling with. With some airlines the question may not be how much you can carry, but the size of your luggage. Be aware of the dimensions that are acceptable for your bag or suitcase when travelling with hand luggage.

In some instances, passengers may not be allowed to carry a handbag in addition to hand luggage, and therefore some airlines will require handbags and airport purchases to be placed in your one allowed piece of hand luggage.

If your hand luggage is too big or too heavy for you to take onto the aircraft, you may be required to have it placed in the hold. There is likely to be a charge for this, and it will be much more expensive to pay for checking-in luggage at the airport than when you book your flight.  It is important to check in advance the airline’s requirements and make sure that your luggage is the right size to take-on board.

Excess baggage

If you have hold baggage that goes over the allowance that you have been allocated or pre-paid for, you may be charged extra once you arrive at check-in. This is known as excess baggage. If you think you might exceed the allowance, weigh and measure your cases before leaving home. You might prefer to pack fewer things than pay extra for your cases.  Excess baggage is often charged per kilo so the cost can soon mount up and it will cost you more to pay the charge at the airport rather than paying to take an extra bag when you book your flight.

There are also services available that allow you to ship bags separately from your flight. This option might be cheaper than the cost of excess baggage.

Label your baggage

Include your name, address and email address on the inside of the baggage in case the tags on the outside are lost.

Baggage Checklist

So when booking your flight, you may want to consider the following:

  • Whether hold luggage is included in the price of your ticket?
  • What is your hold luggage allowance?
  • What is your hand luggage allowance?
  • What are the acceptable dimensions of your hand luggage case?
  • Can you pool your luggage allowance?
  • Do your luggage labels have the most up to date details on them?
  • Are you aware of the cost of paying additional charges at the airport to take additional or heavy bags?