British Airways reduces hand luggage allowance

Passengers now only guaranteed small personal bag on board.

British Airways is reducing the amount of hand luggage each passenger can take on board.

The carrier also announced changes to the boarding process that means that economy passengers could have their bags taken away at the gate.

BA has a generous allowance of two pieces of baggage and they have used that extensively in promotions over the years.

But now they are cutting the hand baggage allowance.

The current allowance is:

  • 1 cabin bag – 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in) including handles, pockets and wheels
  • 1 personal bag – 45cm x 36cm x 20cm (18in x 14in x 8in) including handles, pockets and wheels

The new allowance reduces the size of the personal bag to 40cm x 30cm x 15cm.

BA describes the current allowance as “one of the most generous free hand baggage allowances of any airline, so you’ll never be short of space for all those travel essentials you like to fly with.”

It is, but many passengers take unfair advantage of this allowance and take baggage that should clearly not be allowed in the cabin, sometimes causing problems for other passengers.

So now BA will put a yellow sticker on the personal bag and that will be guaranteed to get in the cabin.

The other bag could be taken away at boarding.


The airline also announced a change to the boarding process. Passengers will board based on the cabin they are travelling in and in order of Executive Club status. All other passengers will board by seat row number.

What that means is that economy passengers will be the ones who will have their bag taken away.

It will be interesting to see how this all works in practice. The yellow stickers have been around for quite a long time, but seem to have been given to random passengers. Recently at Heathrow T5, staff handling one flight were putting yellow tags on the bags of passengers travelling on other flights.

BA seems to be saying that the change is being made following an increase in delays resulting from too many people attempting to take on more than they are entitled to.

But the blame for any problems lies mostly with British Airways.

Experience with BA on European flights in multiple countries and airports over recent years:

  • little attempt to depart on time (except for London City)
  • no check on hand baggage size at Bag Drop
  • no check on hand baggage before boarding
  • slow, disorganised boarding

This is the latest in a series of ‘changes’ the carrier has brought in recently. Other ‘changes’:

  • reducing miles awarded for Executive Club members
  • adding baggage fees
  • denying a choice of seat for passengers with no bags

IATA, the airlines trade body, recently tried to reduce the standard cabin bag size from 56cm x 45cm x 25cm to 55cm x 35cm x 20cm but that was withdrawn almost as soon as it was announced mainly due to the huge opposition from US airlines.

BA email to Executive Club members

BA announced the reductions in an email to its Executive Club members.

Here is the text of the email:

Changes to hand baggage

In recent months we have seen an increase in customers travelling with hand baggage that exceeds their allowance. We always try to accommodate our customers where we can but to make sure the aircraft is ready to depart on time we are making the following changes:

• You can continue to carry 2 pieces of hand baggage. One bag should be a handbag/laptop sized bag which should now be no larger than 40x30x15cm.

• The size of your additional cabin bag remains unchanged and should be no larger than 56x45x25cm and can weigh up to 23kgs.

• Customers travelling in all cabins, except First and Club World will receive a yellow tag for handbag/laptop sized bags which are within the new dimensions. We guarantee that you can take this bag on board with you. Please have the tag visible for boarding and place the bag under the seat in front of you.

• We encourage you to carry any valuables or items such as medication in your handbag/laptop sized bag to ensure you have everything you need in the cabin.

• Customers who travel with hand baggage which is outside of their allowance will be asked to check this into the hold.

• On very busy flights we may have to ask some of our customers to check bags without yellow tags into the hold if the overhead lockers are full.

These changes will be rolling out across the BA network in the coming weeks.

Internet links

British Airways