In 2021, the worldwide mishandled baggage rate jumped almost 24 % from the previous year – 8.7 bags per thousand international passengers, and 1.85 on domestic routes were either delayed or lost. Over a year later, the shift in traveler habits is apparent, with many opting to hand-carry instead of check-in their luggage.

Why hand-carry?

The mishandled baggage crisis continued well into 2022, exacerbated by airport staffing issues. Travelers faced a flurry of problems, from overly long queues at check-in counters to luggage that simply never arrived at their destination.

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Abandoned luggage at a carousel in an airport

This prompted passengers to skip the check-in process altogether by traveling with just a hand-carry bag. This spurred a 130 % increase in carry-on cabin luggage sales, according to British Retailer Studio. It also said that searches for “hand luggage allowance” spiked by a whopping 2,816 % compared to the same period in the previous year.

If you opt to travel with only a carry-on, not only will you be able to save precious time queuing up to check in, but you’ll also have a smoother arrival experience without having to wait for your bags at the luggage collection carousel. Furthermore, at destinations like Australia, which is notorious for its strict biosecurity measures, you could significantly cut down on your airport exit time. There is also less risk of damage if you hand-carry your bags.

Airlines with generous hand luggage allowances

Unfortunately, the hand-carry-only option comes with its own set of issues. The most obvious is space limitations: if you are traveling for a couple of weeks, especially internationally, one cabin-sized bag may not fit everything you need. Luckily, some airlines are more generous than others with their hand-carry policies.

1. British Airways

British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Some flights on the British flag carrier allow two carry-ons: a cabin bag and a purse or laptop bag. The cabin bag must not exceed 22 x 18 x 10 inches (56 x 45 x 25 cm) in size, with an ample weight limit of 51 lbs (23 kg). The purse or laptop bag must not be larger than 16 x 12 x 6 inches (40 x 30 x 15 cm) but also comes with a generous weight allowance of up to 51 lbs (23 kg). That’s 102 lbs (46 kg) combined, which is more than the typical check-in luggage weight limit on most airlines!

2. Iberia

A case with a maximum size of 22 x 18 x 10 inches (56 x 45 x 25 cm), as well as a “personal accessory” (backpack, laptop bag, or duty-free shopping bag) sized up to 16 x 12 x 6 inches (40 x 30 x 15 cm) is allowed on the Spanish flag carrier’s flights. While the cabin bag must not exceed 22 lbs (10 kg), the smaller bag has no weight limit as long as it fits under the seat in front of you.

3. TAP Portugal

TAP Air Portugal Airbus A330-941 CS-TUQ

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying 

Passengers are entitled to a 22-lb (10-kg) cabin bag no larger than 22 x 18 x 10 inches (56 x 45 x 25 cm) in economy class, along with a personal item of up to 16 x 12 x 6 inches (40 x 30 x 15 cm), with a weight of up to 4.4 lbs (2kg). Those traveling on Executive Class to or from Europe, Africa, and South America, or on domestic flights, are allowed two cabin bags and one personal item.

4. Qantas

Australia’s flagship airline gives economy class passengers the option of carrying on one cabin bag weighing no more than 22 lbs (10 kg) per piece, or two smaller bags with a maximum combined weight of 31 lbs (14 kg). However, the 22-lb bag has a slightly smaller size allowance than British Airways and TAP Portugal, at 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 cm). The two smaller bags must not exceed 19 x 13 x 9 inches (48 x 34 x 23 cm).

5. Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 landing at Dublin Airport

Photo: Croatorum/Shutterstock

Like Qantas, Virgin Atlantic’s Economy and Premium Class tickets include a hand-carry bag that can weigh up to 22 lbs (10 kg) and at a maximum size of at 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 cm). A bonus is that parents with babies and toddlers aged up to 23 months are entitled to one extra, weighing up to 13 lbs (6 kg) per child. This is ideal for packing extra clothes, toys, and snacks to keep a child comfortable and entertained on long flights.

6. Qatar Airways

The flag carrier of Qatar does not impose any size limits on the single piece of cabin bag allowed in economy class. However, it must not weigh more than 15 lbs (7 kg), which is a less generous weight limit than most on this list. This might be suitable for travelers who plan to pack bulkier but lightweight items, like clothes.

7. easyJet

easyJet Bag Drop

Photo: easyJet

This is an anomaly worth listing because low-cost airlines typically do not offer generous cabin baggage allowances. Unlike any other airline on this list, easyJet doesn’t have any weight limits on carry-ons! It does, however, have a size restriction of 17 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 36 x 20 cm), which is significantly smaller than all of the above.

Do note that these allowances may differ depending on your route and whether it’s a codeshare flight. Ticket classes could also affect the size and weight limits of your carry-ons. Be mindful of the quantity of your hand-carry bags and their weights, as you may have to check them in if you exceed the provided limits – often at a hefty price.

Why check-in?

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Airport Security Hand Carry Bag

While these generous allowances might tempt you to travel without check-in luggage, size is not the only problem you might face. Powders, liquids, aerosols, and gels are prohibited on international flights and some domestic flights. A makeup pouch full of cosmetics, for example, may have to be discarded at the airport security checkpoint.

Additionally, hand-carry bags, like check-in luggage, are not safe from theft. When passengers travel with larger carry-ons, chances are they’ll pack more items into them, which increases the value of items carried. There have been cases of carry-on theft where bags have been swiped from the overhead compartments, particularly overnight on long-haul flights or after landing, when everyone scrambles to collect their bags.

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If an airport or airline loses your check-in luggage, you may have a chance of getting it back, but if your hand-carry is stolen, your odds are slim – something to consider if you’re relying on hand-carry-only travel.

Sources: Studio, The Independent


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