You've found the perfect flight for a good price, but then you're faced with the difficult question - can I get away with taking just hand luggage? While every operator used to have generally the same hand luggage rules, many have altered their requirements to squeeze a little more money from passengers and stop the fight for overhead space in the cabin.
Rules range from size, weight and even number of bags allowed on board.
All that makes it confusing for passengers booking short trips who don't want to risk an expensive bill when boarding. So we've looked at some of the most popular operators from Ryanair to Emirates to explain the hand luggage requirements for each one. We broke it down for the top 10 UK-based airlines for flights from the UK, as listed by the Civil Aviation Authority. We also wanted to include some international carriers, so looked at the top 11 most popular airlines listed in a YouGov poll carried out in the first quarter of 2023.
- Best airlines for hand luggage
- easyJet hand luggage
- Ryanair hand luggage
- Jet2 hand luggage
- TUI hand luggage
- British Airways hand luggage
- Wizz Air hand luggage
- Emirates hand luggage
- Virgin hand luggage
- KLM hand luggage
- Loganair hand luggage
- Aurigny airhand luggage
- Aer Lingus hand luggage
- Qantas hand luggage
- Lufthansa hand luggage
- Qatar hand luggage
- Hand luggage FAQs
Best airlines for carry-on luggage
NimbleFins research has found that Jet2 is the best airline for hand luggage because they offer 87,000 cm3 of hand luggage capacity—all for free. Not only is this more than any other airline offers for free, but it's also more than you can get from any airline even if you take into account the extra hand luggage capacity you can get from some airlines for an extra charge. BA ranked second with 81,000 cm3 of capacity and KLM ranked third with 66,125 cm3.
The worst in the group for free hand luggage was Ryanair, who only allow 20,000 cm3 of free hand luggage space (77% less than Jet2). Ryanir does let you buy an additional 44,000 cm3 of hand luggage space. If you consider the total amount of hand luggage space you can get in total (free + paid), the worst in the group is Emirates. They only allow 41,800 of total hand luggage capacity, making Emirates the worst airline for taking a trip with hand luggage only.
|Rank (free hand luggage)
|Rank (total hand luggage)
|Total free cm3
|Total cm3 (free & paid)
|Jet2 hand luggage
|British Airways hand luggage
|KLM hand luggage
|Virgin hand luggage
|TUI hand luggage
|Emirates hand luggage
|easyJet hand luggage
|Wizz Air hand luggage
|Ryanair hand luggage
easyJet hand luggage
easyJet allows a free hand luggage bag per flyer of 45 x 36 x 20cm, including wheels and handles. This is about the size of rucksack, holdall or very small trolley case and is more generous than the free Ryanair limit. These 'free' bags are not allowed in the overhead locker and must be placed under the seat in front.
For those who want to bring an additional suitcase or larger bag on board, the maximum limit is 56 x 45 x 25cm and 15kg. This comes with an added cost. You can pay the premium for a seat with extra leg room or at the front of the plane, or you can specify you wish to add a cabin bag when you book your flight.
Those who have booked a cabin bag also get speedy boarding.
The larger cabin bag is free for easyJet Plus or FLEXI fare customers.
easyJet large hand luggage cost: from £5.99
Ryanair hand luggage
Ryanair's hand luggage policy is the harshest on the market. It is free to bring on a small bag 40 x 20 x 25cm in size. This is the size of a small rucksack, laptop bag or handbag. This must go under the seat in front of you.
There is the option to bring an overhead locker bag at an extra cost but this must weigh no more than 10kg with a size of 55 x 40 x 20cm. This option is known as a Priority fare giving access to speedy boarding and you can also bring the 'free' small bag with you as well.
However, Ryanair warns that Priority fares can sell out, and in this case you may need to buy a 10kg luggage spot for in the hold instead. This is usually cheaper than the 20kg bags.
If you have medical equipment, Ryanair allows this to be brought on board free of charge in addition to your other bags. Clearance must be given by Ryanair. Click here for more information.
Ryanair large hand luggage cost: From £6. From experience, we know customers are often offered cheaper prices for cabin baggage just before checkout, rather than when they are first offered baggage options when selecting flight times.
Jet2 hand luggage
Jet2 is a low-cost airline that has generous hand luggage rules! You can take a cabin bag with a size up to 56 x 45 x 25cm and up to 10kg in weight at no extra cost. That is bigger than the paid-for Ryanair baggage and the same as easyJet's added-cost bag. You are also allowed to bring an additional small bag for under the seat in front.
Passengers are warned that their larger cabin bag may be placed in the hold if the lockers are full.
Jet2 hand luggage cost: Free, but you can pay extra to pre-book a guaranteed bag spot in the cabin. It is not clear how much this costs.
TUI hand luggage
TUI's hand luggage size is the same as Ryanair's Priority service but it's free. You can bring a bag up to 55 x 40 x 20cm in size with a 10kg weight limit. The difference with TUI is that your smaller, personal bag must fit inside the larger cabin bag. This includes duty free shopping, laptops and handbags.
This is the case with package holidays and flight-only bookings.
It is free to put a pushchair in the hold, as long as it's for a child under two-years-old.
TUI hand luggage cost: Free.
British Airways hand luggage
British Airways, or BA, allows passengers to bring to two bags into the cabin free of charge.
A small bag such as a handbag or laptop bag can be up to 40 x 30 x 15cm and 23kg. This needs to go under the seat in front.
A larger suitcase or holdall can be up to 56 x 45 x 25cm in size and 23kg in weight.
If you go shopping at the airport, anything you buy counts towards your hand luggage allowance. If you only have one bag with you, an extra carrier bag will be fine. But if you already have an overhead locker and small bag, your shopping will need to fit within these. BA does say that on busy flights cabin luggage may be put into the hold at the gate.
BA hand luggage cost: Free.
Wizz Air hand luggage
Wizz Air allows every passenger to bring a small item of hand luggage 40 x 30 x 20cm in size. To bring a larger cabin bag, flyers need to purchase a Priority ticket which allows a trolley bag with dimensions 55 x 40 x 23cm and a maximum weight of 10kg. It also gives access to priority boarding.
Size dimensions do not include wheels and handles.
Duty-free items can be brought aboard in addition to bags. Passengers can also carry on a coat or blanket, a phone, reading material, crutches, and food and foldable baby stroller or crib for children under two.
Wizz Air large hand luggage cost: £4.50 - £36.60 in advance, or £27.50 at airport.
Emirates hand luggage
Emirates offers free hand luggage for all passengers, with different weights depending on which class you're flying.
In each case, a carry on bag can only measure up to 55 x 38 x 20cm in size.
Economy flyers are allowed up to 7kg, while premium economy class can carry up to 10kg in weight.
Business and first class passengers can bring a 7kg carry on and a 7kg briefcase/garment bag. Briefcases can only be up to 45 x 35 x 20cm in size and garment bags can not be thicker than 20cm when folded.
Passengers travelling from Brazil are allowed up to 10kg in their cabin bag no matter which class they are travelling. And carry on bags for those boarding in India must not exceed 115cm when adding length, width and height dimensions.
Emirates hand luggage cost: Free.
Virgin hand luggage
Virgin's hand luggage size is up to 56 x 36 x 23cm and is free for all travellers. The weight limit is 10kg for economy and premium economy passengers.
Upper class customers can take two hand luggage items with a weight limit of 12kg for one bag and a combined weight of 16kg for two bags.
All travellers can also take a small additional bag such as a handbag or small rucksack. Virgin also allows coats, umbrellas, walking sticks and crutches, reading material, small camera, duty-free shopping, children's food and headphones.
Virgin hand luggage cost: Free.
Most popular airlines in UK
|Popularity Q1 2023
KLM hand luggage
KLM allows all passengers to bring hand luggage the size of a suitcase free of charge, with even more allowance for its premium passengers.
The maximum size of hand luggage is 55 x 35 x 25cm including handles and wheels. Travellers can also take a handbag/laptop bag/small rucksack up to 40 x 30 x 15cm. The two can only weigh up to a combined total of 12kg.
Premium and business passengers are allowed two large cases and one small with a weight limit of 18kg.
KLM hand luggage cost: Free.
Loganair hand luggage
Scottish regional airline Loganair flies mostly between UK airports (as well as a few Irish, Danish and Norwegian destinations) meaning most passengers are probably heading on short breaks and business trips needing hand luggage only.
The carrier allows passengers to bring one cabin bag no bigger than 40 x 35 x 18cm. This must weigh under 6kg. This is larger than a small rucksack, but would equate to a very small wheel case or holdall.
A small handbag is also permitted free of charge.
Loganair hand luggage cost: Free.
Aurigny airhand luggage
Aurigny, which connects Guernsey with 10 destinations in the UK and Ireland, has a generous hand luggage allowance. Passengers are allowed two cabin bags with a combined weight of 10kg. The maximum sizes (including wheels and handles) are 55 x 36 x 20cm and 35 x 25 x 20cm. The smaller piece must fit under the seat in front.
Unfortunately rules are more strict if flying via Alderley, with passengers only allowed one small bag at 35 x 25 x 20cm, with a maximum weight of 6kg.
Aurigny hand luggage cost: Free.
Aer Lingus hand luggage
Aer Lingus offers free hand luggage to certain passengers but otherwise travellers must pay €5.99/£5.99 to take a bag up to 10kg into the cabin. Their bag must not exceed 55cm x 40cm x 24 cm. With this option they also get priority boarding.
All passengers are allowed to take a small bag on board for free, such as a handbag or laptop bag. This must be no larger than 25 x 33 x 20cm.
To avoid paying for a cabin bag, passengers are allowed to check their bags into the hold for free.
AerClub members, Plus, Advantage, Aer Credit Card, AerSpace and Economy fares purchased via British Airways, adults travelling with children, and those on a connecting flight do not have to pay for a cabin bag.
Those travelling on a regional service have slightly stricter limits for their larger bag: 48 x 33 x 20cm.
Aer Lingus hand luggage cost: £5.99
Most used airlines based in UK
|Total passengers for 2022
Qantas hand luggage
Qantas allowed its international passengers to take one piece of hand luggage weighing no more than 7kg and measuring a maximum of 56 x 36 x 23cm. Alternatively, a garment bag is allowed and this must measure no more than 60 x 11 x 114cm. Flyers can also take a small handbag or laptop bag for free.
First, business and premiun economy are allowed two bags up to 14kg in total. One single bag must not weigh more than 10kg. These are about 48 x 34 x 23cm each - but no more than 105cm in length in total, when measuring all three dimensions.
There are more specific rules for Australian domestic flights and those from India, which you can find out on the Qantas website here.
Qantas hand luggage cost: Free
Lufthansa hand luggage
It's free for Lufthansa customers to take on a carry on bag up to 8kg and 55 x 40 x 23cm.
An additional small bag is also permitted at no extra charge but this must be no larger than 30 x 40 x 10cm. This additional luggage can also be one carry cot, child seat or foldable pushchair per child, or a mobility aid such as a wheelchair.
Business and First Class passengers can take two large carry on items, both weighing up to 8kg.
Lufthansa hand luggage cost: Free
Qatar hand luggage
Qatar airways allows all passengers to take on large hand luggage item on board for free with a maximum weight of 7kg. They must measure no more than 50 x 37 x 25cm.
Laptop bags and hangbags must fit inside your larger carry-on.
First and Business class customers get an extra bag with a total weight of 15kg allowed.
Qatar hand luggage cost: Free
Can you take razors in hand luggage?
Razors are allowed in hand luggage so long as they are fixed cartridge, ie disposable razors.
You're not allowed to take double-edged blades on board, so loose razor blades won't get past security. As long as they are mounted on a head, you'll be able to keep them in your hand luggage.
Electric razors are also allowed, but it's best to take these out of your bag when they go through the security scanner, as with other electricals.
What can you take in hand luggage?
You can take a lot of items in your hand luggage such as food, aerosols and disposable and electric razors, but you need to take care with certain items.
Anything with a lithium battery must go in hand luggage as they are a fire risk, so items such as laptops and other electricals may need to be taken out of your bag when going through security.
Aerosols, as with all liquids, must be under 100ml in size and placed in an acceptable clear plastic bag.
Solid make up or toiletries, such as stick deodorant and lipstick doesn’t count towards your liquid allowance.
Baby food and milk is also allowed if an adult is travelling with a child. You will probably need to take this out of hand luggage to be scanned separately.
Electricals like hair dryers and straighteners are also allowed but it’s advised they are taken out of bags at security to avoid being slowed down with a manual bag check.
Small scissors with blades 6cm and under are allowed, but larger scissors are not. Likewise nail clippers and tweezers are also permitted.
Razor blades are allowed if they are fixed, such as disposable or electric razors. A loose razor is not allowed.
There are strict rules about lighters although they are allowed on board. One lighter per person can be carried on board but this must be stored in a clear plastic bag and kept on the traveller’s person throughout the flight. Although you can bring them onto flights in this way, they cannot be kept in the hand luggage you bring on board, nor can they go in hold luggage.
You can take liquids over 100ml through security and therefore in your hand luggage if they are essential for medical purposes or special dietary requirements. Baby food and liquid is also permitted.