Travel Insurance

Best airlines for hand luggage revealed - top 15 ranked including Jet2, easyJet, Ryanair and BA

The best airlines for hand luggage have been named in new research, with surprising winners.

Low-cost carrier Jet2 beat competition from British Airways and even Qantas, Qatar and Emirates to be crowned the airline with the most generous free hand luggage allowance.

Meanwhile easyJet came out head and shoulders above all other airlines for the carrier with the most overall hand luggage allowance when adding free and paid capacity.

NimbleFins looked at the top 10 most-used UK-based airlines, plus the most popular among flyers to rank 15 carriers for their hand luggage allowances.

Jet2 allows all passengers to board with a free large carry-on plus a smaller, under-seat bag.

British Airways allows the same, however, what sets Jet2 apart from British Airways is Jet2’s under-seat bag had unspecified dimensions, meaning travellers could bring a slightly larger bag than BA's restricted size.

Chart showing best and worst airlines for hand luggage allowance

For the purpose of its research, NimbleFins assumed under-seat bags without a specified size were 40 x 30 x 20cm.

It meant Jet2 allowed 87,000cm3 of free hand luggage, compared to BA’s 81,000cm3.

No-frills and budget airlines easyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair and Aer Lingus allow a small under-seat bag for free, but all charge extra for a larger bag. Ryanair has the strictest size limits for paid luggage at 55 x 40 x 20cm.

easyJet has the most generous paid-for cabin bag allowance at 56 x 45 x 25cm. And when added up with its free offering, easyJet actually comes out top across all airlines for its total hand luggage allowance, with a volume of 95,400cm3.

Rank (free hand luggage)Rank (total hand luggage)AirlineTotal free cm3Total cm3 (free & paid)
12Jet2 hand luggage87,00087,000
23British Airways hand luggage81,00081,000
47KLM hand luggage66,12566,125
812Virgin hand luggage46,36846,368
1014TUI hand luggage44,00044,000
1115Emirates hand luggage41,80041,800
121easyJet hand luggage32,40095,400
134Wizz Air hand luggage24,00074,600
148Ryanair hand luggage20,00064,000
156Aer Lingus16,50069,300

Erin Yurday, CEO and co-founder of NimbleFins said: "Anyone who's booked a flight will have at some point got that niggling feeling about whether their hand luggage will follow an airline's regulations.

"Quite frankly the rules are needlessly confusing with a few centimetres' difference potentially costing you near to £100 if you get it wrong. That's right - Ryanair charges £45.99 if your bag is found to be too big at the boarding gate, and then you’d need to pay £35.99 to put the bag in the hold on the return journey, or face another £45.99 fee at the gate.

“To avoid paying the fees, we’ve heard stories of a furious passenger stuffing their clothes into a scavenged bin liner, after scrupulous Ryanair staff found their bag’s wheels pushed it over the size limit, and another wearing much of what they own to board only to take the clothes off again as soon as they’d reached their seats.”

Ms Yurday added: "It's also worth bearing these volumes in mind when it comes to booking your next flight. A journey that looks cheap can quite easily become pretty expensive once you've added the hidden cost of luggage into the mix.

"The NimbleFins research shows Jet2 and British Airways are great airlines that have reasonable prices and include hand luggage, and they can often work out cheaper than the budget basement carriers.”

For the full research, including full measurements and costs, click here.

Read more:

Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


Travel Insurance

Get Quotes

  • 4.8 out of 5 stars**
  • Quotes from 20 providers