Are you thinking of booking a flight with British Airways? Or maybe you already booked a flight and you want to be sure about your carry-on and check-in baggage allowances? This article will tell you all you need to know about how much luggage you can take on your British Airways flight, any fees involved, and any restrictions that you need to be aware of.
British Airways allows customers to carry one item of hand luggage and one small item (such as a handbag, or a laptop) onboard the aircraft. If your hand baggage exceeds the specified size or weight limits, it will need to be checked into the aircraft hold.
British Airways’ rules on the size and weight of check-in baggage are complicated. The amount of check-in baggage you can take varies by class of travel, fare type, and route. But you always have the option of purchasing an additional check-in luggage allowance, subject to availability.
In this article, I explore and uncover British Airways’ baggage rules and explain what you need to know about British Airways’ luggage policy.
British Airways Cabin Baggage Allowance
This is quite straightforward.
Your single item of carry-on baggage and the additional personal item (your handbag, or perhaps your laptop) that you can take on board the aircraft have different size limits as follows:
- Carry on baggage – this must not exceed 56cm x 45cm x 25cm.
- Additional personal item – this must not exceed 40cm x 30cm x 15cm.
Both of these items can weigh up to 23kg (51lbs) each.
There may be some occasions when British Airways staff will ask you to check in your larger cabin bag item. This usually happens if the flight is particularly busy and the staff expects that there will be insufficient overhead bin space in the aircraft.
If your hand baggage items exceed these weight or size limits, they will need to be checked into the aircraft hold as part of your hold baggage allowance.
British Airways Check-In Baggage Allowance
This is where it gets a bit more complicated.
The amount of check-in baggage that you can take, and the size and weight of that luggage, depends on many factors, including:
- Class of travel (Economy, Premium Economy, Business, or First Class)
- Fare type (e.g. Economy Basic, Economy Plus/Standard, etc.)
- Whether you are a member of the British Airways Executive Club (or other oneworld Alliance member airlines’ frequent flyer programs, and, if so, what membership tier you belong to)
Whatever the specified allowance for your ticket type and your route, British Airways allows additional check-in baggage for a fee; I will explain this later.
Check-In Baggage – Number of Items and Fees
I’m going to explain this using two examples – a long-haul flight between London Heathrow Airport (LHR) and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), and a short-haul flight between LHR and Frankfurt International Airport (FRA).
The tables below provide the number of free check-in luggage items allowed by ticket type and also show you the approximate costs (in USD equivalent) of each additional check-in luggage item that you can purchase online, or when your get to the airport. Online prices are always cheaper than the process you pay at the airport check-in desk. The charges apply for each leg of your flight.
To make things more complicated, there are certain British Airways routes with different check-in luggage allowances. British Airways flights to and from places such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria have a more generous Economy Standard allowance of two items.
The good thing is that the British Airways website provides a baggage allowance checker that you can use to check your exact check-in baggage allowance for a specific route on a specific date, by class of travel.
Check-In Baggage – Sizes and Standard Weights
Each item of British Airways standard check-in luggage must not exceed 90cm x 75cm x 43cm, and that includes any part of the luggage that sticks out such as handles, wheels, etc.
Each item of check-in luggage has a weight allowance of either 23kg, or 32kg, depending on your fare type.
For passengers traveling in Economy and Premium Economy class, check-in luggage and weight is restricted to British Airways’ standard check-in luggage allowance as follows:
- Size: Up to 90 x 75 x 43cm
- Weight: Maximum of 23kg (or 51lbs)
Business and First Class ticket holders can enjoy British Airways’ more generous check-in luggage weight limit, although the size limit is identical to the Economy/Premium Economy check-in luggage size limit. The check-in luggage items of passengers traveling in these premium cabins can each be as follows:
- Size: Up to 90 x 75 x 43cm
- Weight: Maximum of 32kg (or 70lbs)
Should I Buy a Luggage Allowance When I Buy My Flight Ticket?
If you know you are definitely going to be taking check-in luggage with you on your trip, it makes sense to book a ticket that includes a check-in luggage allowance. This means you get a guaranteed luggage price, and you might even get a discounted price!
Using the two examples of flights between London Heathrow to New York, and London Heathrow to Frankfurt, I checked the online difference in prices for an Economy Basic return and an Economy Standard/Plus return for various flight dates.
Economy Standard/Plus is not to be confused with Premium Economy. Economy Standard (short-haul) and Economy Plus (long-haul) represent the economy fare types that include a free check-in luggage allowance, whereas Premium Economy is the class of travel, formerly known as World Traveller Plus.
I checked the online booking price differences between an Economy Basic return and an Economy Standard return for London to Frankfurt. The Economy Standard fare for the same flights was an additional £20 compared to the Economy Basic fare. This means that in this instance paying for an item of check-in luggage when you buy your ticket is cheaper than paying for check-in luggage later, either online or at the airport.
For London to New York, the Economy Standard fare for the same flights was an additional £100 compared to the Economy Basic fare. This is equivalent to the separate online purchase price of £50 per item of check-in luggage each way.
What If My Luggage is Larger Than the Standard Size?
British Airways’ maximum check-in luggage dimensions are 190 x 75 x 65cm. So, a sports bag larger than the standard size, or item longer than 90cm and within these maximum dimensions, will be accepted as part of your check-in baggage allowance.
For these items, you will need to get to the airport early to check it in as these items are handled separately at an out-of-gauge bag drop.
You do not need to inform British Airways in advance that you are bringing luggage that is larger than the standard size.
What If I’m A Member of The British Airways Executive Club?
Executive Club Gold members (or oneworld Emerald) can take one additional check-in item up to 32kg in weight in any travel cabin.
Executive Club Silver members (or oneworld Sapphire) can take two check-in items up to 32kg in weight in any travel cabin.
These perks do not apply when the passenger is traveling on a Basic fare where no check-in baggage allowance is included.
Excess baggage is expensive – avoid it if you can.
If your checked baggage weighs more than your 23kg or 32kg allowance, you may have to pay a heavy bag charge. The heavy bag charge is around 100 USD per overweight bag for each one-way journey.
The weight limit is applied to each bag and you cannot split the weight allowance between multiple bags.
For health and safety reasons, British Airways will not accept any bag weighing over 32kg as check-in luggage.
Lower Risk of Losing Your Baggage
One of the worst things that can happen while flying is to lose your bag. British Airways has a great support system for lost bags, but you can be proactive in avoiding the potential hassle. If you’ve flown with the bag before, be sure to remove old tags and stickers from the previous flights. Also, be sure to include a name tag somewhere on your bag to distinguish it.
British Airways also allows you to add in bag details on their online booking manager platform. You can enter essential details about your luggage before your flight to help recover it if it gets lost during the journey.
Whilst British Airways’ carry-on luggage policy is quite straightforward, its check-in luggage policy is a little harder to work out.
The number of check-in items you are allowed depends on the fare you paid, your class of travel, your route, and whether you are a member of the British Airways (or oneworld alliance member) frequent flyer program.
If you’re 100% sure you are going to be taking check-in luggage with you on your journey you might as well buy a fare that includes a check-in luggage allowance. If you’re not sure whether you will be taking check-in baggage with you, and you decide not to buy a luggage allowance when you buy your ticket, but you later decide that you want to take check-in luggage with you, make sure you buy online at British Airways | Book Flights, Holidays, City Breaks & Check In Online and not at the airport when you check-in.