Save money at the gate: the hand luggage lowdown
Recently, Wizz Air brought into effect new rules on hand luggage meaning that unsuspecting travellers could be faced with a €60 (£51) fee at the gate for having the wrong size bag.
The confusion comes from the fact that the airline now has two rules for carry-on bags. Until the end of the summer season they allowed a 'normal size' bag to be taken into the cabin free of charge. However, the new rules mean that there are now two sizes of permitted hand luggage. A new smaller bag of 42cm x 32cm x 25cm is still free for travellers; however, the more standard size of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm will now cost €10 to pre-book online or face the fine at the gate.
Wizz Air is not the only airline to have been tinkering with their rules on luggage. Monarch recently introduced a new rule allowing you to take up to two bags on board with a combined maximum weight and size limit which in many respects is a bonus to passengers. However, they could end up confused when the measuring tapes and weighing scales come out.
And Ryanair has done a deal with Manchester Airport whereby passengers can take on board one piece of hand luggage plus one duty free carrier bag with items bought at the airport, completely different to what the airline will allow at every other airport they operate from. Confused?
So what should you do to ensure you do not fall foul of the airlines and their many and differing rules on baggage?
When researching your booking, always check the luggage restrictions for both your hand luggage and also your hold luggage for each airline you are considering. Factor into the total cost of your flight the price of any checked-in bags and the weight allowance. Also factor in the size and weight of the hand luggage allowance as you may be able to avoid taking any checked in bags at all which can mean a financial saving with some airlines as well as making it faster to both check in on departure and get moving quicker on arrival.
easyJet has no weight allowance on their hand luggage and one of the largest allowable carry-on sizes. British Airways does not charge for one checked-in bag of 23kg and will also allow one piece of hand luggage with no weight limit as well as a laptop bag or handbag. Compare this to Ryanair where the cost of a 20kg checked-in bag can vary from £25 to £40 one way per bag and the hand luggage weight limit is only 10kg. So comparing the total price and what you get for that price is vital to ensure you get the best deal.
You need to be far more careful on the shorter flights such as those to European cities and beach destinations, especially those with the low-cost carriers to ensure you do not fall foul at the gate and end up paying a fine. While Wizz Air may charge €60 for getting it wrong, Ryanair will charge you a similar fee.
However, the really eye-watering bag costs come from exceeding the allowance on your check-in bags. Here, the check-in staff for Ryanair will charge you €20 per kilo of excess weight or up to €150 per bag for an extra bag. Yet you could have checked that bag in online for one third of the price. Ouch!
So the lesson here is to research when booking, know your weight limits and allowances when you pack and if you are going to exceed these then pre-book the extra weight on board.
So is everybody clamping down on the luggage allowances? In a word, no. One shining example is Etihad. They have just announced an increase in the weight allowed for your check-in luggage. Not only is that one suitcase free of charge but you can now pack in an astounding 30kg without any chance of incurring a fee.