Transat­lantic hand bag­gage al­lowances

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents - Laura Mis­erez

The rapid growth of low-cost car­ri­ers op­er­at­ing transat­lantic routes has forced more es­tab­lished air­lines to com­pete on price by of­fer­ing cheaper hand bag­gage only (HBO) fares. This pre­sents such HBO pas­sen­gers with quan­daries: how much, ex­actly, can I carry on board; and how does this dif­fer be­tween air­lines?

Of the car­ri­ers of­fer­ing non­stop flights across the At­lantic, British Air­ways of­fers the most gen­er­ous hand-bag­gage size al­lowance. The rest of the air­lines’ size re­stric­tions are any­where from 1-10cm less than BA, of­ten only dif­fer­ing in one di­men­sion ( length, width or height). This can be a prob­lem if you pur­chase a carry-on bag specif­i­cally de­signed to fit BA’s over­head bin, but then end up on a flight with Delta or United, which both have the same length limit as BA (56cm), but only al­low widths of up to 35cm (com­pared to BA’s gen­er­ous 45cm).

These seem­ingly small dif­fer­ences in size re­stric­tions are of­ten en­forced, and that fur­ther com­pli­cates which is the best carry-on suit­case to buy. A bag that meets the small­est re­quire­ments can be used ev­ery­where, but you could be miss­ing out on up to 10cm of space when you fly cer­tain air­lines. If you’re hop­ing to travel with only a carry-on, that ex­tra 10cm makes a dif­fer­ence.

The weight limit of a carry-on also varies, though this is eas­ier to plan for. The most com­mon cut-off is 10kg. The largest al­lowance is a gen­er­ous 23kg, again with British Air­ways. None of the three ma­jor Amer­i­can air­lines (Amer­i­can, Delta, United) gives an of­fi­cial weight re­stric­tion for carry-on bag­gage, although they do clar­ify that any­thing too heavy for you to lift is too heavy to take on board. Primera Air and the trail­blazer of the low-cost transat­lantic fare, Nor­we­gian, both give a max­i­mum weight limit for the carry-on bag and per­sonal item com­bined (10kg or 15kg de­pend­ing on ticket).

Most air­lines also al­low you to carry a “per­sonal item” ( hand­bag, satchel, etc), but its size thresh­old also varies by air­line. Delta and Vir­gin both shy away from spec­i­fy­ing how big is too big, in­stead sug­gest­ing the item be a “purse, briefcase, cam­era bag, di­a­per bag, lap­top com­puter or an item of a sim­i­lar or smaller size”. Other air­lines are clearer. The gen­er­ous al­lowance on Amer­i­can Air­lines (45x35x20cm) can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date a back­pack, while the smaller lim­its on Aer Lin­gus, Nor­we­gian and Primera leave far less wig­gle room. Cur­rently, none of the air­lines count a jacket, book, um­brella, or other sim­i­larly small item you may hap­pen to have in your hand while board­ing as your per­sonal item.

The easy so­lu­tion to this con­fu­sion would be for the air­lines to agree on a univer­sal bag­gage size and weight limit, but that day may never come. Un­til then, check the ex­act re­stric­tions for your forth­com­ing flight, and ob­serve them. With low-cost flights, the penalty fees for not fol­low­ing di­rec­tions can add up.

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