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In Australia, I've never seen anybody get done for having carry-on luggage that's too big. It's pretty much whatever you can fit in the top compartments. In fact, I've seen people carry more than one hand luggage.

I'll be going to Europe soon and plan on taking a flight whilst there (Nice to Venice on EasyJet). So I think I'll buy one checkin 20kg bag. I don't think I'll need anymore as that's probably quite a lot but I have noticed that any extra kg above 20 kg seems to start to incur a lot more cash (esp. if you buy it at the airport). So if I do get to a position where I'm a little bit over, I'll be looking to find ways to store as much into my hand luggage as possible.

So just wondering, what are the airlines generally like in Europe? Are they fairly strict on ensuring that the size and weight of hand luggage is within their limits or are they fairly relaxed just as long as you don't try to bring an elephant onboard?

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My feeling, based on various stories heard here and there, is that low cost companies work hard to extract as much cash from their customers as they can, while trying to look cheap. I wouldn't expect them to be relaxed on something that can be billed. –  mouviciel Aug 7 '12 at 12:38

7 Answers 7

"Normal" airlines are fairly lax on the baggage requirements. If your checked baggage is a little bit over (say 1 kg or so) or slightly bigger than usual, nobody's going to make a fuss about it. Same goes for hand luggage -- they are almost never going to check its size or weight (although restrictions do exist, 8kg per bag IIRC) if it looks okay. You might be asked to relinquish it at the gate to be stored in the front of the baggage compartment and then retrieve it on your way to the terminal at your destination (they'll never ask you to leave your personal laptop/hand bag, only travelling bags/trunks). This is often done on fully booked flights.

Budget airlines are a different beast entirely. Ryanair is probably the worst offender here, they are known for being very strict about your baggage. Exactly one carry item is allowed, and hand/laptop bags are not exempt. You can't even bring an additional bag from the duty-free, they are going to ask you to put it in your baggage, leave it behind or pay for it.

If you are flying with budget airlines (and EasyJet is one of them) I suggest reading carefully the terms and conditions on their websites to avoid nasty surprises. For example, Ryanair has a dumb non-trivial fee for printing your boarding card at the terminal as opposed to doing it yourself beforehand. If unsure, ask in chat or search around for other travellers' experience with the airline.

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I have flown with Ryanair many times (never EasyJet, so I don't know them). Ryanair are very strict with counting the number of hand luggage bags. You can only have 1 and that includes handbags or camera bags. In some airports they are strict with the size aswell, and will request that you put your bag into the little 'size box' thing at the gate before you get on the plane. They'll know if it doesn't fit in. That is at some airports.

I've flown between Ireland & England with Ryanair many times, and never seen them weigh the hand luggage at the gate (but I always fly without check in luggage). I have heard that if you have check in luggage, they will weigh it in the luggage desk.

However, unlike Australia, the European Union has more consumer rights than Australia. I was in Australia and flew with Tiger Airways. Upon reaching the airport, I saw the flight was cancelled and we were all moved to the next flight with no compensation. Here in EU they would have to pay ~ €5 for a few hours delay. You'll see lots of signs in airports saying "If you're delayed ask for a statement about your rights". Hence European low fare airlines are unlikely to just cancel a flight to save money, making the flights more reliable.

However, unlike Australia (IME) last minute flights are expensive, even with low fare airlines. Try to book your flights 2 weeks before.

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I can relate my recent experience with EasyJet flights between Italy and Scotland.

EasyJet allows you to carry ONE piece of luggage on board, the dimensions of which are 56x45x25cm maximum. However, they do not state a maximum weight, provided it is reasonable (which I think means you can carry it without difficulty). The dimensions are verified by asking you to fit your hand luggage into a pre-formed metal "box": if the luggage does not fit in, you are obliged to ship it. If you have your laptop with you, it must go into the carry-on luggage as well. Any extra piece of luggage you may want to carry will cost you €30 if you get to the check-in desk and are asked to ship it; if on the other hand you have done your check-in on line and you get as far as the gate with luggage that you should have shipped, you will be then asked to pay €50.

If you want to ship your luggage with EasyJet, it will cost you €30 for up to 20 kilos, which is the normal allowance. This if you buy the option along with the ticket. However, if you're not travelling on your own and the tickets are issued jointly for more than one person, it is possible to compensate (we were 7 with the same booking code and we had 140 kilos altogether). EasyJet normally does not object to a LIMITED extra weight (say, one kilo), whereas others will ask you to pay even for such a limited amount.

In any case, you may refer to this page, where all the info about luggage is given. Note that here the prices are indicated in pounds sterling, whereas the ones I gave before are taken from the Italian site.

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Four answers within an hour. This must be an topic stirring up quite some emotions :)

There are no hard and fast rules for what to expect as to how staff of budget airlines will react to your oversized or overweight hand luggage. But, as you can deduce from the other answers, and as I very much know from my own experience, expect the worst. Less is more annoying than being forced to pay unreasonably high fees for bringing that extra kilo as hand luggage, right when you're supposed to get on the plane.

Also don't expect that all budget airlines follow the same rules: different sizes and different weights (and different penalties) do apply.

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I've flown many times with Ryanair and Wizzair from Frankfurt Hahn, and I would say:

  • Ryanair are very strict with the count and the weight of the hand luggage. With the dimensions of the luggage they allow about 4-5cm more
  • Wizzair wasn't so strict "as long as you don't try to bring an elephant onboard", but since August 1, 2012 they have a

new cabin baggage policy trial on the London-Katowice route to encourage passengers to bring smaller baggage onboard and make the boarding process smoother and faster.

Small cabin bag: If your cabin baggage is of size 42x32x25cm or smaller it can be taken onboard free of charge. It must fit under the seat in front of you. The weight allowance is 10kg.

Large cabin bag: If your cabin baggage is larger than the dimensions of a small cabin bag but not exceeding 55x40x20cm, you can take it onboard for a newly introduced €10 fee. It must fit in the overhead compartment. The weight allowance is 10kg.

So I can imagine, that soon that will be the standard and Wizzair will become more strict.

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Ryanair use narrower cages to check the width of your carry-on, and you better be able to shove it in there or it's 35 Euro on the spot. They go through the boarding line looking to see who's bag might be an inch too wide. Also, they do weigh carry-on at some airports, (like Stansted) and many people get nailed, and it's 10 Euro per kilo over. Other budget airlines have pleasant employees, free water, free air, free toilets etc.

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I've flown with EasyJet numerous times and never had any problems with the standard size cabin luggage as specified in their regulations - never even had it tested. There's no weight limit on this either which is a bonus. Sometimes they've been fussy about having the one piece of hand luggage and a plastic carry bag for extra stuff like pillows, but other times they didn't care. I guess it's the luck of the draw with how strict the ground crew are.

As suggested by others, if you stick to the regulations and assume they will be enforced then you shouldn't have any problems.

I noticed the one (and only) time I flew with Ryanair that they seemed to be checking quite thoroughly.

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