Winners and losers in BA baggage shake-up

15 Jun 2006 by business traveller

There are winners and losers in British Airways' new baggage policies which will start next month.


Under the new rules (which will be phased in on July 5 for cabin baggage and on October 11 for checked baggage) economy class travellers checking in their luggage will be limited to one piece weighing a maximum of 23 kilos on most BA routes (the exceptions are BA flights bound for North America, the Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico or Nigeria, where the limit is 23 kilos in a total of two pieces of checked baggage). In the past this 23 kilo limit could be spread over one or more pieces.

No longer will passengers be able to haggle over a few kilos of excess. If your limit exceeds 23 kilos, you will have to put the excess into a separate case. If you don't have a spare bag with you at check-in, then you will have to buy one on the spot (the airport luggage shops will be doing a roaring trade) and pay an additional fee of between £30 and £120 one way for that bag depending on the destination.

On the plus side, economy class passengers will now be able to take much heavier loads as cabin baggage. Cabin baggage will be limited by size, rather than weight. All passengers can take one piece (maximum size: 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm) plus a further briefcase or laptop which can fit under the seat in front. BA says it will be installing measuring gauges at all of its network airports so that passengers can check their hand baggage size. The only deciding factor regarding the weight is that a passenger must be capable of lifting the piece unaided into the overhead locker. Start working out with those dumb bells.


Those who lose out under the new rules are high fare premium ticket customers. Their allowance for each bag has been reduced from a maximum of 32 kilos down to 23 kilos. In addition, where before the allowances were 30 in business and 40 in first class, with those weights able to be spread over several bags, now the weight has been reduced to 23 kilos, rather than 32 kilos at present and the number of bags restricted to just two pieces for those travelling first, business class or World Traveller Plus (BA's superior economy class).

BA says the new policy is designed to make it easier for travellers and reduce airport queues. It also says it is following health and safety rules guidelines set down by the Department of Transport and airport operator BAA

According to BA marketing director Martin George, "Making the airport experience easier and speedier for our customers is one of our key objectives as we move towards the opening of Terminal 5 in March 2008. We have created new policies which are easier to understand and will reduce queuing time at airports."

A spokesperson for the AUC, a government-funded watchdog body, said "There isn't much we can do [about BA's new policies]. The reason an airline would wish to do this is so it can cut its ground handling costs because it would be carrying fewer bags in the hold. Overall we think the lower limit is pretty impractical for passengers because more will have to weigh their bags before setting off for the airport."

There are no consumer rules which prevent airlines changing baggage allowances, but BA's move is going to be unpopular with premium passengers who are the ones providing BA's profits."It's going to be mayhem at the airport," says travel management consultant Andrew Solum.

"All this is going to annoy BA's first and business class passengers," Yorkshire-based businessman Tim Newman told Business Traveller, "if BA wants to cut costs then it shouldn't go for its premium passengers."

Tim Newman has trips planned later this year to Sydney and San Francisco. "As with other business people I like to travel with one large bag weighing around 30 kilos in total. Now I'm going to have to carry two cases.When I heard the news I immediately rang customer services in Newcastle to complain. The manager there admitted that staff had been getting it in the neck [from disgruntled passengers] all day as a result of the proposed changes. I have checked with rivals including Qantas, SIA and Virgin Atlantic and none say they plan to follow BA's move. If BA wants to retain the custom of premium fare passengers it must scrap these plans as soon as possible."

BA's baggage allowances

Current for checked baggage:

First: 40 kilos in total; business: 30 kilos in total; World Traveller Plus plus economy class: 23 kilos in total. Excess charged on per kilo basis.

Other routes: North America, Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico or Nigeria: 2 pieces weighing up to 32 kilos each, so a total of 64 kilos.
Current for cabin baggage:

One piece with dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20 cm plus a briefcase or laptop. Weight varies between 6 kilos (economy) and 18 kilos (first, business class)

New rules for checked baggage (from October 11):

First, business, World Traveller Plus allowed 2 pieces weighing 23 kilos. Economy class allowed 1 piece weighing 23 kilos.

But on routes to North America, Caribbean Nigeria all passengers allowed 2 pieces weighing 23 kilos. Excess pieces charged at £30 to £120 each depending on route distance.

New rules for cabin baggage (from July 5):

Cabin baggage for all passengers: one piece at 56 cm x 45 cm x 25 cm. No weight limit but passengers have to be able to lift the item into the overhead bin. Plus one briefcase/laptop as at present.

For more information go to

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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