British Airways Cracking Down On Personal Items

Filed Under: British Airways

One of my secrets to remaining sane while traveling full time is to always travel light and carry-on. I’ll never check a bag if I can avoid it. While that can be challenging when all of your possessions are in the bag, I find having limited material possessions is better than waiting at a baggage carousel for 20-30 minutes multiple times a week.

That being said, I am a bit sneaky. I have my standard, regulation sized rollaboard, and then on top of that I have my “personal item.” Yes, it’s almost as big as my rollaboard. But it fits underneath the seat in front of me, so I’m not inconveniencing anyone else by carrying it on.


Anyway, British Airways has just announced some changes to their hand baggage allowance, which will be implemented in the coming weeks. And it certainly impacts consumers like me, who like to maximize what we carry-on. Here’s how British Airways explained the changes in an email to Executive Club members:

In recent months we have seen an increase in customers traveling with hand baggage that exceeds their allowance. We always try to accommodate our customers where we can but to make sure the aircraft is ready to depart on time we are making the following changes:

So the biggest change here is that British Airways will start tagging the handbag/laptop sized personal items for all passengers, and those yellow tags will (presumably) have to be shown as you board the plane. The exception is for First and Club World passengers (though these new rules apply to Club Europe, which is British Airways’ short-haul business class product), who won’t have to tag their bags.


So despite the fact that my “personal item” is perhaps larger than it should be, I’ve never actually been asked to check it. In theory this new British Airways system makes it tougher to maximize your carry-on allowance, though I guess we’ll see how it’s enforced in practice.

What do you make of British Airways’ new system of yellow tagging personal items to be sure they’re regulation-sized?

  1. But they aren’t going to tag the large items? Maybe the tag is to show it MUST go under the seat in front of you. In any event, I’m sure the tags are easily removable, should you want to stow BOTH carry-ons in the locker. Or, you can remove the tag, and save it for a later flight.

  2. My personal item is usually a backpack or a briefcase so it should be fine, but this may be a problem for those in The Hobby (lol!) that travel in Club Europe :)))

    P. S. By excluding Club Europe from the list of exceptions, BA just admitted it’s an economy class 😉

  3. I find it odd that they’re tagging the bag that’s supposed to go under the seat in front of you – what’s to stop you from ripping it off and placing the bag in the overhead bin? They should tag the bags that go in the overhead bin. With each passenger receiving only one yellow tag, that ensures they can only place one bag in the overhead bin.

  4. @Chris – Yeah I don’t get it. Like you said, the yellow tag should be on the bags that are allowed in the overhead bin. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  5. Ben,

    I have flown a lot of BA this year and I kid you not they have been enforcing this for a while now. I had a gate agent walk around the departure gate and tag every little hand item of the passengers who were on my flight. Even one of them gave me crap about my Tumi International carry on which fits just right on the aircraft mind you that was during the check in process when she hassled me to check it. She told me it wouldn’t fit on the Airbus A320 and I mentioned that’s the plane I flew a days ago and my bag fit in just right – so I clearly stated I won’t be checking in. Same with my duffle tumi backpack they are trying to find every excuse to literally check a bag. OneWorld Emerald on BA doesn’t feel much like it anymore.

  6. I carried on a huge duffle bag to BA a month ago because I was supposed to have a two checked bag allowance, but they only let me have one. They didn’t say anything and it fit in the bin.

  7. The airlines that do the worst job unloading checked bags are always that ones who seem to have the most draconian cabin baggage policies. They just can’t seem to see the connection between waiting 45 minutes at the carousel at LHR on a regular basis and passengers wanting to avoid checked baggage. Contrast that with Alaska Airlines who not only have the largest cabin baggage allowance but also a checked baggage time guarantee. BA hates customers. They would be soon much happier if people just sent them money but never showed up at the airport with ridiculous expectations of “service”

  8. I have also had the same experience as John Carter – BA agent tagged my carryon that I have probably carried on with 12 different airlines well over 100 times, told me it was too big. I tore the tag off in the jetway. Also OneWorld Emerald. Like I said, BA hates customers. If they want people to carry on less they should focus on getting a bag onto the carousel in less than 40 minutes first instead of blaming customers.

  9. The part I loved about the e-mail was that the carryon weight remains at 23kg – 50lbs. That is quite a lot for a carryon! Many of the regional airlines – and even domestic airlines though they do not publish it – will not let you get 1/2 of that much weight on a carryon before they make you check it.

  10. BTW, love the Killspencer bag. I had one of their backpacks for years. How do you like the duffel?

  11. @Charlie – I’m glad they wrote 23kg as well. I always laugh when I see airlines say the limit is 6kg or 8kg or better yet, 6kg total for two bags!

  12. seen I’m happy about this. Too many times, I’ve seen laptop bags, coats, and backpacks put up in the overhead bin by people who’ve already put a roller bag up there, and then other people are left standing in the aisle because there is no more overhead space.
    The tag may not be perfect, but hopefully it will remind people that air travel is unpleasant enough as it is, and to be considerate of other passengers. We’re all on the plane together.

  13. As others have said, I don’t understand the following:

    * Why reduce the size of the smaller bag… larger bags fit fine under the seats, it’s the larger ones that presumably fill up the overhead bins
    * Sometimes I bring two small bags, and they’ll insist on telling me which one should go under the seat
    * They have the tagging system backwards
    * Sometimes they insist on tagging a bag when I’m in a bulkhead or emergency exit row

    Which reminds me, if they could convince the UK government to change the rule about no bags under emergency exit row seats, that would probably add enough overhead space on the plane to fit all the bags.

  14. The idea you can stow a bag of up to 23kg (about 50lbs) in an overhead locker is quite frankly, bizzare! If 3 passengers each did that, the locker would contain a minimum of 69kgs, the weight of an average human (Americans excluded, of course!). I imagine that the single closing catch would be under considerable stress, particularly in times of turbulence, and could result in heavy luggage tumbling out onto the unfortunate aisle passenger!

  15. Have you all noticed the dimensions of the smaller tagged bag? When I got the notice, my impression was that the tag shows they measured it and it’s tiny enough by their standards. It’s pretty damn small and I know my usual 2nd bag won’t cut it ( and mine is way smaller than Lucky’s).

  16. They said it’s for OTP. The problem is too many bags in the overhead bins.

    So at the last minute, when the last passenger on realises there is nowhere to put his bag, and the crew search up and down the aisles for space, it has to be offloaded and put in the hold which creates a delay for the flight.

    They don’t care about weight allowance. They just want you to put your bags under the seat infront if possible to free up space in the bins.

    Overhead bin space is an economy problem, which is why it only applies to economy pax. Premium cabins have a number of ways of fitting extra bags when rarely needed.

  17. This may sound draconian but for domestic flights within South Africa, the government won’t allow any carry-ons over 7 kg. This applies to all carriers.

  18. China Southern only ‘allows’ 5kg carry-on. This is universally ignored however, and 4bags up to around 50kg doesn’t raise an eyebrow!

  19. FTFY:

    Here’s how British Airways explained the changes in an email to Executive Club members:

    In recent months we have seen a decrease in profits due to an increase in customers not checking their bags. We always try to extract value from our customers where we can, so to make sure that our CEO and the rest of the executive suite do not need to cut back on the quality of their after-dinner port, we are making the following highly annoying changes that pioneer a whole new level of airline idiocy, as if that were even possible anymore:

  20. Hear hear hear BA. Good job.

    Too many people think it’s there right to take on board what they like, and sod everyone else.

    I travel a lot around Australia, NZ, Singapore and with Emirates, Qantas, Virgin et al, and I can assure you, BA passengers have it good, so stop your whinging!

    From what I can see, the people moaning are the FF’s who wanna beat the queues, and believe as they fly more than most, that for some reason they have more of a say and entitlement, rubbish.

    Upgrade if you are that important, or change airlines and leave us in peace.

  21. I’ll cast my vote with A and Tom W. I traveled enough for biz to maintain Platinum. One of my colleagues with same status would always abuse it by habitually exercising his perceived ‘right of privilege’ by filling half of the overhead with all of his possessions.

  22. Just returned from Amsterdam via Club Europe/Club World. Had the same carry on I have been using for years. The wheels exceeded the size restriction and my bag was checked as I was boarding. It took 3 days before it arrived in Orlando. So much for priority tagging in business class.

  23. This new system is completely backward to what I thought they were doing! I always travel with one mid sized back pack, (contains laptop, sweater, odds and ends) etc. I do not carry on one of those massive hard cases, or 2 pieces, plus laptop bag.
    But I get tagged every time to put my one and only bag under the seat in front of me, I am tall and need this small already leg room. why should I loose my leg room because others are clogging the overhead bins with massive hard cases, (surprisingly big).
    My mid sized back pack has valubles that my feet will break!
    The only solution for me is to bring on a bigger hard case, so I can get me leg room back. (this will make the situation worse, but i need leg room)
    People with one mid bag, should be entitled to overhead storage,
    People with 2 bags should have to put their second bag under the seat! not me!
    I will change airline if this crap continues.

  24. I travel BA constantly. I am Gold and have been for many years. Flew a few weeks ago from LHR to LIN. As I was flying Business and had just come in from NY, I was in the front of the queue. The gate agent came over and told me both bags were too big – as I’ve flown with the configuration I was caring for the last 3 years and NEVER had a problem. I calmly told her the bottom Tumi was designed for their cage – she made me prove it, said I’d overstuffed it. So in front of 200 people, I put it in the cage. She said it didn’t look “comfortable” – I took out the coat I’d packed – she was then happy. She then put me through the same routine with my briefcase – it was 1″ too big for the smaller cage- she smugly told me one of them needed to be checked. I gave up – and checked the larger bag. The gentleman behind me – another American – Business class flyer with – also Gold – went through the same process – gave up, checked a bag. I calmly said I expected them to put the entire line through the process – they let me pre-board to get me out of the way – I was in 1K – I watched while 7 other people boarded with bags that were comically large – in one case both of them, but he was 6’4″ and I guess someone decided not to argue with him. So . . .I called BA Gold, threw a very polite fit – commented that the whole process was at best customer alienating and at worse anti-American and sexist (though they had chosen me and the man behind me) – I then cancelled my next flight – $11k trip to Dubai two weeks later – and flew the NYC/LHR portion on United where I’m Global Services and I think they’d let me Board with a fullsize trunk if could fit it in the overhead. I fly 200k a year – am Platinum for life on AA, Global on United, Gold on BA and every once in a while Gold on Virgin. BA is without a doubt the WORST international carrier for customer service – which says something as some of our US carriers are pretty bad. Quietly I have the satisfaction of knowing that the gate agent giving me a problem for a briefcase that was 1″ too large – cost the airline $11k. I don’t think they care, but I know eventually it all adds up.

  25. For some reason I have a yellow tag on the single bag I am carrying on a flight domestic to LHR.

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