Hand luggage restrictions: size, weight, liquids & medicines

Jenai Laignel / 22 April 2015

We take a look about what you can – and can’t – take on a flight as hand luggage.

Hand luggage size and weight restrictions

Unfortunately not all hand luggage allowances are the same, so a bag that is fine for a British Airways flight may not be accepted as hand luggage if you fly with EasyJet.

Annoying as it is, always check with your airline before you turn up to the airport. Arrive at the departure gate of a Ryanair flight with a bag they deem too big for the cabin, and you could end up paying £50 for it to be put in the hold.

And it’s not only the dimensions of the bag you need to look at, different airlines also have different weight allowances. For example, Flybe allows one bag weighing 10kg, whereas EasyJet does not have a weight restriction – you just need to be able to put the bag unaided in the overhead locker.

Check how many bags you are allowed as hand luggage too. Some airlines have strict policies and you must travel with only one item, including handbags, laptop bags and airport shopping. Other airlines, such as BA, will allow one piece of luggage and also one personal bag.

Be aware that airlines sometimes have different rules, depending on the destination they are travelling to. Monarch also has different allowances for their charter and scheduled flights.

A list of cabin bag allowances, and charges for other flight extras, is available from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Liquid restrictions

Restrictions are in place as to what liquids you can take in your hand luggage.

Airport security stipulates that all liquids, sprays, pastes and gels – including cosmetics such as mascara and lip gloss, shaving foam, toothpaste, hair gel and contact lens solution – must be in containers that hold no more than 100ml.

Larger containers are not allowed, even if they only have a small amount of liquid in them.

All your containers must fit into one transparent plastic bag, measuring approximately 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in). Bags should be sealed, not knotted or tied at the top. And you are limited to one bag per person.

If you want water for your flight, buy it once airside. Or carry an empty plastic bottle and fill it up at a water fountain after security.

For more on liquid restrictions, including information about baby food and milk, see GOV.UK.

Medicine restrictions on flights

You can pack essential medicines – and liquids can be more than 100ml – if they are needed for the duration of your flight and you carry a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription.

Inhalers, hypodermic syringes and cooking gel packs are also permitted if they are necessary for your flight and they pass airport security checks.

If you’re travelling with a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, inform your airline at least 48 hours before departure.

Essential medical equipment is allowed in the cabin, again if it’s essential for your journey and you have documentation from a medical professional. Check with your airline before you book a flight if you need to travel with an oxygen cylinder and a battery-powered aid.

Other hand luggage restrictions

It may seem obvious that you can’t take chemicals, toxic substances and ammunition on your flight, but there are many other restricted items, including badminton rackets, walking poles, corkscrews, darts, screwdrivers, crackers and party poppers, that you may not have thought of.

Knitting needles, along with scissors with blades under 6cm in length are, however, acceptable. If in doubt, check with your airline.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.