New British Airways hand baggage policy (ie less) and boarding plan announced

You may have noticed that British Airways has been carrying out a number of trials at Heathrow over the last few months to smooth the boarding process.

Fundamentally, there have been three issues (as I see it):

The introduction of the Bronze tier means that there are too many passengers who qualify for priority boarding.  On peak business flights the priority queue is bigger than the standard queue.

The introduction of ‘hand baggage only’ tickets has encouraged people to save money by not checking in a case and bringing a disproportionate amount of luggage into the cabin

The introduction of another two and a half rows of seats has added a huge number of extra bags on full flights

Overhead locker

This is what is changing:


Boarding will be done by cabin and by Executive Club status.  Non-status passengers will then board by seat row number.

Hand baggage

This is likely to be more contentious.

The size of your second piece of hand baggage is being cut.

Your second item must now be no larger than 40cm x 30cm x 15cm unless you are travelling in First or Club World on long haul.  There is no exception for Club Europe on short haul.  The previous limit for the 2nd item was 45cm x 36 cm x 20 cm.

The first item limit is unchanged at 56cm x 45cm x 25cm with a 23kg weight limit.

The second item MUST be placed under the seat in front of you.  It will receive a yellow tag at the boarding gate and must not be placed in an overhead locker unless you are sat on an exit row or in Row 1.

If you second item of hand baggage is larger than 40 x 30 x 15 then it will NOT be accepted onto the aircraft and must be placed in the hold.  Tough luck about that expensive new handbag you bought.

If your second item meets the size guidelines above then you are guaranteed to be able to take it on the aircraft.  If the overhead lockers are full, passengers will be selected to have their main piece of hand baggage removed and placed in the hold.

Implementation of these changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to see our latest articles on earning and spending your points and click here to see our list of current Avios promotions.)

The £500 winner of our HotelTonight competition is ....
Hilton offering free Gold status after three stays - open to everyone
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. They trialled in new boarding at dus last week. Golds and club first, then I think it was going to be silver and bronze but the lady saw there was a lot of silver and did silver only. One interesting thing was that the 10 or so golds boarded as specified and the first silver to board got an op-up

  2. i do not know what is going on with ba. but each month we hear less things. than points than dirty plains than not working seat etc.etc. may be better a compleet new management who will get to look what does the ba traveller likes to have. service and more service.

  3. More to the point Rob, where did they put those extra bags, if not in the hold? Did they go on the next flight or where did they end up?

    • Next flight, which was the next day

      • Had that been me at the front rob I would have stood up and told the whole cabin!!! Could you imagine he uproar.

        “Hey everyone, if you think you bags going in the hold then this guy says not. They’ll be on the next flight tomorrow”!!!

  4. Philip Hart says:

    The Yellow Tag mechanism is typical backasswards thinking.

    To be able to get both your bags in the overhead lockers, all you need do is remove the Yellow Tag before reaching the aircraft door – or indeed even once inside the aircraft. Bingo – 2 pieces of locker baggage!

    The way to make this actually work is to adopt the exact opposite approach; allow only those bags HAVING a Yellow Tag to go in the overhead locker. Otherwise they have to go on the floor, or be transferred to the hold (or – scarily – not, according to Rob’s recent experience).

    Thus, acquiring a Yellow Tag would be vital to getting dibs on valuable locker real estate, and PAX would actively ensure they got their hands on one.

    But maybe the BA beancounters ran the numbers, and figured out that the current mechanism requires fewer Yellow Tags and is thus cheaper to operate. Or maybe they didn’t think it through at all 🙂

    • Cheshire Pete says:

      You could still but a yellow tag on yourself, however, so ether way BA can’t win assuming there are many devious thinking people around to circumvent whatever system they use !

    • Removing a yellow tag wont work. Bags without tags can be put in the hold. And as each passenger can only have one yellow tag adding one to a second bag will be a bit of a giveaway.

    • I see people do this all the time on Ryanair flights, as soon as the tag has been put on the bag to say it’s going in the hold they remove it once out of sight of the staff. This is normally followed by chaos in the cabin as people can’t get their bags in the overhead!

      My other half once saw a family of 8 all remove their tags in front of her. So when she got to the gate she grassed them up 🙂 Next thing two members of staff went running down the stairs after them followed by a large argument.

      • The BA system is different from Ryan air – the yellow tag means you can take it onto the plane, no tag means it might end up in the hold.

        • True, but the yellow tags are the same for all flights as far as I have seen, so frequent flyers could start saving yellow tags from past flights to re-use for second bags if necessary…

    • Lady London says:

      I guess that’s because if the plane is a certain amount late they have to pay passengers* legislated EU261 compensation. But for late baggage they don’t have to compensate.

      If I’d heard that I’d view it as fraudulent. Just shows what airlines will do until there’s legislation to stop them.

  5. The new boarding process will be great if it’s policed. The current scrum is unacceptable so hopefully, this will ease things. However, this will probably only be policed at LHR and LGW – how will this work on the return when the gate staff don’t work for BA and can’t be bothered?

  6. The last time I flew Club World there were only 2 overhead lockers left for passengers, all the others were full of BA stuff. And prior to that when I was flying World Traveller Plus, a member of the cabin crew was storing his belongings in the locker above me. And what was worse, he kept on opening it to get stuff out.

    • JamesWag says:

      I hope you wrote to BA and complained or at least to inform them.
      If we flyers don’t tell BA managers then the flight crew will continue to misbehave whilst the head office knows nothing about it.

  7. What if you only have one carry on which is smaller than the second piece? Does that get tagged? Seems unfair if so… Don’t really want my stuff on their grubby floor!

    • This is the issue that I have. I only take one piece of baggage. It will fit under the seat, but I want to put it in the overheads and enjoy the (limited) legroom.

    • If you only have one carry on, regardless of size, you get to pop it in the overhead cabinets.

  8. William says:

    Ah….the joy of flying! It is so stress free.

  9. Frenske says:

    Second bag in front of you sounds like a fair policy. I thought this is not new; regularly it has been announced on busy flights (to OSL). Nevertheless plenty of times I see people stowing both bags in the overhead lockers leaving no place for people boarding after them. You see them smirking internally, but avoiding eye contact with the person desperately looking for some space.

  10. How on earth do they police a cabin full of people and ensuring all of them are putting their second item under the seat in front rather that in the overhead locker?

    • That’s (supposedly) the point of the yellow tag.
      No yellow tagged luggage should be in the overhead bins. Obviously it relies on people not removing the tag and putting piece no.2 in the bin with piece no.1

  11. Tim
    Don’t assume that your one piece of luggage will go overhead. Where is that specified? Unless it is the smaller size it can actually end up in the hold or at best under the seat

  12. Mummy55 says:

    What happens when you are traveling on the domestic leg of a club world or first long haul flight?

  13. 23kg limit for hand luggage? Is that a typo?

    Things haven’t been quite as bad on my last few trips with priority boarding and locker space, but the bottom line is they need to stop people bringing the kitchen sink onboard! Removal of hand luggage to put into the hold and then not doing so until the following day is irresponsible – this is traditionally where people may store medicines and similar items that they really can’t do without at the other end.

  14. The baggage change sounds like it’ll cause as much or more trouble than it solves. The 2nd item was going under the seat so wasn’t taking up locker space. We tend to travel HBO, and all this might do is lead to us using bigger primary cabin bags to hold the stuff we need to relocate.

    Can’t really disagree with the change in boarding priority; It sounds like the current system is a mess.

    • BA is a mess full stop!

    • Sussex Bantam says:

      The new boarding policy worked really well last week at Basle – three lines for priority boarding – first line for CW and Gold, second line for silver, third line for bronze. All very orderly, all very pleasant !

  15. James67 says:

    It was inevitable given the inconsiderate behaviour of many passengers. However, partly BAs fault for failing to enforce size of cabin bags from outset. Despite enjoying the convenience, I also think I may prefer the return of 7kg handbaggage limits having seen effects of a heavy laptop bag fall on a womans shoulder. So, good at least, that BA going to be enforcingthe smaller bag under the seat rule as these are the items most likely to fall out I have seen overhead bins pop open sometimes by themselves, particularly during turbulence. It’s a good reason to avoid the aisle seat. The irorny is that the so called cheaper hand baggage only fares very quickly became same or more expensive than the previous cheapest fares despite low inflation and huge falls in fuel prices. Presumably when flying on a domestic connection the baggage rules that apply are those that apply for the longhsul CW or F sector?