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.

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  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. Polly says:

    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. fiona says:

    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. Scott says:

    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. JohnG says:

    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?

  16. Marly says:

    This is a good policy, sick and tired of people carrying in their all house on the plane!

  17. Sussex Bantam says:

    OT – has anyone had any success with the Air Italia status match ? I keep getting rejected because the “original card is not clear/missing”. This despite me sending a PDF of my gold card downloaded from the BA site. Any tips ?

    • Yes it took me a few attempts but finally got it (through to March 2017 :D) – they seem to really just want a scan of the physical card itself, website statements and app BA card screenshots didn’t seem to do it.

    • mark2 says:

      Since Alitalia has been mentioned, has anyone managed to get any sense out of Etihad re Alitalia redemptions please?

    • Henrik says:

      I got a correct status match from baec silver though it took 2 weeks and I provided both card copy and statement screenshot.

    • Fenny says:

      I sent my card details in and got an email last week apologising for the delay as they were swamped with applications. Still waiting.

  18. I always avoid Row 1, and always pick Row 3. You get overhead locker space, in Row 1 it’s a bit more limited and the crew often seem to take it, also there is no seat in front to store that 2nd bag. Also Rows 1 and 3 are served at the exact time for the drinks service. This is for domestic, First Class is a different matter! As I type this I am wondering if a post on BA seat rules/policies may be useful to readers, e.g. Seats 1A and 1K in First are blocked for Gold, but then become available at online check in, the first 6 rows of domestic are blocked off for Golds until T minus 72 hrs.

    • James67 says:

      Same here, I always try to get 3C or D on domestic. On BKK route which I fly most often I always go for 1D. it is a 772 3class so this is front row next to closets with no adjacent aisle seats which begin row 2. Toilets are other side of galley so no issue there. Some noise from galley before main meal but it’s minimal. As far as CW seats go, it is as good as it gets for solo travel. A few times cabin crew try to reseat me saying I will be disturbed by galley but I lways refuse. I suspect they want it for themselves but are too polite to push the issue. On my upcoming KUL flight I just took aise seat at front on CW cabin. Somehow hoping for op-up but doubt it.

  19. Ross Parker says:

    I have flown 50+ European shorthauls across BA, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, Swiss, Easyjet and a couple of others. The only flights on which there was not a bunfight for overhead space was Easyjet, which is the only one of the airlines that takes a hard line on carry-on luggage. It made boarding a much more pleasant experience. And given boarding is roughly 15 minutes vs a typical 1h15m flight, the improvement is quite noticeable. Also, I pity the cabin crew on some flights who have to continually explain that bags within ridiculously high limits simply cannot fit on board, and the aggro they get as a result.

  20. chantelle says:

    Im not sure if this i the right place to post this, but i bought one of the business class fares to Hong Kong that you mentioned a few weeks ago.

    It says im allowed 3 x 32kilo bags, i was wondering how strict BA is for business class holders on the number of bags, ie if i have 4 bags, but the weight is the same. There is no loyalty card attached to this booking.

    Also the handluggage was 25 kilo, is this different now? Im planning on taking A LOT of stuff.

    Thanks in advance

    • Fairly strict but 32kg is a lot – my 7 year old weighs that ….

      • chantelle says:

        actually its not the weight as i know already i have almost the 93 kilo, its the number of pieces im worried about. I am bringing over all the items for my babies nursery so i will have a lot of weight, but i think it will be more than 3 items.

        • Polly says:

          It’s definitely the 3 bags at max 32kgs per bag, but make sure each bag is within the maximum,. They won’t let you have one heavier than the other eg one at 36kgs and one at 28kgs. It’s a health and safety issue also. Then you got your hold bag too. Hope you manage it all.

        • chantelle says:

          thanks 🙂

    • Polly says:

      Whatever it states on your ticket is what you are entitled to. These new rules are just coming in. Enjoy your flight, ESP if it’s one of those bargain club world ones!

      • chantelle says:

        thanks 🙂 yes it was a great deal! And seen as I need to take SO much luggage then the BA is a great option. Cathay business only allows for 1 x 32 kilo bag so even in baggage alone its a great deal!