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easyJet quietly drops ‘Hands Free’ and its ‘you can’t use the overhead lockers’ cabin bag policy

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There are many contenders for the title of ‘most stupid airline policy ever’, but easyJet’s new baggage policy – which launched this February – was in strong contention for a medal.

The airline banned passengers on standard tickets from bringing on larger bags which would have to go in the overhead locker. This was potentially acceptable if the benefit was sold as an extra, but it wasn’t.

Anyone who turned up at the gate with a large piece of hand baggage had to pay £55 to put it in the hold.

easyJet has also dropped its ‘Hands Free’ service which let you check in your hand baggage and which tended to be cheaper than paying for a seat which allowed a free cabin bag.

easyJet quietly abandons its ludicrous 'hands free' cabin bag policy

Change 1: easyJet will now allow large carry-on bags, if you pay

Under the current easyJet policy, which launched in February 2021, the only passengers allowed to bring larger bags onto the aircraft were those who paid for ‘Up Front’ (ie to sit in the first few rows) or extra legroom seats.

There were also exceptions for easyJet Plus (see our review of easyJet Plus here) and FLEXI fare holders.

This led to the ludicrous situation where the overhead lockers in the front of the aircraft were overflowing with hand baggage because anyone who refused to check in their bag had no choice but to pay for ‘Up Front’.

The overhead lockers in the rear of the aircraft were empty.

What happened if you turned up at the gate with hand baggage?

It was impossible to pay to bring a piece of hand baggage on board if it wouldn’t fit under your seat (45cm x 36cm x 20cm).

If you turned up at the gate with a bag which could not fit under the seat in front, you were charged £55 to place it in the hold.

Don’t believe me? Here is what easyJet published at the time:

easyJet quietly abandons its ludicrous 'hands free' cabin bag policy

Passengers who would have willingly (well, perhaps not willingly) paid an extra few £ for the ‘privilege’ of putting a bag in the overhead locker could not do so. They had to buy the full ‘Up Front’ package as you can see here:

easyJet quietly abandons its ludicrous 'hands free' cabin bag policy

You weren’t necessarily able to buy ‘Up Front’ if you wanted to

‘Up Front’ seats were capped at between 42 and 63 per flight.

This meant that, even if you were willing to book an ‘Up Front’ seat in order to bring hand baggage into the cabin, you may not have been able to do so.

Once the ‘Up Front’ and extra legroom allocation was gone, that was it. No additional passengers would be allowed to bring larger pieces of hand baggage onto the aircraft, even if willing to pay.

You can now pay to take larger pieces of hand baggage on board

With, unsurprisingly, zero publicity, easyJet has scrapped this idea.

The new easyJet hand baggage policy is outlined here.

You can still buy ‘Up Front’ and extra leg room seats, which will include the ability to bring a larger bag on board for free.

For everyone else, you can now add a large piece of cabin baggage by paying for it during booking or later via the easyJet app. You cannot add a cabin bag via the website yet.

Prices allegedly start at £5.99 each way. That said, comments below suggest that the actual cost is £15+ each way, albeit that £15+ is still cheaper than the typical £30+ cost of ‘Up Front’.

luggage baggage suitcase

Change 2: easyJet has dropped ‘Hands Free’

I never saw the point of ‘Hands Free’, but some readers did find it useful. easyJet would let you check in your hand baggage for £7 and give you free priority boarding on top. You could book a ‘family bundle’ which reduced the cost to as little as £2.67 per bag. ‘Pay monthly’ customers on the ‘3’ mobile network got the service for nothing at one point as part of a tie-up with the airline.

‘Hands Free’ was initially available on a walk-up basis at the airport, but was later changed to require pre-booking.

It was sold to passengers on the basis that they could experience the freedom of walking around the airport without a bag in their hands, or on their shoulders. The real benefit was that it was cheaper than booking an ‘Up Front’ or emergency exit row seat (a requirement to bring a bag into the cabin) and also cheaper than paying to check in a large suitcase.

‘Hands Free’ worked best for people who had small 55cm suitcases (the largest size allowed for ‘Hands Free’) which did not contain laptops and who were happy to queue at a bag drop on departure and wait at baggage reclaim after landing. It was also useful if you were carrying liquids.

It didn’t work well if you had a soft cabin bag (the risk of damage from checking it in was too high), if you were carrying IT equipment which was too fragile to check-in or if you were looking to minimise the time spent hanging around at the airport.

‘Hands Free’ has now gone as this page of the easyJet website confirms.

Conclusion

Banning passengers from bringing larger items of hand baggage on board, even if they were willing to pay to do so, was a strategic mistake. It opened up clear water between British Airways and easyJet.

My wife, for example, is not allowed to check in her work laptop. It must stay with her at all times. If she wanted to take an easyJet flight and there were no ‘Up Front’ or extra leg room seats available, she couldn’t book it. There was no other way of being allowed to bring the bag onto the aircraft, plus a handbag, since her employer would not pay the premium for a flexible ticket.

At the same time as easyJet was stopping you bringing larger items of hand baggage, British Airways was reintroducing free water and light snacks on short-haul flights, along with the launch of the Tom Kerridge pre-order food menu.

By removing the ability to pay to put a bag in the overhead bins, easyJet also put itself behind low cost rivals Ryanair and Wizz Air. It’s hard to understand how easyJet ever allowed this policy to come to market in the first place.

Comments (155)

  • Elizabeth says:

    I have used easyJet for years but I have never seen a stupid policy like this to get our luggage and hand luggage sorted was more then or flights and I definitely won’t be using there airline again jet2 is definitely a lot cheaper

  • Hugo says:

    Bugger! I just booked (pre-policy change) a weekend in OPO on Easyjet and had to spend £50 extra on the seats so I could take hand luggage, kept looking for ‘hand luggage only fee’ and of course it was nowhere.

    Glad they are removing this god awful poorly considered policy anyway…this sort of thing is what has led me to purposefully avoid easyjet as much as possible, the price difference hurdle for me used to be just £20-30 but these days I’ll probably be willing to spend an extra £80 to fly a flag carrier instead

    • Sabrina Duncan says:

      I have flights booked with EasyJet to Faro in January and after reading this article looked at the cost of adding a cabin bag. They are charging £20 per bag going out and £19 per bag coming back! More expensive for 2 people than adding a hold bag and only £1 cheaper than booking an upfront seat with the cabin bag included. Ryanair flights I’ve booked for March charged £12 per bag going out and £6 per bag coming back with priority boarding.

  • Wee Gee says:

    So disappointed that EasyJet have withdrawn their hands free option without any notice period. I have booked numerous flights over the next few months on the basis that I would use the hands free option for each of my trips. This almost instant change adds a significant amount to my flight costs (almost double ) and to have this change implemented without making any kind of transitional arrangements for anyone who has already booked and paid for flights some time ago is an incredibly poor customer experience – it is now just as economical to travel with BA – Come on EasyJet- why are you placing your already pre booked customers at a total disadvantage!!!!

  • Christina cosgrove says:

    We used hands free a lot, part of holidaying for us is bringing back gifts for family and friends like olive oil, jam, honey, wine etc. It just allowed you to buy the odd restricted thing you found on your travels and then be able to bring it back without prohibitively expensive hold bag fees. I haven’t worked it out but if you fly regularly it would probably pay you to join the Easyjet plus scheme which allows you one small cabin bag and a large cabin bag.

  • Marilyn Smyth says:

    We were part of Easyjet’s frequent flyer scheme as we have a house in Spain. We used Southend airport and Hands Free; both of which have now gone. Easyjet have no presence in Essex at all, a massive county like that. I was already on the edge of switching airlines but Hands Free kept me loyal, now with this loss, I will move; they have lost so many flights each year as I used to recommend all the visitors to my villa as well. As you say.. no transition period; it’s a disgrace. Easyjet were my favourites for so long; I am so disappointed.

  • PETER POWELL says:

    Because of this change to hand free, I will need to price up other options from Gatwick now being that Wizz air and other carriers are adding routes to popular destinations that I use. Was always quite loyal to Easyjet, but money is mine to spend wisely!

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