Budget airlines in Europe are infamous for pinching pennies and often rely on passengers not doing the research on pedantic regulations. While there are some tricks to avoid price hikes, at the end of the day, it’s all about making sure you know the airline’s rules.
London’s Luton Airport took only 20 minutes to make my ‘most hated places in the world list’. This airport plays host to the budget airlines of Europe and, as anybody who’s traveled a budget airline knows, the staff implement airline regulations like nobody’s business. Seriously, there’s no mercy.
So, after paying 50 pounds (70 USD) because I forgot to print my Ryanair ticket ahead of time, the desk attendant’s sized up my carry-on bag (which met their size regulations) and with her superman x-ray vision, got her portable scale out and held my bag up with it. They charged me 40 pounds (50 USD) for being two kilograms overweight.
Now, this experience was when I was a travel rookie. Since then I’ve made sure that when I’m traveling, and haven’t booked through an agent, I read up on airline regulations, whether budget or not. Even mainstream airlines, like British Airways, are coming out with a new policy every year that nickel and dimes passengers, reducing amenities. So, I’ve included some key advice, based on my experience with budget airlines in Europe.
Tips to Preserve the Savings of a Budget Airline Ticket
Know That Airline Baggage Regulations Vary
Budget airlines want you to think that they operate the same as other budget airlines and bigger carriers. They make loads of money off the presumption that you won’t do the research into their latest policies dictating what you can and cannot bring. This allows Ryanair employees to shrug their shoulders and sleep at night when you say, ‘But I was able to bring a carry-on for free with EasyJet’. RyanAir isn’t EasyJet, and they don’t want you to know that (see regulations listed below).
There are few resources out there that do a solid job comparing the latest regulations. MyBaggage’s airline baggage regulation blog is an exception.
Hindsight is 20/20 and you never know what can come up in terms of last minute baggage add-ons. The problem is that everyone thinks the same thing when they book with Ryanair or EasyJet: “If I don’t add any of the pre-purchases they’re offering, I’ll save so much!”
Let me refer to my story at the top when I say, they will charge you hefty, hefty fees if they catch you with carry on luggage that should be checked. Your savings on the ticket will almost certainly be lost if you have to pay gate checked luggage prices on a budget airline. At the airport on the day of your flight, you will end up paying more in person (by far) than you would have pre-booking your baggage online. Ergo, pre-purchase should always be considered before taking a gamble. Even if you think your luggage meets their carry on requirements.
Consider Upgrading to Priority
If your ticket is cheap enough, sometimes upgrading to priority is the best way to go. Your ticket will still save you mone, though maybe not as much. At least you can enjoy the perks of either a free checked bag, or in the case of Ryanair, overhead space, without stress on the day of your flight.
Size: It’s All About Illusion
The size of your bag on a budget airline matters. In terms of Tortuga bags, daypacks and both the Outbreaker and Setout laptop backpacks easily fit the ‘under the seat’ requirement of budget airlines – even Ryanair. Unlike roller suitcases, backpacks are more likely to be overlooked by airline staff, so long as you make the bag look light and keep your poker face on until you board.
In my experience, a great perk of Tortuga backpacks, no matter what size, is that they are difficult to size up since they fall below the shoulders and are low profile. So long as your bag isn’t noticeably overweight, it has a better chance of going undetected. On the other hand, I’ve seen hiking backpacks get red flagged almost immediately.
A risky tip, which I’ve personally seen both fail and succeed: If the flight is packed, wait until a majority of the flight has boarded and they begin asking for volunteers to check luggage for free.
Weight: Reduce It
If you do happen to overpack, there are some tricks to reduce weight. First of all, wear as many layers as you can, prioritizing your bulkier items. If you have a coat, start by layering shirts and whatever will fit in it. Just so long as it doesn’t appear too bulky, coats are often given a pass by airlines. When you get to your seat, sit on it to avoid any trouble in case flight attendants are picky with overhead space.
Another trick, and this is risky, is to find a duty free bag and stuff it with any of your heavier things. Dependent on the airport, budget airlines will permit duty free bags as add-ons to your carry on allowance.
European Budget Airline Baggage Regulations
To help avoid the hassle of looking up the latest airline carry on baggage regulations, I’ve assembled the policies from a popular regional budget airlines and a couple trans-Atlantic ones too.
Starting November 2018, only priority tickets are able to take one small bag measuring at 16in x 8in x10in and a larger cabin bag (22in x 16in x 8in) with a maximum weight allowance of 10kg (22 pounds). Non-priority customers are only allowed to take the former sized bag.
The Setout Divide is perfect for flying on RyanAir.
Passengers are permitted to bring one piece of hand luggage (with no weight requirements) measuring 22in x 18in x 10in. If you get an Easyjet Plus ticket, you get an additional small bag of 18in x 14in x 8in. Beware, if your bag is caught being larger than restrictions as it’s £47 (60 USD) to check it into the aircraft bag hold.
Even at the lowest fare (Lowfare tickets), customers are allowed a 10kg carry on (22in x 16in x 9in) and a personal item that will fit under the seat. The combined weight must be 10kg.
Customers are allowed one piece of cabin baggage with a weight limit of 10kg and measuring 22in x 16in x 9.5 in. Customers are also allowed a smaller piece of hand luggage that will fit under the seat, so long as it measures 10in x 13in x 8in.
Carry on baggage restrictions are becoming tighter with budget airlines in Europe. Don’t presume that European budget airlines all have the same regulations.
Pre-purchase extra baggage online (either carry on or checked) ahead of time if you’re definitely going to be overpacking your carry on to save money.
Consider upgrading your seat to include a bigger carry on.
Tortuga bags often get little attention from airline staff since they do not look hefty. Try to make your bag look lighter and casual to avoid size fees.
To avoid weight fees, unload your bag by either wearing bulkier items or layering heavier clothing items in your coat.