The Ultimate Guide to Low-Cost Airlines

ultimate guide to low cost airlines maximizing your baggage allowance

Part 1: Maximizing your baggage allowance

The best carry-on bags for maximizing your baggage allowance

There are 2 types of carry-on bags: a proper carry-on (that should fit in the overhead baggage rack) and a personal item (purse, laptop bag, or small backpack that should fit under the seat in front of you).

Low-cost airlines such as (non-defunct) Wow Air have done away with the free overhead bag. Moreover, several US airlines have introduced a new “no frills” economy class which only includes a personal item for free.

All airlines have restrictions about the size and weight of carry-on baggage. Some are more strict than others and, in reality, a lot depends on the check-in agent you draw as well as the status of the airline’s revenue goals for that particular flight, day, or month. When revenue is short, the check-in staff are instructed to strictly enforce the rules.

With so much capriciousness in the process, you need to adopt a flexible approach.

We won’t go into ways to get larger carry-on bags on board that exceed the airline’s restrictions. There’s not much point to stretch the limits here, as the specified measurements are pretty clear. Most airlines have the fixed metal guides where your carry-on luggage should fit.

Here are the carry-on bags we recommend, which comply with the carry-on restrictions of most airlines.

Overhead bag: Red Oxx Air Boss

Personal item: Uniqlo 3-way Bag This bag is perfect for the restrictive carry-on allowance in Porter Airlines’ Basic Fare. Mr. Thrifty recently used this bag to fly Porter Basic and was able to fit an astonishing amount into this carry-on piece.

Strategies for maximizing your baggage allowance at the check-in desk

However, when it comes to weight restrictions, there are several tactics which you should have in your back pocket, in case of necessity. Hey, the airlines don’t charge extra $ for fat people, so their extra weight charges for baggage are simply a strategy to enhance revenue.

First, be aware of the weight rules by looking it up on the relevant airline’s website. You can use a handheld scale to be accurate, but in general such a scale is not worth the space to take along with you on your trip. We recommend the Accuoz Digital Luggage Scale.

First off, try to take the ‘free option’ of checking in without trying to economize your weight. If the agent weighs it and tries to charge you extra, politely claim that you have some consumables in your bag that you’d rather dispose of at the airport rather than paying the extra fees, and exit the check-in process.

Here are some specific tips to maximize your carry-on weight allowance:

  • Think ‘layers’. Dress in multiple layers to both save on weight and increase the number of pockets where you can stuff additional items.
  • Remove the densest items like liquids, battery chargers, etc. Place these in your pockets.
  • And, finally, at the actual weigh-in, try to place the edge of your bag off the scale (image to come).

Mr. Thrifty’s ultimate guide to low-cost airlines is a living resource, so check back often for the latest information. The best way to stay informed is to subscribe to our email newsletter.

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Coming up in Part 2: Strategies for Specific Low-Cost Carriers

  • Ryanair
  • easyJet
  • Norwegian
  • Volotea
  • Wizz Air
  • Scoot
  • AirAsia
  • JetStar