Norwegian Air to start charging for hand luggage

Helen Coffey
Nowegian Air Shuttle Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft approaching JFK International Airport: Getty

Norwegian Air will start charging passengers to bring cabin bags on flights.

The budget airline said the changes are designed to give customers “freedom of choice” and will apply to all bookings made after 23 January 2020.

Following in Ryanair’s footsteps, the carrier will now only include one small bag that can fit under the seat in front in its free luggage allowance.

Passengers who want to take a full-size cabin bag onboard to be stowed in the overhead lockers must pay an extra charge of between £5 and £9 each way, or upgrade to a more expensive ticket type.

For example, LowFare+ customers can bring an additional overhead bag plus one checked bag, while Flex, Premium or PremiumFlex fares include an overhead bag and two pieces of luggage in the hold.

As part of the updated baggage policy, Norwegian has increased the maximum size of underseat bags, increased the weight allowance for checked baggage from 20kg to 23kg and increased the total combined weight allowance for hand baggage from 10 to 15kg for Flex and Premium customers. Those who book a LowFare+ ticket still only have a combined allowance of 10kg for cabin bags.

The changes are very similar to those made by Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier, Ryanair, back in 2018, when the airline officially changed its rules, requiring customers to pay extra if they wanted to take more than one mid-size bag with them on flights.

The limit was cut to one midsize bag with maximum dimensions of 40x25x20cm unless passengers paid an extra £6-£8 each way for priority boarding.

Rival Wizz Air soon followed suit, cutting its allowance to one free cabin bag measuring no more than 40x30x20cm unless customers paid for priority boarding (between €5 and €15) to take a larger cabin bag of up to 55x40x23cm onboard.

“It’s disappointing but unsurprising to see Norwegian jump on the bandwagon and introduce cabin baggage charges,” said Adam Ewart, CEO and founder of SendMyBag, an international luggage delivery company. “One of the last bastions of fair air travel has buckled and prioritised profit over customer experience.

“Until now, Norwegian has been one of the most popular low-cost long-haul airlines for passengers. As hand luggage was previously offered as standard across all ticket types, it’ll be interesting to see how its customers will react to paying for the ‘privilege’ of bringing their personal items on board.

“It’s sad that it’s now standard for flyers to fork out for hand luggage. It begs the question: what’s left to monetise? Will 2020 be the year that we’re charged for using the toilets onboard ‘budget’ airlines?”

Cecilie Nybø Carlsen, VP of product management at Norwegian, emphasised that the move is aimed at making the boarding process smoother and more punctual.

“It’s important for us that everyone has a good travel experience when they fly Norwegian,” she said.

“It is a common misperception that there is enough room in the cabin for all passengers to bring an overhead cabin bag. However, most of our aircraft carry 186 passengers and has space for around 80 overhead cabin bags.

“Now, with the new policy in place, our goal is that boarding will be smoother for our passengers, we can avoid spending time rearranging carry-on baggage in the overhead lockers and help ensure that our aircraft depart on time.”

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