Flying Seattle to Heathrow with BA—can I put hand luggage in the hold?
November 11, 2019 9:30 AM   Subscribe

On the way over from Heathrow to Seattle I screwed up and had a few toiletries that were 150ml (where the max was 100ml). Luckily I had the option to stow my hand luggage in the hold. Will I have the same option on my return journey, also with BA? I want to keep my toiletries and avoid paying for extra luggage.
posted by einekleine to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
So, to clarify, you're flying from Seattle to Heathrow? I can't speak to BA baggage policies, but my experience with US TSA is that as long as the are close to the right size and they fit in the ziplock bag, the enforcement of actual volume restriction is very lax. As long as these containers don't look full size, I would just see if I can get through security with them. I would only try this, however, with enough time to go back to the ticket counter and check the bag if required.
posted by mercredi at 9:36 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Your confirmation email should state your baggage allowance. I know they offer hand luggage only fares short haul but have never looked into it for a long haul flight. I have not experienced security and ground staff at LHR to be the most flexible creatures in the world so it seems unlikely that they would have let you check luggage if you had not paid for a fare that includes checked luggage. So i’d start there. If you have an onward connection beware that LHR security has made me throw away toiletries the TSA was quite happy to let me keep 12 hrs earlier so checking may be your best bet.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:47 AM on November 11, 2019

It depends if you are planning to check any luggage in addition to your hand luggage. BA are quite strict in that they only allow one checked bag of up to 23kg in the hold, and won't allow you to split that weight over multiple bags.

They will put your hand luggage in the hold for free if you don't have any checked luggage but otherwise you'll probably need to pay.
posted by Eleven at 10:21 AM on November 11, 2019

(... assuming you're flying standard coach class, or "World Traveller". There's upgraded classes with more allowance)
posted by Eleven at 10:26 AM on November 11, 2019

Just to be clear, I am travelling Seattle to Heathrow and have a hand baggage only ticket. Thanks for the answers so far.
posted by einekleine at 11:17 AM on November 11, 2019

I suspect you're flying on BA's relatively new "Basic" fare, which only allows hand luggage. I have no experience of it myself, but checked bags are apparently a paid option for that ticket, so I would expect them to try and get some money from you.

I would consider FedEx-ing your toiletries to yourself for a few bucks if you really want to keep them.
posted by Eleven at 2:22 PM on November 11, 2019

Can you re-package them in 100ml containers? Even if you lose a bit (or have to buy a second container), that will save a lot of hassle/stress and be cheaper than checking or FedExing.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:25 PM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

In US airports, if you're checking baggage, you do that before going through security. It's at the security area that your toiletries would be taken away should they be found to no be within the accepted limits. This means that you'd have to throw them away. If you had enough time, you could take your chances with security and if they ask you to throw away your oversize items, you could probably collect your items, go back out to the area where you'd check bags and check them (likely for a fee). Then you'd have to go through security again.

The main time hand baggage is allowed to go into the hold for free is when you get to the gate. Overhead space is at such a premium that many airlines will allow you to gate check your bag and in some cases they force you to gate check as there's no more room in the cabin. But, by then, you've already cleared security, so it doesn't help you if your oversized items have already been found by security. Though, speaking from experience, as long as your containers look close to the correct size and they're in a quart-sized ziplock bag, they're likely to let them through without issue. It's a gamble, though.

The safest is to either transfer the toiletries into regulation sized containers or check the bag.
posted by quince at 4:58 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I do think even fairly easygoing US TSA officials are going to notice five ounce containers (as opposed to three). If you want to keep your toiletries decant them into three ounce bottles.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:43 PM on November 11, 2019

Most drugstores in the US sell empty 3 oz/100 mL containers that you can decant your toiletries into. Look for a CVS or Walgreens. It'll be a few bucks, but definitely cheaper than checking a bag at the counter.
posted by basalganglia at 3:41 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

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