UK LCC easyJet is rolling out a new “Hands Free” service, where passengers can pay £4 ($5) to leave their hand luggage at check-in and receive priority boarding.

EasyJet is launching the service across its network (excluding London Gatwick) after more than 9,000 passengers chose the option during a four-week trial in France earlier this year.

“We’ve seen a fantastic response from customers upgrading to the ‘Hands Free’ experience,” easyJet ancillary revenue director Andrew Middleton said.

Under the initiative, passengers part with their hand luggage at the airside bag drop desk in the departures hall. The bags are then tagged as priority luggage, so they are among the first delivered to the baggage belt at the arrival airport.

EasyJet normally charges £13-£30 for hold luggage, increasing to £35 at the bag drop desk, or £45 at the boarding gate.

“For the price of £4 per person, or £10 for a group bundle per flight, easyJet gives passengers a stress-free experience, as they do not need to take baggage through security or carry it around the airport,” easyJet said.

“Passengers with Hands Free will be given small plastic bags to carry their essential items, and are free to take on board any items purchased at the airport.  Passengers are also able to board first after those with Speedy Boarding.”

The UK LCC operates a strictly enforced one cabin-bag limit, although premium Speedy Boarding passengers are allowed to bring a second, small item. Conversely, easyJet’s Irish rival Ryanair allows two pieces for all passengers, within size limits.

EasyJet flights often run full and passengers are frequently required to give up policy-compliant hand luggage at the gate for no additional fee. This is returned via the baggage belts at the arrival airport.

Excessive hand luggage is an ongoing problem for airlines, particularly LCCs, which typically operate with average load factors of over 90%.

Central and Eastern European Wizz Air used to charge for hand luggage to be carried into the cabin, although in July it announced plans to scrap this fee from Oct. 29. Like easyJet, Wizz allows priority passengers a second small personal item, in addition to their standard hand luggage allowance.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com