The number of holidaymakers choosing to ‘travel light’ has dramatically increased as people look to dodge the baggage fees charged by the UK’s budget airlines.

A study by The Co-operative Travel into more than 68,000 flight bookings has revealed a 233% increase in the number of people managing to go on holiday with just what they can carry on as hand baggage, normally only 10kg per person (including their case). These extreme measures are being driven by the significant savings to be had by avoiding the hold baggage charges from budget airlines such as RyanAir and easyJet.

A family of four holidaying with just hand baggage, rather than a suitcase each, would save an average of £233.12 on baggage charges from their outbound and return flights. This rises to a £440 saving for RyanAir’s peak season flights. And while not everyone can manage to go quite this far, the operator's research shows that 26% of passengers are lightening the load in order to reduce costs.

It estimates that more than 16,000 of the families flying with budget airlines this year will share just one suitcase between four, saving an average of £149, while more than 51,000 couples will do the same, saving £49.

The company's director of retail distribution, Trevor Davis, said: “Budget airlines have been around for quite some time now and people are getting smarter and minimising the cost of their flights. While not everyone will want to go to the extremes of holidaying with just carry-on baggage, it does allow people to decide exactly what they’re prepared to pay for. For the airlines this is probably the desired outcome, lowering the weight of the flight and time spent handling people’s luggage.”

However, the operator is raising concerns over the way in which complex charging structures make it harder for customers to shop around for the best price. Davis said: “Prices for budget airline flights are rarely quoted with a typical baggage cost, and most often the price you see just includes a hand luggage allowance. This, combined with the broad range and complexity of charges, makes it hard for holidaymakers to compare prices accurately at face value.”

Researchers point to the £84.02 per person price difference between the lowest standard baggage charge for a return flight to Spain (Flybe £25.98) and the highest (RyanAir £110 - during peak season when booked through the call centre or at the airport). These charges mean that a family of four could find a difference of £336.08 between the price that they are originally quoted and the price they actually pay once baggage charges are added.

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