This is usually your suitcase. Checked baggage used to be included in your ticket price, but this is no longer always the case. ‘No frills’ airlines try to encourage their passengers to only take hand luggage. This means that the aircraft is lighter, so less fuel is used and the airplane can be turned around quicker once on the ground as there is less baggage to remove. The passengers are ‘encouraged’ by the fact that checked or hold baggage is now an extra cost. Charter and scheduled airlines are starting to follow suit by either reducing the included allowance or by charging separately for the baggage.
There are two systems in use by the airlines.
1. Weight System
This is the most common system in use, where your allowance is determined by your class. It usually means one case up to a maximum weight, ranging from 15kg to 23kg for economy passengers. If you go over your allowance you will be charged excess baggage. There will also be a size allowance as well, sometimes given as height x width x depth, or can be given by X (where X=height+width+depth).
Sometimes you are given a limit, but it also includes your hand luggage. For example the current weight limit for a Thomsonfly Premium seat is 30kg, but this includes 7kg hand luggage. If your suitcase is more than 23kg you will be charged.
Excess is only allowed if there is room on-board the aircraft, so don’t just assume that you can go over your allowance and still take it on board. There is also a maximum allowed weight per item for health and safety reasons, which is 32kg. There will also be a maximum size limit as well. Please check with your airline.
Excess used to be between 1 and 1.5% of the highest one way adult economy ticket per kilogram. Now different airlines have their own systems in place. BA has a set charge of £30/$50 per bag in local currency.
Some airlines allow you to pool your weight when travelling on the same ticket; others such as Ryanair do not.
It is now easier with some airlines to take extra suitcases. This will be cheaper to book online, so don’t leave it until check-in. For example, with Virgin Atlantic, each bag will cost up to three times as much at check-in than online.
Easyjet allows up to eight pieces of checked baggage, BUT they can only add up to 20kg in total. Customers pay for more cases believing that each extra suitcase can be 20kg, but this is not the case. You also have to pay extra for the new combined weight.
2. Piece System
In this system you are allowed a set number of bags. There are still weight and size limits though.
Using a piece system does make life easier if travelling with sporting equipment such as skis and golf bags as these are included as one bag (depending on weight and dimensions). With a weight system these will be extra. Excess charges are not common so you should check with your airline.
- Infants without seats do not always have the same allowance as children with seats
- If you are flying on a code share ticket (for example if you buy a BA ticket, but you actually fly with Qantas, then your baggage limit is set by Qantas)
- Check with your airline if you want to take unusual luggage such as sporting equipment or mobility scooters. As well as size and weight restrictions, there may be specific packing instructions
Do take care when checking your allowance. For example, standard BA economy is one bag at a maximum 23kg. If you have limited mobility BA will allow you two bags BUT the maximum weight is still 23kg (this does not include wheelchairs).
If you are flying out for your wedding, and you can’t fit your dress in your hand luggage, consider shipping your clothes and dress separately. If may seem expensive, but there is less chance of your dress going to the wrong airport, or being left behind.