Wondering about Weight Limits

December 13, 2010

in Flying Hell Commentary

This is more of a question than a story.

Flying from Australia to any country in the Asia/Pacific region, the total weight of your checked-in luggage is measured. So, for instance, you could check in 3 bags with a total weight of 23kg and you would be ok.

Flying to North America, the baggage allowance is strictly 2x23kg bags.

I was flying back from Canada earlier this year and my suitcase was 25kg. The check-in staff asked me to take out 2kgs from my suitcase and put it in another bag to check in.

I had packed all my luggage in one suitcase so that I only had to deal with one suitcase plus my carry-on bag while traveling to and from the airport. That said, I was prepared and had placed ~2kgs of items inside a duffel bag in my suitcase so it only took a minute to take out the 2kg excess weight.

I just found it quite silly. Isn’t this creating more work for the loading staff? It’s just an extra item to handle.

Also, it was only 2kg over, and the total bag weight was less than what they allow business and first class passengers (32kgs per bag), so I’m sure it wasn’t to do with health and safety requirements.

Anyone know why they are so strict on weight limits per bag?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

James December 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

Because they can.

Airlines are much more strict about these things than they used to me. In the 1990's, I had a couple times when I had heavy luggage, and it was OK. First, in 1998, I was flying Virgin Atlantic, London to San Francisco. I had bought a bunch of books, so I knew my duffle bag would be heavy. Turns out, it was 55kg. The response of the checkin staff: "That's too heavy for the conveyor belt." (pause) "I'll call someone up to carry it to the plane."

The next year, I was flying from Mahe to Paris on Air Seychelles. I had finished a six week photo safari in Africa, and had a lot of gifts for family, as well as my heavy camera gear. At checkin, I was expecting some bad news on excess luggage fees… And I got it. "Sir, your excess luggage fees are 4500 rupee. Or, for 3500 rupee we could upgrade you to first class and your luggage would not have an excess fee." Twist my arm… Very nice first class on Air Seychelles!


Dave K December 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

A couple of years ago I was flying Continental from EWR – PEK – NNG. I had a heavy, large duffel bag that weighed out at 82 pounds, the limit was 80. The check-in clerk offered me the opportunity to remove 2 pounds or pay a fortune for an over-weight bag. I removed a bag of Tootsie Pops so that my bag would be the correct weight. The clerk then asked me to carry my bag across the room to a cart, because the bag was too large for the conveyor belt. I smiled, picked up the bag, carried it to the cart and replaced the candy. I love it when people do their jobs with diligence.


Dina December 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Interestingly enough, when my partner moved to Australia she had an extra bag over her allowance (well, box, but you know). She was expecting to pay a couple hundred bucks to put it on the plane, but they just shrugged and put it through for free. o_O It wasn't a small box, either – it contained her desktop computer! (Yeah, I know, but we were poor college students and didn't have many options.) Must be the only time I've heard of that a United employee standby got any kind of perk beyond the cheap flight…


James December 15, 2010 at 7:17 am

Partner? Allitnil? 😉


Dina December 15, 2010 at 11:17 am

Creepily enough, that was my brother's email address for a while… ;D


rerere December 14, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Airplanes have certain restrictions for takeoff including the size of aircraft, weight of passengers, and weight of baggage. Especially with prop planes. An example would be Air Midwest flight # 5481, a VERY small Beechcraft plane stalled and crashed while taking off due too it being very heavy.


Robert December 15, 2010 at 3:50 am

Although not the only cause of the crash, the famous Concorde fire was grossly overweight as well.


DSD December 15, 2010 at 6:25 am

Why do they do what they do?

One word: MONEY!

The more the total weight for the plane the more fuel it requires to get from point A to B. So if they can keep the weight down they don't spend as much on fuel and their profit margin goes up.

Also I think you will find that most people, when checking baggage, only check one bag. So if they enforce a strict weight limit, the passenger can't shift things around easily and they get their over weight baggage fee, increasing profits.

And lastly the airlines and unions probably have bag weight as a negoiating point.


An African Nomad December 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm

To answer your question, the standards developed differently on either side of the pond. However, most airlines globally now limit bags to 23kg unless you are an elite traveller or in business class. Anything over 23kg also needs to be marked "HEAVY". Both of these are an effort to make things easier for their handling staff who have to haul the luggage for the thousands of people cramming to the limit each day.

As someone who travels with a lot of stuff I do occasionally feel bad. I recently travelled from Cape Town to Houston, TX with 3 30 kg bags, a ski bag and boot bag and a golf bag. Quite the mountain for 1 person. And best of all, no charges!

An African Nomad


ddfg July 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

if the bags are being weighed then the passengers should be too


Leave a Comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post:

Next post: