Tips on how to avoid paying for hand luggage and excess baggage fees

Hand luggage only: how to pack for any trip

Beat the queues and the airline charges: travel writer Tim Richards shows you his carry-on bag packing secrets.

The lengths to which passengers go to avoid paying for over-sized hand luggage has been revealed – and frankly, it's embarrassing.

Between wearing two suits at the same time to telling the airline staff "Me no speak any English", it appears that those who want to avoid paying for hold luggage but fail to travel light are a determined bunch.

Budget airline Norwegian Air asked 50 of its ground staff at London Gatwick for tales of ridiculous behaviour from those trying to avoid checking-in additional hand luggage.

See also: How to travel with only carry-on luggage

A passenger once…

1. Wore three pairs of trousers, plus a pair of shoes stuffed in the jacket pockets

2. Decided to give up a bag and asked for it to be donated to charity

3. Was carrying a beloved pet's ashes in a handbag and so asked for leniency

4. Tried to bribe gate staff with duty free chocolates

5. Refused to comply by repeating "Me no speak any English"

6. Wore two pairs of jeans doubled up as a "double denim" scarf, perhaps a la Lenny Kravitz

7. Claimed a bag contained fragile antique pottery

8. Wore two suits

9. Insisted a credit card was maxed out and therefore had no money left to pay a charge

10. Wore two winter coats and tied three jumpers around their waist

The varying shapes, sizes, fees and charges applied to hand luggage have long baffled travellers. Norwegian, for example, allows one carry-on bag of 20kg and "a small personal item" for free, but will charge for over-sized luggage at the terminal.

Stuart Buss from Norwegian said: "Even with our generous carry-on allowance, passengers flying during winter with shopping and bulkier items can increase the likelihood of their bags being non-compliant.

"Baggage issues can cause delays so it's in our interest to make sure all bags are loaded quickly so that passengers can get away on time and enjoy their flight."

See also: Passenger's brilliant plan to never lose luggage

How Aussies can avoid paying excess baggage fees

Excess baggage fee charges varies across airlines so knowing what the weight limit is and what the excess charges are per kilogram will help travellers better manage unexpected holiday costs.

Airlines, such as Jetstar, have been cracking down on passengers carrying excess baggage so it's important to know what each airline's baggage policy is.

Some airlines, usually budget carriers, do not offer checked luggage as part of fares on domestic routes, such as Tigerair. Checked luggage will need to be purchased as an add-on.  

It's good practice to check if the airline you're flying with has checked luggage included in its fares. 

If you're looking at purchasing 'saver' flights, it is important to check the baggage limit's terms and conditions. Most 'saver' flights include carry-on luggage but not checked-in baggage. For example, Jetstar offers one piece of checked-in luggage up to 20kg included in its fares, except when purchasing Saver Fares, on domestic routes.

Virgin Australia now includes complimentary baggage on domestic flights and the option to add an additional bag before the flight, saving travellers paying from $70 a bag if arranged at the airport.

It's also a good idea to check the cost per kilo of weight in excess of the baggage limit. These can vary according to the airline, for example, per kilo cost with Jetstar is $15, while it is $20 with Qantas and Tigerair, and $30 with Virgin on domestic routes.

Travellers flying overseas can face higher per-kilo excess baggage fees – on Qantas flights to Europe it can cost up to $80.

"Double-checking baggage allowances ahead of time can potentially save travellers hundreds of dollars in overweight or excess baggage charges at the airport," said Flight Centre's Tom Walley.

"If you know your bag is packed with presents or holiday shopping purchases, bite the bullet and arrange checked baggage before you get to the airport or face a much steeper price."

"Packing smart or pre-purchasing additional baggage if you need it will save you a significant amount of money," he said.

Waiting till you get to the airport to add checked baggage can result in your having to pay significantly higher bag fees. Additional bags booked at time of check-in can range from $50 a bag with Jetstar to as much as $90 with Tigerair.

How to avoid unnecessary baggage costs 

  • Purchase check-in baggage when booking if planning to pack presents and shopping purchases
  • Double-check baggage allowances before you head to the airport
  • Pre-purchase additional baggage if you need it

Checked baggage limits for domestic flights

  • Qantas - one piece of luggage up to 23kg included
  • Virgin - one piece of luggage up to 23kg included
  • Jetstar - one piece of luggage up to 20kg included (excluding Saver Fares)
  • Tigerair - no checked luggage included

The Telegraph, London with Annie Dang, Traveller.com.au

See also: Airlines that earn the most from baggage fees and other flight extras​
See also: What you should pack in your carry-on luggage?

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