I was standing at the check in counter for Lufthansa at Frankfurt. The check in agent asked the passenger next to me to present his carry on bag so she could weigh it.

why? It’s just carry on”
“yes sir. I need to weigh it. Sir it weighs 12kilograms. You must check it. ”
the last airline let me carry it on”
“You have to remove items or check it in sir”
this has nothing to do with safety. You just want to make money. Get me your supervisor”

The customer then berated the supervisor. This did nothing to move the check in staff. Nor did swearing at them change things. The suggestion that if the customer continued to abuse them, would mean he would be refused quietened him considerably.

As a carry-on only plane customer, I take very seriously getting my carry on right. I carry a roll on bag which usually weighs between 7 and 8kg and a laptop bag. Over the last 400 flights, I have got away with both bags on almost every flight I have been on including budget airlines.  I have seen too many other passengers take out their frustrations about carry-on luggage, on airline staff, other passengers and even their own families. Frustrations that could have been prevented with good planning and awareness.

Admittedly, the fact that airline rules can vary is frustrating. Easyjet has no baggage limit for carry on as long as you can haul it yourself. Spirit charge for every pound you bring on board. Many airlines insisit on a six, seven or eight kilogram limit (13, 15, 17 pounds) limit per bag. Some airlines will turn a blind eye one day, to people exceeding their carry on limits and enforce them the next day. I have seen Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Air France, Ryanair, Tiger and British weigh carry on at the Boarding gates on some occasions and do nothing the next.

Some people insist the rules are for safety. Heavy bags can be dangerous if they fall from an overhead bin and each bin is designed to operate properly within a specific weight limit. Others suggest it is for fairness. Others so that airlines can make more money from excess checked luggage. Whatever the reason, the airlines have rules. And purchase of a ticket indicates agreement with the rules.

Think Sizes

Most airlines limit the amount of luggage brought aboard (although some I wonder)

  • Check with your airline before packing so you know its check in and carry-on rules. Here is a guide for airlines across the USA or flying to and from the country
  • The maximum size carry-on bag for most airlines is 45 linear inches (115cm). This is the total of the height, width, and depth of the bag. Some airlines make it 41″ (105cm). Anything larger should be checked
  • If flying more than one airline, be prepared for different sizes and weights
  • Clarify the number of items you may carry and the maximum size of those items with your airline. in Coach/Economy it is usually one item plus a personal item eg laptop but some carriers only allow a single item -especially budget carriers
  • Some Airlines will weigh your hand luggage when you check in. If it is too heavy for the carrier, you will pay a fee or have to check it in or in some, cases do both. Low Cost carriers like Ryanair, Spirit, Tiger and Air Asia are veyr tough on this and will not be argued with
  • Likewise, some airports in Europe and Australia will do the same as you pass through the Security areas and weigh your bags

Think Smart

  • Learn your fees for checked and carry on baggage. Adding $10, $20 or even $50 per bag per passenger per flight can add hundreds of dollars to a trip
  • Plan to travel with less- consider do you need this item before you plan to take it?
  • Never check essentials including medicines, prescriptions, personal hygiene items, passports and other documents, jewelry, cameras and valuables.
  • Board early. The early bird gets the carry on space.
  • In some situations, your airline may require you to check most or all your bags, so be ready to do so.
  • Look like you can carry your luggage as you stroll on. If you look like you are struggling to carry it, then you may be pulled up

Think Safe

  • Be safety conscious when stowing your carry-ons
  • Carry-on items can fall from overhead bins and injure you or others during flight or after landing
  • If you cannot lift your bag above your head, don’t expect others to place it overhead for you. Slide it under the seat or don’t carry it.
  • Be aware that airlines of many countries do not permit you to put items under the seat in front of you when seated in the Emergency Exit.
  • If an evacuation occurs, you will need to leave your carry-one behind so you don’t impede your evacuation or those of other passengers.

Think Soundly

  • Plan for your special medical needs eg If you’re diabetic, pack any medical supplies and/or emergency snacks, and a letter from your doctor.
  • Don’t check in medicines.
  • If you travel with spectacles, have a sturdy case for each pair to protect them.
  • Think through how your overhead bin can be organised before throwing your stuff in. A well organised bin can take a lot more than a badly organised one.

Related Posts

Carry on Inconsiderates

How to close an aircraft overhead compartment

Travel Tip: Take No Toiletries

Travel Tip: Don’t Check in baggage

  • christo said,

    What can you tell us about the size of the additional purse/computer carrying case. I have seen some passengers get away with a regular size backpack in addition to their carry-on. I am considering taking mine on a United international flight without filling it up to the max, just to see. Thanks for any info.

  • Philippe said,

    Ok travel quite a bit, but even for 2 days business trip, I check-in a bag… Just because the rules for liquids are too complicated to deal with. Any tips on deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo?

  • Use Your Miles said,

    LH has an awesome extra baggage charge from Asia. Just 150 euros per bag!

  • Mrs Brown said,

    Also consider carrying a copy of you glasses script, makes replacing them a lot easier!

  • Bob said,

    What does it matter what your carry on weighs? If it fits in the bin it shouldn’t matter what it weighs within reason. European airlines have some really stupid regulations, I’m 75 inches tall and can quite easy load my bag. I know for a fact it fits into any passenger jet except for regionals. This rule makes Absolutly no sense to me, I’m an elite that wouldn’t pay a fee anyway so why force me to check a bag that fits overhead? I obviously won’t slow down a boarding process by putting my bag overhead, board the plane early so have plenty of room. I asked a gate agent in Turkey why the weight restriction and he had no idea what it was for. Just a retarded automaton that can’t think for himself. He just kept repeating himself, only 8 KG or less for carry on. I asked him what is the difference if I put it in the bin or under the plane. Only 8 KG for carry on. A little discretion can go a long way with customer service, now I hide my carry on and tell him I just have my laptop bag. Turkish is the worst for this crap, Austrian is bad as well.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Hey Bob, Some airports now check your carry on bag and make you weigh it. I have been sent back to the check in desk at one airport. They raised their eyes that a Premium guest was treated this way and gave me an extra tag.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Hi Christo and Philiipe I carry a roll on bag which weighs between 7 and 8kg and a laptop bag which vaires in weight. Over the last 400 flights, I have got away with both bags on almost every flight I have been on including Air Asia and Tiger Airways. Qantas weighed my bags once. Air NZ have asked me to check in one of the bags on three occasions. Ryanair always make me check it in so I buy luggage beforehand. I have had one issue with US Airways because I was late to board (due to connection issue) and my roll on was checked. I have had one arguement with a check in agent at Air Tran. The supervisor let me take both bags on – and upgraded me. I have done an express gate check a few times (ie the bag is waiting for me on the tarmac) on smaller planes. I got pulled up at three airports for having too much carry on. At one, they made me take it back to the check in. At the next, the woman let me wear one of my pieces of clothing and put a back up drive in my coat pocket. At the third, they were enforcing a one bag only rule on a particualr flight. Whats nuts is that the security gaurd told me to buy a tote bag from the shop opposite for $12 which fitted both bags in. He then let me through! As for toiletries, check out http://boardingarea.com/wildabouttravel/2012/06/travel-tip-take-no-toiletries/

  • June Miller said,

    Well, Bob, imagine if everyone carried 2 or 3 extra kilos of luggage, that could weigh the plane down by an extra tonne. Or do you think everyone else should keep to the rules except you? Certainly the airlines are inconsistent, but you know the rules before you fly, so just accept it and get over it. Personally, I am very glad that some airlines are strict about baggage, because my safety is at risk; I just plan for the worst outcome, and consider it a bonus that I have made my luggage lighter, which makes it easier for me to manage.

  • June Miller said,

    Oh, and by the way, Bob, you don’t do yourself any favours by speaking about others in such an arrogant, nasty fashion. They are just doing their job, and probably the “retarded automaton” was trying desperately to remain polite and not tell you what he really thought.

  • Bob said,

    June,
    The whole point is that the weight doesn’t matter, either way my bag is going on the plane. I don’t check which is a 24 KG weight allowance so why can’t I bring my 10 KG roller bag? At least be able to provide an answer, don’t just stare at me like a dairy cow and repeat yourself. The total weight is not changing so try and read the post first. I knew someone would get wrapped up in the language and miss the point.

  • colleen said,

    This will be my first time flying can I pack my shampoo and body wash in my luggage or carry on I don’t care if I have to pay more for weight I am going to rehab and won’t be able to make any stops to buy hygiene for myself.Also lotions toothpaste extra. Please give me some advice I’ve looked on different websites and all I’ve seen is u can carry or pack anything that fits in a baggie. 1 more question should I put my makeup on my carry on and can I put my foundation in there.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Hi Colleen
    First up, there is no limit to how much shampoo, body wash, toothpaste Etc you can pack on your checked in luggage.
    Carry on is where it gets interesting. For us domestic and international flights and some other international flights there is the luquids rule.
    You are correct;
    Your liquids and gels are limited to the amount you can fit into a one quart size zip lock clear plastic bag .
    Each item in that bag cannot be more than 3.4oz (100ml) on size. Any more than this will be confiscated. If your foundation is less than 3.4 oz (100 ml)carry it on. If not pack it away
    Hope this helps. Happy flying and good luck with your programme.

  • colleen said,

    Thank you, Also 1 more question can my carry on bag be just be a normal size back pack I just had my 6th surgrey on my foot and I’m on crutches once again so that’s really that’s the only thing I can carry.

  • Martin J Cowling said,

    Yes -that sounds wise

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