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I'm taking some freeze-sensitive items in a checked luggage for a short flight. It's cheese, chocolate, toothpaste and wine. I would like to know whether the luggage can get "frozen" in the aircraft. Sometimes it happened to me that my stuff actually was quite cold after the flight, so I'd like to be quite sure. Especially the cheese was really expensive and freezing it would very likely demage it.

Usually I pack everything well in clothes, but this time the things are just too many so it's tough to do more than just protect the wine from breaking.

Some details: It's an A320 flight taking 1.5 hours, with Czech Airlines, from Paris CDG to Prague PRG.

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On a short haul flight like that, I'd have thought your biggest weather risks were on luggage carts between the terminal and the plane, rather than in the hold. May depend more therefore on the weather at both ends, and the promptness of baggage handling... –  Gagravarr Dec 19 '13 at 0:33
@Gagravarr Well, the whether forecast is around 0C in both places, quite ok. However, it's -50C outside the plane for cca 50 minutes which is crucial. Is the luggage part of the aircraft heated to the same temp as the cabin? –  yo' Dec 19 '13 at 0:40

3 Answers 3

up vote 24 down vote accepted

On an aircraft like one you're on, it's interesting to realise that the cargo hold is actually pressurised, just like the cabin. (The floor between the two is not a pressure bulkhead, so needs to be roughly the same or it could collapse from the pressure.

However, as you've observed, the temperature is often cold as while the cabin is warmed, the cargo hold usually is not.

From a similar plane (767) and written by a A320 pilot:

Conditioned air is directed from the cabin, so the air tends to be a little cooler by the time it reaches the cargo areas, which are also less insulated than the cabin. Cargo temperatures vary in our fleet. The Boeing 767 maintains its baggage hold above 7˚C, but the bulk area (where animals are carried) can be heated above 18˚C. Controlled temperature cargo bins are also available when temperature-sensitive goods are being shipped.

So your wine is unlikely to freeze if it only gets down to 7 degrees, but it's worth noting that in some exceptional cases (close to the outside, no insulation, extreme temperatures outside) it may cause some freezing. Your best bet is to insulate it with some jackets or similar, like you've suggested you will do. Odds are, it'll be fine.

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Thanks Mark! If my stuff survives, I'll accept the answer. If not, I'll call you names :D /sarcasm –  yo' Dec 19 '13 at 7:49
@tohecz haha, I'm using you as the guinea pig. My flight is tomorrow night, please let us know by then? ;) –  Mark Mayo Dec 19 '13 at 10:00
But honestly, I've taken wine in the hold before, and had no problems. So good luck!] –  Mark Mayo Dec 19 '13 at 10:01
Well, everything seem to have survived. The suitcase was quite cold on touch, but its stomach was fine :) –  yo' Dec 22 '13 at 23:06
Luckily, your wine will not freeze even at 0°C. Your bottle at 13.5% will only freeze somewhere at -7°C ( We usually keep white wine bottles outside in the snow during winter. –  Jonas Feb 5 at 12:10

Hi I'm a flight attendant and have checked in freeze sensitive items like the above (wines , cheese... even champagne and a whole clingwrapped roasted duck) to bring home throughout my 2-year career. Yes, it's only 2 years but I do check in such stuff frequently (between monthly and quarterly basis). I would stow them quickly in the fridge when I get home. Everything ended up fine and unspoiled. So far (Thank God) none of the wines/sparkling wines which I packed home exploded or ended up like 7-11 Slurpee slush or separated into different layers of liquid. In fact, my greatest concerns and the greatest risk taken would be physical damages to the bag during the check-in-out process which may in turn damage my stuff. Ground staff handling baggage may damage your bags accidentally. If you're lucky, it's a harmless scratch. A wheel missing? OK, still repairable. But have you ever seen bags badly cracked or dented lying sadly on the conveyor belt? A bad dent in the wrong place may cause a bottle to crack and soak all my stuff inside. Hope this helps. :)

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I've checked numerous freeze-sensitive things over the years. Once, back in the 80s I had damage (and that from a 1-hr flight.) Since then everything has been fine, even on very long flights.

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