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It's been four years since our last international flights. We're flying with Air New Zealand from the US to Oz.

And we are seeing weight limits for carry-on baggage. Are the carriers actually weighing carry-on baggage these days? I've never had anything carry-on weighed before and so this was a surprise (and a potential excess baggage hassle) if they are doing it.

Edit March 4th: The bags were not weighed for the SFO-MEL flight. This could be due to the flight being only 2/3rds full (we saw nothing carry-on being weighed by Air NZ).

We did happen to hear American Airlines announcing that every carry-on bag going on one of their flights would be both measured and weighed. So a bit of "pot-luck" involved.

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Thanks, Mark. Some good advice. –  gef05 Feb 20 '12 at 18:02

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Most major airlines are fairly lax regarding the weight of carry-on bags - even when they do officially publish a limit.

Unfortunately for you, AirNZ is an exception. Both Air NZ themselves, as well as the major airports in New Zealand, do frequently check carry-on bags and if they are over 7Kg you will be forced to check them.

If your bag looks light then you'll probably get away with it regardless of weight, but if it even remotely looks like it might be more than 7Kg then there's a very good chance that it's going to get weighed and rejected...

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Dammit... I had a feeling someone would tell me this. :0 –  gef05 Feb 20 '12 at 5:05
    
see the related quuestion, my answer - you sometimes can get out of this with AirNZ, but I wouldn't bank on it. –  Mark Mayo Feb 20 '12 at 5:55

Whether your cabin baggage gets weighed really depends on what airport and what airline you are flying with. With most full-service airlines, they don't bother weighing baggage as long as it meets the size restrictions - and sometimes they don't even check that. The bit about size restrictions is because at some airports, at a security counter itself they flag oversized items and ask you to go back and check it in instead. Usually, there are metal enclosures which they place the baggage into - if it fits, it's good to go.

With low-cost airlines, it's a bit different. In Europe, I have seen they mostly just care about the size rather than weight. In Asia though, low-cost airlines sometimes do also weigh to see if its within the weight limits. The reason why I said it depends on the airport as well as the airline is because, just to take an example, if you're flying out of Singapore's Changi Budget Terminal used by low-cost airlines then there's a centralised size and weight check carried out by airport security, and anything (visibly) overweight is weighed and excess baggage fees collected. Flying with the same airline at a different airport (on the return flight) the other airport may not do the same check.

Don't worry about this too much. The size and weight restrictions, as most airlines mean it, is more as guide for what can safely be stowed in overhead bins or under seats. Most airlines understand that sizing is not standard, so weight is a 'safer' way of defining a guideline of what you should be aiming to carry on board as luggage. As long as it's not visibly bulky, airlines and airport security won't stop you or charge you extra fees for carrying anything onboard.

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it also depends on the aircraft being used. Small aircraft, especially prop and turboprop powered commuters, have far lower tolerances for weight variation than do larger jetliners. So an airline might decide to check weight for bags (and sometimes passengers, for seating arrangement) when using a Dash 8 for a flight but not for another flight using a 737. –  jwenting Feb 20 '12 at 7:07
    
+1 As you said, the airport can make a difference. Back when I was flying with Ryanair, I never had my cabin bag weighted in Dublin or Stansted (their main bases) but small airports that saw one flight a day were sometimes much more fastidious. –  Relaxed May 11 at 9:54

Emirates weighed my carry-on bag on a long-haul flight from NYC to Dubai in April 2011, and made me check it since it weighed 25 lbs (12 kg) which was over the limit of 15 lbs (7kg). It was definitely carry-on size by dimensions. I was very surprised (and annoyed since I wouldn't have tried to take the carry-on sized bag if I knew I had to check it.) It's not even a matter of packing light since almost any hard frame rolling bag with a handle is going to weigh around 60% of the limit before you even put anything in it.

Given that, I had all my rather dense electronics in a small daypack that was also over the limit by a few pounds, and that was on my back and they didn't give it a second look. So it seems like the weight limit applies to carry-on luggage, but not necessarily carry-on bags.

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So you can have a carry-on and a backpack? –  MAC 2 days ago
    
Yes, generally a small backpack is considered the same as a purse, and is not considered a carry-on bag. –  smackfu 10 hours ago

While returning to the US, KLM at Heathrow recently required that my carry-on bag and personal items be weighed. They then required me to check the carry on for around $100 US - even though it met the size requirement. This was very aggravating, since never before have I been asked to weigh carry on items, and I was not charged when I flew with the same bag on KLM during the originating flight.

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A recent experience of mine: Manchester to Orlando, FL with Thomas Cook (large aircraft) with a carry-on luggage within the size limits they asked me to put it on the scales and since it was 12kgs (limit was 6kgs) I was forced to check it in (luckily my ticket included a 23kg allowance).

The very same carry-on flying from Orlando, FL to Memphis, TN with Delta (smaller aircraft) no one ever bothered to check and I took it onboard.

Important detail: Thomas Cook does not provide online check in, thus you can't escape from airport check in, whereas with Delta I had checked in online and went straight through security and then to the gate.

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