I have a flight with British Airways on which I have two cases booked. Their allowance is for 23kg per case.

One case is only 15. The other is 27. Mathematically this is under 46. Would this be allowable on BA flights or is it strictly 23 max per case?

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    Where are you flying from / to? Baggage allowances differ depending on ticket class and destination britishairways.com/en-gb/information/baggage-essentials/… – Traveller Oct 16 at 17:10
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    As stated above, look at the ba.com website where you'll see that it is strongly emphasised that it is a per bag allowance. Sometimes bags over 23kg are waived through but don't rely on it. – Vince O'Sullivan Oct 16 at 21:20
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    Unlike checked baggage, cabin bags are size restricted not weight restricted. In the past I have squeezed 15kg of camera equipment and clothing into a cabin bag on BA. A bit extreme but possible. – Vince O'Sullivan Oct 16 at 21:29
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    @VinceO'Sullivan there's actually a 2 x 23kg limit for cabin bags on BA. It would be quite impressive to see someone use up all that allowance! – jcaron Oct 16 at 22:44
  • @jcaron You are right (dammit). That said, I've never seen cabin bags weighed and, as you inferred, getting 23kg into either cabin bag - one of which is much smaller than the other - would be quite an achievement. – Vince O'Sullivan Oct 16 at 23:00
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Having flown with BA more than once, in Business and in Economy, this is my experience:

  • What @Willeke mentions regarding workers' safety actually refers to 32kg. They won't go over 32kg, not even by half a kilo.
  • On paper, as @German says, the 23kg limit is per piece of luggage. However, de facto they can be more flexible. Personal experience: once I showed up with a 27kg suitcase, when I was allowed one 23kg piece. I offered to take something out (I'm a book collector, so I could have one big tome as a "personal item"), but they just waved me on and said "don't do it again". The measure of their flexibility might depend on how full the flight is (the flight was half-empty), and/or whoever is sitting there. However the likelihood of flexibility rather increases if your total is within what you're allowed.
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    I agree. The hard limit in many countries and for many airlines is 32kg, and that one is very strict in those countries. Beyond that, airlines usually don't care about the weight of each piece, they just sum up the weights. However 4kg over the allowance is probably unusual, but it really depends on the check-in agent and the airline policies. – jcaron Oct 16 at 21:56
  • @jcaron on that instance, I was honestly surprised myself. 2kg - fine. 4kg - a bit much. My guess is it could have happened because the flight was empty (I ended up sleeping on three adjacent seats). – Galastel Oct 16 at 22:14
  • U.S. carriers accept overweight baggage as heavy as 45 kg on domestic flights (though the fees can sometimes be higher than usual). – gparyani Oct 17 at 1:52
  • Have to agree with this. Flew BA from Toronto in Economy and our bags were 25Kg each, they said it was OK. Flew BA from LA on a packed out flight in Economy, bags were 26Kg they wouldn't allow them on. They had to be 23Kg. – mickburkejnr Oct 17 at 12:52
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    For your personal experience with BA, it would be useful to include a rough time period that happened. BA have gone through significant changes in the last year - and what applied before, might not apply now. – Bilkokuya Oct 17 at 15:25

The 23 kilo limit is to save workers from damaging their back, so they usually keep it strong.

As you do have two cases, re-arrange your belongings to neither one is over 22 kilos (leaving a bit of space in case one or more of the scales are off.)

There are ticket classes which do allow for 32 kilo luggage. Which is over the 23 kilo range by quite a bit, but those cases are handled in a different way and airline staff are required to handle them with two people.

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    "The 23 kilo limit is to save workers from damaging their backs": but premium-class travelers are routinely allowed to check bags up to 32 kg in weight. "Airline staff are required to handle them with two people": I've never seen this. I often watch the baggage handlers and they routinely handle the bags with "heavy" tags with just one person. – phoog Oct 16 at 18:53
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    The fact people ignore rules does not mean that those rules should not be there. – Willeke Oct 16 at 18:58
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    I didn't say anything about whether the rules should be there. I just wonder whether they actually are, since my observation suggests otherwise. Also, package delivery companies in the US seem to have a 70-lb limit for their staff, which is 32 kg, so I would suppose airlines would be likely to have chosen the 32-kg limit for heavy bags because that was the maximum weight that could be handled by one worker. – phoog Oct 16 at 19:09
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    It was considered normal to handle 32 kg at one time, it has been lowered several times since (in Europe at least) and it is now 23 kg, I have heard it may go down to 21 kg. (In the past it was even normal to handle much heavier objects alone, so any given number will have a time it was normal.) – Willeke Oct 16 at 19:37
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    @phoog The link I provided clearly gives the 51 lbs baseline OSHA weight limit for a single unassisted person. As I said, that weight limit can be increased by provision of carry aids, a second person, etc. and is decreased by certain body motions and positions. There is a link to 120+ pages on how to calculate this. A requirement that a car that is able to drive 70 MPH does not imply that it is safe to drive 70 MPH in every, or even most situations. – user71659 Oct 16 at 23:50

Strictly speaking, it's per case. In my experience they'll often be a little lax if one is over by a few hundred grams. I would not expect them to accept a case that is four kilos over the limit, so I would move some items from the heavier case to the lighter one before checking them in.

Another option would be to put the heavier case on the scale first to see whether the agent at the desk says anything. If they don't, you don't have to do anything. If they do, you can transfer the items at that point.

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    If you're going to go with the second option, make sure you've got extra time when arriving at the airport. They're probably not going to hold up the line behind you while you re-pack bags, so at best you'll have to wait until whoever they're currently dealing with is finished before returning, and at worst you'll have to queue all over again. If you're in a rush to make your flight the last thing you want to have to do is move items between cases so they're both under the weight limit and/or queue multiple times. – Anthony Grist Oct 17 at 15:42

My own experience (not specifically with BA, but more generally):

  • The hard limit per piece in many countries is 32 kg, to protect workers. In countries where it applies, you definitely won't get anything beyond that weight. Either you move stuff to other bags, or you'll have to send the bag as freight.

  • Under that, most airlines will allow you to split the total allowance on the booking (which may be for several people) as you want. You have a max number of pieces, and a max total weight, and you do whatever you want with that, they just add up the weights of the bags and count them. Some airlines are explicit about it (though not necessarily everywhere), others a lot more vague. Note that this may also vary based on the origin/transit/departure countries.

  • For airlines which don't allow merging the allowances, you can always pay for an overweight bag. It's usually cheaper to do it online before the flight.

BA say:

The weight limit applies to each bag. It's not possible to split the total weight across multiple bags.

Whether they actually apply this rule or not I couldn't say, I don't think I ever exceeded the allowed max per bag when flying with them.

  • FWIW I have occasionally had a "kind" check-in clerk permit it but they're under no obligation to, as you've explained. One might argue that they're being "unkind" to their airport baggage handling friends by doing so. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 17 at 9:37
  • +1 for overweight bag fee option. I'm assuming from how this is written that the OP cannot or does not want to redistribute the bag contents, so this provides an alternative (expensive, but it is then up to them which is more important) – Dragonel Oct 18 at 1:14

Storytime: When I was a teen, I worked for a moving company. When a box was over 50lbs, (~22.6Kg for you Europeans!), there was an exorbitant fee. This fee, supposedly, went directly to an insurance policy for the employees. The idea was that if we are lifting heavy boxes at risk of injury, then at least we would be protected if our backs gave out.

This policy is likely similar or identical to the policy of the airlines. Airline employees have to lift heavy items all day, and a generally agreed upon limit for heavy items is roughly 50lbs/23kg, as determined by medical professionals. Airlines could be at risk of union or employee retribution if they forced employees to engage in activities with serious health risks.

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    If it is due to unions how come with easy jet the rule does not apply and pooling is in place? – the other one Oct 16 at 21:20
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    50 lbs is ~3½ stone to certain soon-to-be-not-Europeans. – Robert Furber Oct 16 at 22:39
  • @theotherone The baggage handlers don't work for the airline they work for the airport. – mickburkejnr Oct 17 at 12:53
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    @RobertFurber ... Thanks for the conversion, but I thought the lbs and stone units where both in use in this soon-to-be-not-European country ... while the rest of Europe use the metric system anyway – Hoki Oct 17 at 15:05
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    @Hoki it's common to use stone with pounds, 12 stone 3 (lbs) for example. But most people cannot readily do a conversion from purely lbs into stone+lbs. Interestingly, most people in the country that must not be named can convert lbs into kgs fairly easily (as it's almost just double) - but not kgs into stone or vice versa. Regardless, nobody uses stone except for body weight - everything else is kgs, (or sometimes ounces if it's baking measurements)...Remind me why I still live here? – Bilkokuya Oct 17 at 15:29

the 23kg limit is per luggage. So, if you have two luggages it is correct you have 46 kg but must split you weight in both cases. You should move some items to the lighter one. Otherwise you will have to pay for extra weight (even if in total you have less thank 46kg)

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