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I have to take a plane and the company allows two pieces of checked luggage of 20kg each. I have only one piece of luggage and I estimate its weight to be roughly 20kg. For the sake of the question, let's assume that I have no means to know the exact weight before arriving at the airport. Assume also that, for some reason, I cannot transfer part of my belongings to my carry-on luggage.

Here, there are two options:

  1. I buy a new piece of luggage, split my belongings between them. I don't need to worry about checking. The drawback is that I may have to unnecessarily carry two pieces of luggage around me, which will be inconvenient (e.g in trains, cars, taxis…). Also, luggage is expensive and/or buying them is taking a lot of my precious time.

  2. I don't buy an additional luggage and try to check my luggage anyway.

Imagine that, in the second situation, I figure out that my luggage is too heavy. What can I do except buying a new luggage on the spot?

My current idea is to bring a big shopping bag made with strong plastic, put some stuffs (say food and clothes) in it and use the wrapping machine to protect it and close it tightly.

I am sure that this problem has occurred to many travelers, so I am looking for smart ways to handle this situation.

  • I assume you don't want to just pay extra for your overweight luggage? – fkraiem Jan 24 '15 at 11:32
  • In your situation, where your luggage is roughly the maximum allowed weight, it really depends on the agent you're dealing with. I once was flying from London to Moscow and, when I put my suitcase on the scale, it was 19.9 kg (allowed 20 kg). Seeing the weight, I then put into a side pocket of the suitcase a couple of newspapers that a friend asked me to bring from London. This brought the weight to 20.1 - and the agent didn't allow me to do that. I tried for some time to convince her - to no avail. I had to remove the newspapers and take them with me in my carry-on. – Aleks G Jan 24 '15 at 22:59
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Whether or not you are charged for an individual bag going over the 20kg depends on the airline.

It seems to me that if the airline says "2 bags of 20kg" (rather than "up to 2 bags, max 40kg") that means that each bag cannot go over 20kg (without extra charge at least).

You should be able to find the answer in the luggage info, or terms & conditions, in the air company's website. Or at least, if you've enough time, by emailing their customer service.

My guess is that you could easily be charged for bringing only 1 bag, but when it is over 20kg.

You know that air companies usually charge by the kilogram, and this can be expensive, maybe 20 dollars a kilo, for long distance, maybe more 50 dollars or even 70 dollars or more.

My advice is that it is better to buy a small, cheap bag, for less than 20 dollars, which you may be able to use again, as a gym bag or overnight bag, and transfer some things into it in the airport. That way, you won't be paying for nothing.

Though, you should also make sure in the first place of the baggage terms - looking through the website, or contacting the company.

I remember, though, I've had great problems with this in the past.

Once I was flying with Lufthansa (Europe) from Munich to Sofia, Bulgaria. My luggage was too heavy, but it was actually impossible to work out this from the way the luggage terms were described in the booking info. When I booked, and packed, I assumed it meant one thing.

I flew from somewhere else to Munich and stayed a few days (with another airline). So, when it came time to go to the Munich flight, I went to the airport the day before because of weather and illness, my flight was changed. When I was at the airport I suddenly realised I may have interpreted the baggage info wrongly, and that it meant the opposite of what I thought, and that I may have to pay about $100 or more for extra luggage kilos.

So, I took my printout of the booking terms, and brought it to a female member of staff at the luggage desk. I said what I thought it meant originally, and she read it over and over again, and she agreed with me. Therefore, I was satisfied that I'd got it right first time, and I wouldn't have to pay. I returned the next day for my changed flight. The man at check-in told me that, because of the weather many flights were missed and the queues were so long, and he didn't have time to charge me, but normally my baggage with the ticket I had would be over $100 dollars extra to pay at check-in. He didn't charge me anything though, because of all the queues and confusion.

So, both I and the woman staff the day before HAD gotten it wrong first time. And she worked for Lufthansa.

On returning, Lufthansa had booked my return flight with their associate airline, Swiss Air, who's extra luggage terms were different to Lufthansa, and extra luggage prices MUCH more expensive.

I went through the terms on the Swiss Air website, and at least with Swiss there was no doubt I would have to pay, and quite a lot. But I never thought to check when booking a return flight with Lufthansa directly on their website, that the baggage terms would be different when returning.

It turned out Swiss's extra luggage costs were about $250 extra for the full flight back to the UK. Damn, damn, damn.

It can be very unclear - so always be prepared to do anything you can to pay less. Don't go for buying extra luggage on check-in because it can be so expensive, and you might not realise until there.

The best advice is to contact the airline with what you think you'll bring by email. TELL THEM IN THE EMAIL that you can't work out how the baggage terms applies in your situation. (Otherwise they'll just refer you to the terms, and they still may easily refer you back their terms again, even if you say you can't work out how they apply to you. I've had that happen to me before).

Then take a PRINTOUT of the airline's response, so you can bring it with you and reasonably expect to rely on it.

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If you have more or less 30-40 kilo overall, you will have to get an additional luggage.

If you are closer to 25 kilos overall, the recommendation is to get a bag out of a good nylon (like a light, cheap backpack or similar) and put the items in there that are not fragile and where you do not care that they get crumpled. Stuff the items above 20 kilos into that bag and then into the larger luggage.

If they complain that the single luggage is too heavy, you take out the smaller bag and check that one in. Once at the destination, you stuff the smaller bag into the larger luggage again.

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They express the maximum weight of each bag because they don't want individual bags that are too heavy--it's a worker safety issue handling the bags. Thus 2x20kg doesn't mean you can check 1x25kg.

1

The airline rules on baggage allowances are fairly straightforward. You may check X bags, each of which may weigh up to Y kg. Any bag over Y kg costs the overweight bag fee. bags over Z kg are not accepted, period.

You do not get to check one bag weighing X1 + X2 kg.

So your options are fairly clear: pay the extra charge or buy another bag. Probably work out to be more-or-less the same amount of money. I have a small duffel bag that lives at the end of my main case, I can move 5kg of stuff over very quickly.

The per-bag limits are mainly for handling purposes - the machinery handles only so much weight, and someone has to pick up the bags at several points in the process.

The 0.1kg over charges are airlines looking for any excuse possible to charge more money. Call them and complain while you are waiting for your flight. The toll-free call costs them, the agent's time costs them (and it won't result in a sale). I've been 2-3 kg over on my regular airline several times, they didn't say a thing.

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