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Let X be the number of kgs that a passenger is allowed to check-in based on class of traveler. It would be fair to assume that, not every passenger would carry exactly that weight baggage. It maybe slightly lesser. However, when you sum up all these small differences, the overall difference may not be so trivial.

What do the airlines do about this? What are the statistics around this - i.e., how close are airlines in reaching the limit of X kgs? Is there any way, airlines monetise this at the last minute?

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    Airlines do carry cargo, and they'll try to take more cargo, if there is any available, depending on the amount of weight (and sometimes volume) they're able to accommodate for a particular flight depending on the number of passengers, bags, winds, route, runway length, and other flight planning characteristics. But you're making the mistake of assuming that airlines are prepared to accommodate every passenger checking their maximum luggage allowance. That may well not be the case, especially for smaller regional aircraft. If they have to, they leave bags behind and deliver them later. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 5:16
  • I'll add that some airlines will impose a baggage embargo for particular destinations and/or times for routes (generally to the Caribbean and Latin America) where passengers typically carry back large amounts of baggage, generally goods for their family, to ensure they're able to accommodate everyone. During the embargo, there may be more stringent limits on luggage and excess baggage won't be accepted even for a fee. They do this because, on these flights, they could otherwise end up with more baggage than they can carry. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 5:37
  • @ZachLipton I was thinking more about long haul international flights. It is interesting you would say that, "airlines are prepared to accommodate every passenger checking their maximum luggage allowance." Aren't they legally required to allow a passenger's entitled baggage limit? Also, I was thinking of check-in baggage only. I am aware that, cargo will also be carried. Is under-utilized baggage limit 'wasted'? Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 6:44
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    They will deliver your baggage, but it might be late. Late baggage is quite common.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 10:20
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    @ZachLipton: I was once on the last flight of the day on a Beechcraft 1900 that shuttled back & forth between a hub and a small airport. The earlier flights in the day hadn't been able to carry their full baggage allowance due to heavy headwinds, and there weren't many passengers on our flight, so the crew filled the spaces under the empty seats with spare bags from the earlier flights. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 14:55

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Most airlines carry cargo in bulk cargo hold and if a flight for some reason gets passengers who do not bring in a lot of checked baggage as the airline anticipates they will take extra cargo with them if it is available.

For some reason if there is no extra cargo for the given destination then they will fly using lesser fuel which is in a way monetizing of lesser payload. Less weight would mean the plane would need lesser lift which means less drag and some saving in amount of fuel used depending upon the weight.

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Checked baggage is figured based on averages, in the same fashion as passenger weight. It is not counted kilo for kilo against a grand total. Likewise, they use averages for carry on baggage's weight.

Cargo is figured on container / palete counts, as only so many fit in a plane, they can't add more because there is less baggage, unless the lower amount equals an entire container or two less baggage. Containers do have weight limits, but often the container's volume is filled before it's max cargo weight is reached. And most were scheduled for that flight long before they had a checked bag count.

So from a practical point of view there are no extra kilos due to baggage counts.

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