17

Recently, I was booked on a flight on EasyJet between two European capitals. I had a ticket allowing me for one bag of max 20 kg. However, when my bag was weighted at the check-in counter, it weighted 20.9 kg but (to my surprise) the lady at the counter told me it was "ok".

So my question: is there a "tolerated" amount of weight exceed (for example max + 1kg above the upper limit) or was this only a matter of chance that I didn't have to pay a fee for the exceeding weight (ie 900 g)?

This question concerns EasyJet in particular but it would be interesting to know if similar can be applied to other airlines.

  • 36
    If there was an official amount that was always tolerated above the maximum allowed that would be called the maximum allowed. – DJClayworth Sep 15 '16 at 21:15
  • 2
    you should never count on this, though. – njzk2 Sep 15 '16 at 21:44
  • 4
    The problem is, if the airline advertised their tolerance as an actual figure (say, 22kg), people would pack 22.5 kg instead of 20.5kg - so airlines will likely never have an "official" tolerance... – HorusKol Sep 16 '16 at 0:43
  • Depending on the culture and your luck, if you can ask another passenger with light luggage to claim that you are traveling together, then your excess weight can be counted towards the unused allowance of the other passenger. – nhahtdh Sep 16 '16 at 4:15
  • 2
    Basically, it's at the check-in counter employees discretion and depends on factors like how friendly you are, how many checked bags they have / expect, and whether they have had a good night's rest. Note that basically, they are providing a service and anything you get over and above the official rules is courtesy on their part, not a right on yours. – CompuChip Sep 16 '16 at 22:24
21

I can't give you an answer specific to Easyjet but based on flying various airlines within Europe over the last few years I can only say:

It depends. Sometimes you get lucky and can carry a few kgs more than the allowed, sometimes they will only admit 0.5 kg more than your limit.

Some rules of thumb, without being able to cite from anything,

  • If you are on a business class ticket or have status with an airline, I would expect them to be more tolerant.
  • Being nice often helps, but not always of course. Also explaining that this is a one-time occurrence has helped me in the past.
  • Traditional airlines are somewhat more lenient than low-cost-carriers.
  • Some traditional airlines now have automated bag-drops, if you have the choice a human operator would be more willing to waive a few kgs.
  • I have made the experience that distracted staff is much more likely to have you pass with a few kgs more.
  • A few hundred grams of overweight are almost always tolerated.

On the same airline, always with a standard economy ticket, I was once able to check 5 kg over the limit, when another time witnessing a friend having to re-pack because of 1.5 kg more than allowed. YMMV.

  • 21
    I once checked 12 kg over, the check-in assistant said today I see nothing. – gerrit Sep 15 '16 at 22:21
23

As stated in other answers, this really depends on the airline and, above all, on the particular agent that is checking in your luggage. While they usually give some leeway, exactly for practical reasons of scales not being properly calibrate and so on, in theory, they do not have to.

As an example, several years ago I was flying with Aeroflot from London to Moscow. The allowance was 20 kg. When I put my suitcase on the scale, it was 19.8 kg. I then said, half jokingly, "ok, I can put my newspaper in there" - and proceeded to put into the side pocket a couple of British newspapers that my friend in Moscow asked me to bring. The scales went up to 20.1 kg. The agent said, "no, this is over the limit".

I didn't quite believe that she was serious, so questioned this - she insisted that this was no joke and that I would have to pay for the extra weight. I shrugged and took one of the newspapers out and into my carry on backpack, leaving exactly 20.0 kg on the scale. She happily checked the suitcase in.

  • 6
    The airlines use the scales to decide whether or not to charge you money. I'm pretty sure that, in all reasonable jurisdictions, those scales have to be properly and accurately calibrated, just like a shop's scales have to be. Otherwise, an unscrupulous airline could set its scales to read a kilo over and earn a huge amount of money from spurious excess baggage charges. – David Richerby Sep 16 '16 at 10:33
  • @DavidRicherby true, the ones I have seen usually display when was the last calibration. But I think in some places you may have the legal right to having them recalibrated, which may be a hassle for them (and it is never a good idea to annoy the staff). So they may forgive you small overweights. – Davidmh Sep 16 '16 at 10:37
  • @DavidRicherby the scales do not belong t o the airline but to the airport and the airport is responsible for calibrating the scales. As they are used through days, weeks, months, they do get decalibtated and need recalibration. This is why the's normally some leeway given. Yet in theory the airline staff are not obligated to give any leeway. – Aleks G Sep 16 '16 at 10:42
  • @AleksG It doesn't matter who owns the scales and being used for a long time isn't an excuse. Any reasonable law on weights and measures will require scales to be accurate to a certain degree. It is the responsibility of the owner or user to recalibrate them sufficiently often that they retain that level of accuracy. Just like "I didn't look at my speedometer for a long time" isn't an excuse for speeding, "We haven't recalibrated our scales for several months" isn't a defence for inaccuracy: it's the cause of inaccuracy. – David Richerby Sep 16 '16 at 11:33
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby it really doesn't matter: it's still up to the individual agent to go exactly by the scales or give some leeway. – Aleks G Sep 16 '16 at 11:46
9

For practical reasons, the agents have to have some latitude in determining this. Because:

  1. The scale might not be perfectly calibrated.
  2. The bags position on the scale can affect the reading.
  3. 0.9kg might be under their tolerance.

This will not be published anywhere. I've had it happen with two bags, one under, one slightly over and the response was "close enough".

Bags are tagged Heavy not just for revenue, but for weight/balance and to warn the handlers.

  • 1
    I'd say the safety implications of baggage weight limits far overshadow the revenue implications, even -- being overweight and out of balance gives the folks at the pointy end a bad day, and breaking the backs of baggage handlers is not a good idea either! – UnrecognizedFallingObject Sep 16 '16 at 0:25
  • The scale surely has to be properly calibrated. They use it to decide whether or not to charge people money and any reasonable jurisdiction will require them to be calibrated as accurately as a shop's scales have to be. Otherwise, an unscrupulous airline could make a fortune from spurious overweight charges. – David Richerby Sep 16 '16 at 10:35
3

This may be country and airline specific. As a thumb rule, there is no extra tolerated amount of extra weight. I have experienced discomfort for being .5 lbs over the limit - where the agent behind the counter was bent on me and my partner reorganizing 6 large suitcases (paid for since over the limit) - but this was in the US though.

1

The amount of exceedence that is acceptable varies. In the past, I regularly got away with an extra 5lbs (2.5kg) on US flights. Now days, they're tightening up, so those easy days are gone.

I've flown a particular airline (Tiger Airlines) which was strict about their overages. At the ticket counter, you could see countless people opening their bags and desperately trying to fit to the weight limit.

0

These days I'm generally under - well under - but it all adds up.

The general rule of thumb is that if you want to try to get away with really overweight baggage, check in early. The later it gets, the more the weight restrictions apply.

This being said, I've gotten away with 50+kg on a 20kg ticket several times over the years.

With overweight baggage do the following: check in with a person, not the machines; be nice and friendly; be early - but not ridiculously so; and don't do it all the time, because airlines monitor these things. If you're under most of the time, you can get away with an insanely overweight bag occasionally.

  • Been told by staff several times, different countries. I've spoken with people who've worked with the Galileo booking system, back in the 90s/2000s, that there was almost no information about the passenger or their baggage that wasn't collected, collated and kept. So, not only can one airline see what your travel history is, individual journeys, baggage, when you checked in (early, late), flights missed, fare codes (F, J, Y, W, etc), meals, additional children, and complaints against you; every airline can see them, and airport employees with that data access clearance. – Leeley Sep 26 '16 at 16:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.