Airline Baggage rules – Beware of changing regulations

Prior to 9/11, we used to travel to the U.S. almost annually to meet up with a very good friend who used to live in San Francisco.  It was always impressed upon us that baggage allowances to and from the States were different from the rest of the world.  The U.S. allowance was more generous as it allowed two pieces of luggage with no weight restrictions, whereas in the rest of the world, the normal baggage allowance was 20 kg for economy class.

We were therefore quite surprised when we encountered problems at Sydney airport when we were checking in for our United Airlines trip to San Diego in September.  My bag was below 20 kg, so I was fine, however Tony’s was 26 kg and that was 3 kg above the 23 kg permissible.

We were advised that we had to re-pack as the allowance is 2 bags per person of 23 kg each, i.e. 46 kg per person.  Being simple people, we thought that as our combined weight was 46 kg, that was only half of what the airline was allowing and therefore we should be fine.  The UA check-in person advised that it was not and insisted that we had to re-distribute our bags so that each one was no more than 23 kg, or buy an extra bag.

You can imagine how pleased we were to have to re-pack, even though our combined weight was half of what the airline was permitting.  If we chose not to re-pack, then there was a fee of $50 flat for anything over 23 kg up to a maximum of 32 kg.  Tony asked the supervisor if the airline was allowing bags up to 32 kg, then what was the problem with his 26 kg bag, and was this an exercise in revenue collection?  She was honest enough to say yes it was.

So, what happens when at the end of your U.S. visit, you’re travelling on to Europe?  On this last occasion, we learnt that because our first stop was the U.S., the 2 bag policy applies for the rest of our journey.  However, we’ve read today that British Airways is about to adopt a one bag policy for economy class!  Does it mean that the next time we do the same trip, we will have to condense the two bags into one if we fly British Airways from the States to London?  If you’re a golfer or surfer, beware that you may be penalized for any sporting equipment that you take along on your BA flight, or any other airline that may follow suit.

So, before you set off on your round-the-world ticket, it would be wise to check up what baggage rules apply so that you’re not put through any hassles.


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