Every time I see a passenger at the side of the check-in counter with their luggage strewn on the floor as they attempt to repack to the required weight, I get this sinking feeling.
The look on the faces of airline ground staff, who have to show restraint while explaining baggage terms and conditions at check-in is always priceless.
For passengers, complying with airlines’ luggage regulations will mean better and quicker service. You have to familiarise yourself with what is allowed as cabin luggage and in what kind of packaging, and what has to be checked-in. All this information is available on every airline’s website, furthermore most airlines follow the standardised international regulations.
Next time you purchase an airline ticket spare some time to read the terms and conditions to avoid the luggage situation at the check-in counter.
And since terms and conditions vary from airline to airline, travellers just need to ask about the particular airline’s rules when purchasing a ticket.
Luggage is one of the most sensitive issue for both passengers and airline operators. On one hand, passengers want to carry as much as they possibly can, while on the other, airlines treat it more than just a customer service issue but a safety and security concern too. They don’t compromise.
First, travellers need to know the checked-in baggage allowance. Many airlines, if not all, are very clear about the number of pieces allowed and the maximum kilogrammes per piece depending on your class of travel.
Further to this, valuables like jewellery and cash, electronics, medicine and fragile items should not be in the checked-in baggage. These should be separately declared and carried in the cabin.
Items in cabin luggage that fall in the prohibited category include Swiss army knives, electronic cigarette, pool cue sticks and golf sets.
For example, carriers in this region will allow for two pieces of baggage not more than 23 kilogrammes (total weight) for economy class and 32 kilogrammes for business class.
Second, passengers need to find out the exact excess baggage fee, which many airlines have unfortunately set punitively high to instil discipline and not compromise the safety of the aircraft by keeping to the allowed weight limits.
You cannot talk your way into a flight with excess luggage. Last week, on a flight from Dubai to Nairobi, a passenger to Congo connecting through Nairobi who was charged $7 per kilogramme for her excess luggage weight termed the fee extortionist, threw a tantrum but eventually had to pay.
Third, travellers must understand that the approved cabin or carry-on luggage is often limited by both weight and size. A luggage piece of a certain size will simply not fit in the overhead luggage bins. So make sure you use the fitting scale available at the departure lounge to gauge the size of your carry-on piece before you check-in.
It is important that passengers understand the many restrictions on luggage types and the caps on weight.
For instance, in terms of weight, every aircraft has a manufacturer-provided and regulator-approved maximum take-off weight.
The latter is worked out using the average weight of every passenger and their bags; both checked-in and carry-on, fuel weight, cargo and the weight of the aircraft itself.
There is a group of people whose only job is weight and balance of an aircraft. These are load controllers or load masters in the airline and ground handling company respectively. These are the people who determine the weight and balance situation of an aircraft as per manufacturer guidelines, which compartment in the belly of the aircraft should carry what weight and the fuel required to get the aircraft off the ground.
The chosen an aircraft is towards this maximum take-off weight, the more the likelihood that it may uplift less fuel than it would normally use for the same destination.
Less fuel uplift could mean a refuelling stop before the final destination — an operational cost and inconvenience many airlines would rather avoid.
Finally, the biggest No-No for all passenger is accepting to carry or have someone else’s luggage checked-in as your own. It could land you in jail, especially because this is how drug lords use naive travellers to transport drugs across countries.
So on your next flight, take time to familiarise yourself with the luggage rules and regulations for your safety and comfort.
This post was earlier published in The East African Magazine October 15, 2016. Avoid drama luggage at check-in