Avoiding those excessive excess baggage charges

By Piergiuliano Chesi (own work from scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Piergiuliano Chesi (own work from scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The scene: An airport check-in desk

The characters: A passenger (you), an airline member of staff

The props: One large suitcase, one large carry-on bag, one credit card the passenger really does not want to use

The synopsis: It’s a familiar tale, but one that can play out in multiple ways. With more alternate versions that a Ridley Scott movie, checking in at an airport when you know your baggage is too heavy is a game of chance.

Our hero – that’s you, in this example – might come out as the winner (no fees to pay) the loser (paying for every kilo at the airline’s official rate) or somewhere in between (paying a reduced rate).

You may have ended up over the limit due to bad planning, an inability to limit your shopping addiction or the fact that you guesstimated the weight spectacularly badly. There may be other, more sympathy-inducing reasons that I can’t think of right now.

But if you’d prefer your experience to be less of a nail-biting thriller and more of a predictable, lightweight straight-to-DVD feature (bear with me here) then read on.

If you’d rather the soundtrack of your experience be more like that of a nature documentary on the BBC than the theme from “Psycho”, then please continue.

If you think it’s about time I dropped the weird film-related metaphors and got into the article proper, you’re in luck…

Here are some tips for how to avoid paying through the nose for your excess baggage:

  • Don’t exceed the weight limits – well, we may as well start with the obvious – the surest way to avoid fees is not to incur them
  • Weigh your bags – a portable luggage scale comes in very handy so that you can see how heavy your gear is on the return journey too
  • Pay for an extra bag in advance (if possible) – if you know that you are going to be over the limit it is always cheaper to pay for an extra bag before flying than for excess baggage at the airport
  • Fly Business or First Class – if you fly in one of the premium cabins you will generally benefit from a larger baggage allowance
  • Gain airline status – this can also allow you to take more luggage – for example as an SAS EuroBonus Silver member I can always check in 2 bags even when flying Economy. This can be a very valuable perk
  • Use charm – many people swear that you can talk your way out of any charges if you act in the right way. I had a long run of success with this but this winning streak was broken a few times. I ended up being charged a nominal fee instead of the entire excess but it isn’t worth pinning your hopes on this tactic if you are well over the allowance. Be charming anyway, why wouldn’t you be?
  • It also doesn’t hurt to dress tidily and be polite – but be aware that excess baggage fees are taken seriously especially by budget airlines and you shouldn’t expect staff to bend rules just because you’re in a suit.
  • Ship your excess baggage – this is probably the best option of all. You won’t need to stress about fees and cross your fingers that your charm offensive works. Keep the most important of your belongings in your checked baggage, your valuables/breakables in your hand luggage and send the rest to your destination. Use a specialist company, like World Baggage, and they will take care of everything for you.

Hopefully these tips will help you out so that your airport experience will be a more pleasant one. If you have any you would like to add, please let us know in the comments below!

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

Articles: 1227

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