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Five tips to avoid panicking about your baggage allowance

It pays to double-check your ticket type so you can arrive at the check-in desk stress-free. ISTOCK

Five tips to avoid panicking about your baggage allowance

In the age of airline efficiency, tighter security and ever-stricter regulations, the days of waiving excess baggage are well and truly behind us. So how can we know for sure what the rules are every time we travel and avoid getting stung by extra fees?

Five tips to avoid panicking about your baggage allowance

We all remember the good old days – when you could show up at the check-in desk with three suitcases bursting at the seams, weighing in a combined equivalent to a small car.

Today, baggage allowances are strictly enforced, and there are hefty fees for those who turn up with overweight luggage – or worse still, you may face leaving your precious belongings behind.

Baggage allowances tend to chop and change based on the following variables: seat class, route, airline, passenger status (such as traveling with children) and dimensions.

With those in mind, the following five tips will ensure you don’t arrive at the airport in a baggage-related panic ever again.

Book carefully

Avoid any baggage-allowance anxiety from the very outset.

Whether booking through an airline directly, or arriving there from a comparison site, carefully inspect what baggage allowance you are entitled to on your trip.

Normally, this will be very clear when choosing either your seat or your class. You should be told whether or not your selection includes checked baggage, and what the weight allowance is.

Sometimes, however, this doesn’t become an option until later in the booking process, and you may be prompted to add checked baggage as an extra as a final stage.

So be vigilant while you are booking your flights and never assume your baggage allowance has been automatically added. Don’t complete your ticket purchase until you’ve checked, re-checked and double-checked.

Pre-purchased luggage allowance is far, far cheaper than the nasty surprise of paying excess fees on the day you travel.

Check the rules – closely

Your flight booking should include details of your baggage allowance.

As a general rule on most economy flights, you can expect an allowance of 23kg. However, this will depend on the airline, the aircraft, your destination, and the route you are traveling on.

For example, you may be taking a domestic flight on a small aircraft before changing onto a long-haul journey on a far bigger plane.

Don’t assume that your baggage allowance on the latter will apply to the former – even if it’s part of the same booking.

That’s because your baggage allowance will always be tied to the smallest one permitted on your overall itinerary.

However, some airlines will allow for some discretion and flexibility in regards to this inconvenience, so it pays to contact your airline directly to see what can be arranged and avoid any unnecessary headaches when you travel.

Try hand luggage-only

If you’re traveling light, one sure-fire way to beat the checked baggage system is to not use it at all.

More and more, airlines are offering ‘seat-only’ deals which, as a general rule, allow you to bring 7kg of personal luggage as well as a handbag or laptop bag with you into the cabin.

The disadvantage is that not all personal effects are welcome on board, and sharp and dangerous objects will always have to go in the hold.

On some airlines and some routes, the rules have relaxed somewhat regarding liquids and aerosols – which had long been a barrier to advocates of hand luggage-only travel – so it pays to check with your airline what you can take.

Check your ticket type

It also pays to double-check your ticket type.

Some airlines have a very complex hierarchy of cabin class, so ensure you know what tier your ticket sits on.

As well as economy, you might also come across economy plus, premium economy, economy classic, economy flex, comfort plus, flexi, economy light – all depending on airline, aircraft and route – and all carrying different implications for baggage allowance.

Use a baggage calculator

In the face of changing rules and confusion around baggage allowances, many airlines now provide a “baggage calculator” that will instantly tell you how much baggage you can travel with based on your booking.

Visit your airline’s website to find it, pack accordingly, and head to the airport with peace of mind.

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