Airline Luggage Allowance Explained – FAQ Fridays

Video Transcription

Welcome to another edition of Travelstart’s FAQ Friday with me, Nick Paul.

Today we are going to be talking about baggage restrictions on flights. This is in relation to a question we were asked by Priscilla:

“Recently I flew to UK. The weight allowance is 23Kg per case on an International flight wherever you travel to. When I got to Durban The Counter Assistant said I was overweight – my suitcase weighted 22Kg. After a lot of haggling my case passed through. When I returned same thing – my case weighed +/- 22kg again. This time having arrived from London without a problem. I am at the local internal check-in. I was made to unpack my case until my case weighed 20kg. The balance was put in my hand luggage!! Also checking in – in front of me – was a family from the USA who were also having the same trouble with ALL their suitcases. The girls behind the counter were rude and unhelpful – not a good welcome to this country. Its absolutely ridiculous that there isn’t consistency – thousands of people travel on from Internal flights to International flights and vice versa. If you are traveling to the States you are allowed 2 cases as well. I WILL on principle NOT pay extra – why should I? That is my allowance. I think you Travel Agents ought to make a HUGE FUSS about this. It is not doing Tourism any good.”

Detailed Answer:

“Hi Priscilla,

Technically, if you’ve booked a ticket with all the flights on one ticket (eg Durban – Johannesburg – London and back all on the same ticket) then the domestic airline is obliged to abide by the luggage restrictions of the international carrier. There are instances when this won’t work like this though – but it’s very complicated to explain. Essentially the international carrier strikes a deal with the local airline that the international carrier’s customers can fly on the local airline’s flights, if the international airline doesn’t fly there, for example with Virgin Atlantic to Durban. Virgin don’t fly to Durban, only Johannesburg and Cape Town, but they have an arrangement with BA and SAA to fly their passengers on to Durban, PE and so on. Part of the deal is that BA and SAA offer the same baggage allowance between Johannesburg and Durban for Virgin customers, but the customers have to fly in a specific ticket price class (all flights have a variety of tickets on sale at a variety of price classes, each with their own restrictions – the cheaper the price class the more restrictive the rules on that ticket). The issue is that these airlines often restrict add-ons to a higher price class to recover their costs for luggage etc. This will mean that there are often cheaper tickets available on the local flights and many booking systems will prefer booking those when looking for the best rate, this obviously has an impact on the luggage allowance as the cheaper priced tickets don’t have as much allowance as the negotiated, higher fare for use on add-on flights.

It’s a mouthful, and hard to explain, many travel agents take years to fully grasp the inner workings of ticket pricing too!”

This is a question that a lot of people ask and we would like to shed some light on this topic:

Factors Which Influence Luggage Allowance

  • Route and destination: Flights over the Atlantic for example will have different allowances to flights to Europe
  • The airline: Certain airlines allow for more baggage than others
  • The cabin: First class, business class, premium economy and economy will have different luggage allowances

Some examples of routes:

  • The trans-Atlantic route flight allows for 2 pieces of 23kg each. This might change in the future but airlines still currently allow this.
  • Destinations such as Nigeria often have much higher luggage restrictions. E.g. On Arik Air from JHB to Lagos you will be allowed 2 pieces of 23kg each. On SAA a lot of the tickets for the same route will allow for 3 pieces of 23kg each.
  • A lot of the low cost carriers in the USA and Europe will have no baggage included in the price of your ticket. You will need to pay extra to put baggage on the flight.

Hand Luggage

Hand luggage is what you are allowed to take with you onto the plane. The weight allowance for this is generally 7kg. This will depend on the class you are traveling in. If you are traveling first class or business class you might be allowed to take on an extra piece of hand luggage. The first class and business class areas generally have a closet where you can put this additional luggage.

Hand luggage dimensions differ from airline to airline. SAA, which is about the average, allows for bags that are max: 56cm long, 36cm wide and 23cm high. Most hand luggage bags that you find at a luggage store will meet these requirements.

In addition to your single piece of hand luggage you are allowed to bring a handbag or a laptop bag with you. They can however deny you to bring it on board if it is too big.

Where To Find More Information

To find the exact allowances for your particular ticket:

  • Ask your travel agent directly
  • The info will be printed on the ticket that you bought (e.g. “2 pc” = 2 pieces of luggage at 23kg each)
  • If you bought tickets with Travelstart you can visit and enter in your airline reference number and surname

That’s all from me for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and post your questions in the comments below.


Our Readers Comments

  1. All i would like to mention is that I have not flown with SAA for the last 12 years and what a pleasure not to see surly black stewards and hostesses or check in employees and not having baggage allowance problems as Qatar etc allow a person 30KG in economy right up to Cape Town.
    Their service is also 200% beteer than SAA.Internal there is only Kulula the best with friendly cabin staff

    • I agree!! Our Overseas Flight to Munich on SAA was very unpleasant too, with grumpy Flight Attendants behaving arrogant, like they doing us a Favour. We fly mostly on EMIRATES , GREAT Service, and Baggage Allowance of 30 kg on Economy. For Domestic I like Mango .

  2. cheap flights from Durban to Haethrow or glasgow

  3. You refer to However, the e-ticket has codes which do not work on How about having ALL codes on the e-ticket which are clearly marked for each purpose.

    • Hi Geoff, yes this is true. Checkmytrip will use a 6 character alpha-numeric code to call up your booking. The airline may have a separate alpha-numeric code for their systems, however, most should accept the long e-ticket number printed on the e-ticket for you to check in. Checkmytrip is the e-ticket viewing platform for the international booking system called Amadeus – this is the one Travelstart uses. If you’ve booked with the airline directly or with another travel agent, they may use a different booking system meaning the ticket-viewing platform may have a different web address. It’s complicated, I know, this industry has the most complex foundations imaginable, unfortunately it’s hard for any one party to fix.

  4. On Delta to Atlanta you are only allowed 1 piece of booked luggage of 23kgs but SAA to Washington was 2 pieces of 23kgs each….this was from ORT.

  5. Hi Nick,
    While you are on the subject of baggage allowance –
    the world loves music. loves to listen in there homes and wants to see musicians play in their city’s with good instruments. However when we travel on any airline it really is a battle to get our expensive instruments on the carrier. Our bread and butter. I have been a professional musician now for 30 years and my guitar in a soft bag fits spaciously in the overhead taking up very little room. When the ground staff see a musical instrument the attitude changes drastically. The airlines force us to put our instruments under the carrier and never take responsibility for the damage that often happens. My instrument costs R50,000, but there are other instruments that are even more expensive, so you can understand my concern. What are the restrictions on musical and film equipment,

  6. I really enjoy these weekly videos. Please continue .
    I also wish to congratulate you on huge improvements in your whole operation, as compared to 2 or 3 yrs a go.
    Essentially, there is no longer a need to use the expedia s or orbitz sites as you provide a better service all round
    Well done and many thanks

  7. Discrepancies between International and local carriers:
    When, for instance, making an Online Booking (same as with an agent over the counter) – It should be possible to extend the software program to include/add a column which would automatically show the Baggage allowance once the flight price has been booked/calculated.

    This information would have to be kept up-to-date by the Travel Agent.

    …there would never be a problem again as every customer would have their ticket printed which would include the allowance for baggage.

  8. Do I have to pay the person handling my wheelchair on the airport?

  9. We recently went on a Company incentive trip to Victoria Falls. BA Durban allowed us to travel with one suitcase 24kg between my husband and myself (no hand luggage). Coming back our suitcase was 25kg and BA at the Livingstone airport made us pay for the extra weight, saying that BA in Durban shouldn’t have allowed it. I feel given the fact that we still only had one suitcase between the two of us with no hand luggage, surely they could have let this go through? Also if we knew this was going to be a problem in the first place (if BA in Durban didn’t allow it) we would have made a plan.

  10. KLM/AF have a policy of only 1 piece of checked-in luggage.
    on CPT- AMS-LCY flight recently flown by me.
    I wanted to check in 2 pieces into the hold,which totalled under 20kgs.,but they refused. I travelled alone.

    It caused enormous upset by having to separate all the items
    which i had to take as hand luggage & i got “zapped” by the security police at 5.30a.m.
    Please offer some explanation ,as KLM staff could,nt.
    Thanks ,

    • Solution for next Time: Have the two Pieses wrapped up to make it one, will be cheaper I think!!

    • Sorry, I meant Pieces

  11. dear sir
    as per a previous post let me correct it with regards to baggage allowance
    baggage allowance is per class of travel booked ie economy/business/first
    economy class passengers generally will have the lowest baggage allowance and so forth
    although within economy class there are fare variations these do not make a difference to the baggage allowance as the rule applies to the the whole class
    the best airlines for luggage are the middle east and asian airlines which have a standard 30kg allowance on economy and this is one of the reasons that they are full most of the times and also their services are far superior than our local carrier SAA the last time i travelled on a SAA flight from London the stewards and stewardesses actually had a fight among themselves in full view of the passengers
    disgusting! not to mention that it was the last time i travelled on SAA on an international flight i would rather endure a few hours transit than take sloppy treatment

  12. Flew return CT/Istanbul this month on Turkish Airlines and they were fantastic – even the food! Check-in guy in CT said I could take 30kg but wasn’t sure if this was correct as this was not what my travel agent or their website said (I flew economy class) and when checking in in Rome I was very worried as my weight was 28.8kg but the check-in guy said that my baggage weight was fine!! And Istanbul is a very quick flight to Europe too. Up Turkish Airlines!

  13. what is the dimensions for the 23kg luggage of one bag.

    • Hi Lizzie,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      This depends on the airline you are traveling with and the route.

      If you are only aloud 1 piece of 23kgs the maximum dimension is usually 158cm (62inches)

      I would suggest you contact the airline direct and they will be able to provide this information on luggage restrictions.

  14. I am flying Durban to USA. Ticket was bought for me in USA….Transit flights SAA…LUFTHANSA…AMERICAN AIRLINES…..
    Lufthansa and American airline says I’m allowed 2x 23kg bags but Flysaa guy seemed confused and unfriendly and said only 1 bag allowed… is it 1 or 2…..
    2nd question is the carry on understand it’s max 8kg….I’m still confused about the slimline laptop bag….will I be allowed to carry a laptop backpack instead that will allow me to carry my laptop, charger,camera cosmetic purse, notebook n reading book etc…or do i put my laptop and camera into carry on and carry a normal womens handbag that will store my make-up and reading material etc….please advised

    • Hi Linda,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Every airline is different with regards to their checked baggage. If you provide us with your Travelstart booking reference number we will be able to open up the ticket and see what the your checked baggage allowance is and advise accordingly.

      You should be able to take a laptop backpack onboard and carry on luggage as long as it’s within the required dimensions and does not exceed 8kgs.

  15. Hello,

    I’m thinking about booking a flight with Turkish Airlines from Rome to Washington via Istanbul. The airline page says that for flights to/from North America you are allowed up to 2 bags with an upper limit of 23kgs per bag. Does anybody know if this means I can take 2 23kg bas or up to 2 bags with 23kgs total? I am terribly confused with their excess baggage fares as well 🙁

    • Hi Emaly,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you have made the booking with Travelstart please provide us with your Travelstart booking reference number. This way we will be able to go into the booking, open the ticket rules and look at the checked baggage allowance.

      If you are looking directly on the airlines website I am afraid we would not be able to advise you would need to contact the airline direct, they will be able to give the most up to date information.

  16. We are first time travelers. Flying SAA express from Bram Fisher to OR Tambo. From there by SAA to Heathrow and with AC to Vancouver. By reading all the comments, it seems that the SAA staff are not very accomodating or friendly. We are scared, you must keep in mind that we dont know what to do or where to go to be able to start our visit to the children without hickups and stress.
    Kindly step out everything from luggage to passing security and on the plane.

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