Hand Luggage Restrictions at South African Airports

[Updated: 7 December 2018]

When it comes to what you carry on to a plane, things have become stricter. ACSA has enforced new land luggage restrictions for domestic travel at airports across South Africa which came into effect 2 February 2015. Find out what you need to know for your next trip!

Economy Class passengers

At the crux of the new hand luggage regulations is that Economy Class passengers boarding a commercial aircraft are restricted to:

  • One bag + one slimline laptop bag per passenger.
  • No bag should exceed these dimensions: 36 x 23 x 56cm = total dimensions of 115cm, including handles and wheels.
  • Weight limit per bag: 7kg
  • In addition to your carry-on baggage, you may carry with you a handbag and overcoat.
  • Guests with infants seated on their laps are allowed to carry a small bag with the in-flight needs of the infant such as feeding bottles, nappies and medication.

Any hand luggage which exceeds the dimensions, piece and weight restrictions stipulated above will have to be checked-in. This could delay you, cause you to miss your flight, or incur extra charges so take heed of this announcement to avoid a frustrating domestic travel experience. The airlines are not accepting responsibility should you miss your flight due to incorrect hand baggage.

Hand Luggage Restrictions

Carry-on baggage restrictions for Business Class and First Class passengers

  • Two bags + one slimline laptop bag per business class/first class passenger.
  • No bag should exceed these dimensions: 36 x 23 x 56cm
  • Weight limit per bag: 7kg

How would you classify a slimline laptop?

A slimline laptop bag accommodates a laptop and a charger. It can be carried over the shoulder or in your hand. A slimline laptop bag does not have any wheels.

Are there exceptions?

Yes, if an airline has granted a passenger exception, a uniformed airline staff member will accompany the passenger to the security checkpoint. The airline staff member needs to confirm the exception to the security staff or any official manning the hand baggage control point. If a passenger wants to get approval for a greater baggage allowance, this can only be done by the airline.

In each of the cases above, a woman’s handbag and a man’s satchel / “man-bag” is considered part of dress code and is exempt from these regulations. Essentially what they are concerned with is people with large bags trying to pass these off as “hand luggage” in addition to bringing on regulation size hand luggage.

ACSA says

Airports Company South Africa will be supporting the airlines and the South African Civil Aviation Authority regulations with regards to hand luggage that is allowed within the cabin.

The principles of this campaign will be in the interest of ensuring compliance of the airline’s hand baggage policies and also in enhancing safety measures when flying.

The enforcement of this programme will be led by the airlines operating at Airports Company South Africa airports and supported by the airport authority.

Passengers who do not comply will be identified before the security checkpoints. In the event of hand baggage not being compliant, the passenger will be referred back to the check-in counters to check the baggage in as hold luggage.

hand luggage

Airlines say

Mango says it will not penalise travellers for additional bags that have to be checked in as a consequence of the new regulation as it does not charge per piece of baggage within its 20kg allowance.

Passengers using other low-cost airlines such as kulula and FlySafair need to be aware of the additional costs they could incur.

Kulula allows one free checked bag weighing up to 20kg and one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 7kg. Additional bags require passengers to pay between R320 (online – payable by credit card only) or R415 (at the airport). While FlySafair tickets include a hand luggage quota, checked baggage fees start at R155 (purchased online) and R250 (purchased at the airport). An extra bag will cost you R250.

Travelstart says

Always keep in mind peak travel seasons and longer queues over the holidays. Make sure you are well within the luggage restrictions to enable a seamless and hassle-free check-in experience for you and your fellow travellers.

Also check out:

Now that you’re equipped with the hand luggage restrictions start packing your bags and get ready for your next exciting trip. Sign up to Travelstart’s newsletter and get the best flight specials to incredible destinations!

What has your experience been with hand and check-in luggage at the airport? Let us know in the comments below.

Our Readers Comments

  1. hi,

    I will be travelling back to South Africa and have been living abroad for about 3 years. i just wanted to know what are the limitations / restrictions in terms of items should bring in my hand luggage when arriving back to S Africa.
    Specifically i have several laptops, ipad, phones as well as his watches, which have all been here in Singapore with him for the last 3 years.
    Do you have any information or guidance we can provide? Or is there a government website where i can check?’’

    • Hi Lizzy,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      You welcome to read our blog: Hand Luggage Restrictions at South African Airports for guide lines.

      For any further information we recommend you contact the airline you will be travelling on. They will be able to provide you with the most up to date information on carry on luggage when travelling with them.

      You are also welcome to Google Traveler Costumes Guide to see what other information it provided.

  2. Are we allowed to carry golf ball on our Carry-on Luggage?

    • Hi Dean,

      Thanks for reaching out. I don’t think this is possible. Please contact the airline you will be travelling on. They will be able to advise and provide you with their most up to date information regarding carry-on luggage.

  3. What is the most advisable way to travel with, an older, desktop computer? Do I take it as a carry on in a bag or do I put it into a checked bag that can be marked as fragile?

    Thank you

    • Hi Justin,

      For this you would need to contact the airline you will be travelling with direct.

      They will provide you on the most up to date information on their baggage policy.

  4. Hi , a family member is flying from Jeddah to OR Tambo. the luggage has arrived as she is still stuck in Jeddah having issues with her visa, Will I be able to collect her Luggage at OR Tambo on her behalf.

    • Hi Stacy,

      Thanks for getting in touch and sorry to hear about the visa complications.

      I don’t think this would be possible, unless you have legal documents from the passenger confirming she has given permission for you to collect the document.

      I would suggest you contact the airline she was supposed to travel on, and they will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  5. Hi Travelstart.

    I live in Durban and I will be going to Istanbul on holiday. I have selected Qatar airlines for my journey to Istanbul and I’m really excited.

    My flight ticket online, shows Qatar airlines flight code “QR” for each flight starting from Durban King Shaka International airport, to Johannesburg OR Tambo airport, to Hamad Dhoa airport and finally to Istanbul airport, and the opposite for the return trip.

    However, my online ticket states that my flight from Durban to Johannesburg for my departure voyage and my flight from Johannesburg to Durban on my return voyage is “controlled” by Kulula airlines, even though all flights on the online ticket show Qatar airlines code “QR” for every flight that I will be on.

    My concern is, I will be carrying my soft “Volkano” brand backpack with me as my hand luggage, and its dimensions are 45.50cm x 37cm x 22cm respectively, and while my backpack’s dimensions meet the maximum dimensions of Qatar airlines hand luggage allowance, it unfortunately exceeds the maximum dimensions of Kulula airlines hand luggage allowance by 1cm in terms of the width of the backpack.

    Keep in mind that the weight of my backpack with all of its contents weighs in at just under 6kg.

    I respectfully ask you, will I still be able to take my backpack with me on my journey? or will Kulula airlines have a problem with this, because of the additional 1cm of width?

    Additionally, will Qatar airlines hand luggage dimensions and allowance’s, as well as their checked luggage dimensions and allowance’s, take precedence over those of Kulula airlines allowances of the same?

    Kind Regards, I love your website.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      This is what we call codeshare, where airlines enter into a commercial arrangement whereby one sells seats on a flight operated by the other, with each airline using their own flight number.

      You would need to look on your ticket to see if the luggage allowance shows the same for all sectors or not. However for 1cm I think you should be ok. Just make sure the weight of your checked baggage meets the requirements.

      To get the most up to date info on your baggage allowance we recommend you contact the agency who you booked with or airline direct and they will b e able to provide you with the most up to date information.

  6. Hi, more of an enquiry, I heard that you have to have a proper suit case for checked in luggage and not allowed a duffle bag, or it has to be plastic wraped. Is this true? Or is it maybe just applicable for international flights? We are travelling Joburg to Cape Town via Kalula and Safair.

    • Hi Jessica,

      Best to check with the airline direct. Every airline could have different baggage policies.

  7. Hi, I’m flying to Argentina and Brazil, I’m only taking hand luggage and a handbag. I’m flying economy class.
    My first question would be am I allowed to take my bag that weights 7kg and a handbag with extra stuff in it, like my book, my tickets, my phone and chargers, passport, etc. Aswell or is the one bag limit the limit?
    Second question, how much liquids in total is allowed in my hand luggage?
    Thank you

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      One is allowed one carry on bag of 7kgs and a handbag to carry your necessities like ticket, phone, wallet, book etc

      You welcome to read through our blog:

      A guide to travelling with liquids: http://www.travelstart.co.za/blog/liquids-in-luggage/ to get more information on this.

  8. I fully understand the dimensions due to the limitation of the overhead bin. Although recently (3 Nov 2018) I bought a new carry on luggage measuring 54Lx37Wx22D from Cellini (model 86351)… fully labeled carry-on. That 37W worry me as the limit is 36 for width.

    I got this bag because my previous Cellini bought in 2008 weighted 4.5kgs, leaving me with less than 2.5kgs of clothes to pack. Whilst the new Cellini I bought weights 2.75kg, I am still restricted to 4.25kg of clothes.

    I have cheated since I bought the case, as I get to just under 10kgs when packing the new case for a business trip. I cheated, thanks god they did not weigh my luggage but I suspect the day will come. I think the 7kg limit should be increased to 10kg which makes much more sense. Can you enlighten me as to the rationale of the 7kg and where can the public partition to have the new measures reconsidered, especially the weight.

  9. I know that my limits are; 7-10kg hand luggage and 20-23kg check in luggage for international flights but.. Id like to take my desktop computer (8kg) as well as my laptop (2kg) with me when I move to Thailand end of the year. So my question is, if my hand luggage fits the maximum size (Ive got a small case) and fits in overhead but is overweight, will it be okay? Also ill be putting my clothes into my check in bag, which will be much lower that 20kg..

    • Hi William,

      Thanks for the interesting question.

      For this you would need to contact the airline you are travelling with. They will need to check their carry on luggage policy and will advise accordingly.

  10. TRAVELING PORT ELIZABETH/CAPE TOWN/WINDHOEK/CAPE TOWN/ PORT /ELIZABETH.
    CAN I TAKE AN EMPTY THERMOS FLASK IN HAND BAGGAGE?

    • Hi Alf,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      This should not be a problem but I would recommend you contact the airline you will be flying with direct to see what they advise.

  11. Please tell me am I allowed to crochet on the flight?

    • Hi Gerda,

      Thanks for the interesting question.

      I don’t think this would be possible as one would not be able to take the needles onto the flight.

  12. Hi.

    I have a bag that is 51 cm x 30 cm x 29 cm = 110 cm total dimension. Would I be allowed to take it on board as hand luggage?

    • Hi Lynette,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Best to contact the airline you are travelling with.

      The blog post we wrote was 2015 where we mentioned:

      No bag should exceed these dimensions: 56cm + 36cm + 23cm = total dimension of 115cm including handles and wheels.
      Weight limit per bag: 7kg.

      New regulations could have come into place so best to contact the airline you flying with to see what the new weight restrictions are as well as dimensions.

      56cm (L) 36cm (W) 23cm (H)

  13. Hi im travelling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth shortly and are on prescription meds.I suffer from epileptic seizures and also had recent stroke.Im i allowed to have my meds in my hand luggage or do i need a doctors letter?

    Also is it safe for people suffering from epilepsy to fly?

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I’ve heard of passengers travelling with their chronic medicine like (eplim) in their hand luggage without taking a doctors note and never been asked for one.

      However it is best to contact the airline you are travelling with to see if they would require this as well as your neurologist to get consent to see if you are able to fly.

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