How to avoid payment for excess baggage?

Maria Goncharova Flights, Tips & Tricks Leave a Comment

Airplane baggageI almost always travel with a large suitcase and never pay for the excess baggage. How do I do that? Read how to fit 40 kg in hand luggage and go through all the checks at the airport without any problems.

Pack the Baggage Properly

First of all you need to know how airlines count weight and size of luggage. There are two main options:

  • Calculation by weight. In this case, they just summarize weights of all your bags and get charge extra payment depending on the amount of extra kilos. Use the rule:
    • 20 kg = free
    • 10 kg + 15 kg = fee for 5 kg
  • Calculation by items. Now many airlines are moving to items system. In this case, weight and number of bags are considered. Use the rule:
    • 23 kg = free
    • 23 kg + 23 kg = fee for one extra bag
    • 12 kg + 10 kg = fee for one extra bag

I have another rule for families who often put everything in one large suitcase. This 30+ kg suitcase could cost more than two 23 kg + 23 kg suitcases! So always try to have your bags 23 kg exactly.

But what if the bag is 23 kg already and there are still a lot of stuff? Put all heavy and small things into your hand luggage instead of excess baggage! And get ready to pass all obstacles on the way to your airplane.

Flight Check-In

The first and the most important thing is to finish check-in process and get boarding pass. Remember the rule. Do not let airline staff to weigh your carry-on luggage during check-in process!

Options how you can do that:

  • Ask friends to look after your bags while you check in with a single hand bag. This is the best option, because it doesn’t cause unnecessary suspicions and questions.
  • Leave the bag somewhere near you in view, but not too close, so airline employees don’t think that it’s your carry-on luggage.
  • Say that the bag near your feet is not your hand luggage. You just looking after your friend’s bag and ate not going to take it to the airplane.

In case your carry-on luggage has been weighed, and it’s too heavy, lay out a few things to a chair in a hall. Come back to check-in desk with the lighter bag, get your boarding pass and than return all the things back to the bag.

Possible Issues During Check-in:

Too many carry-on bags. In this case you can try to fit all the bags in one, even if it’s just a big plastic bag.

At least one dimension of carry-on baggage is bigger than allowed. I often fly with long freedive fins (90 cm length). It’s a risky item for carry-on baggage. Anyway I recommend don’t pay attention to this issue at check-in counter. Everything might be ok. If you want to be sure, you can just ask at check-in counter if they allow this type of carry-on baggage. Probably they could give you a special sticker for your bag.

By the way, all these issues can be avoided if you check-in online or at self-registration counters.

Pass Into Departure Zone

Usually after check-in you don’t have any issues with carry-on baggage. But sometimes employees of the airport don’t let you go into departure zone, because your carry-on bags don’t comply some restrictions.

Tags or stickers for each carry-on bag. This is a very troublesome problem. I bumped into it at Shanghai airport. I had 4 pieces of hand baggage and just one tag. With this set I couldn’t pass to departure zone. So I came back to three different check-in counters three times and said that I forgot to get a tag and I didn’t remember at which counter it had been. As for bulky bags, I always move tags from small bags to large ones.

Weight of each piece of carry-on baggage. Sometimes there are scales at the entrance to the departure zone. Airport staff ask to weight everything that looks big. I saw it at Mactan-Cebu airport. So I put the most heavy things into the smallest bag and lay out some of the things into plastic bags. The amount of bags is not important at this stage. The most important thing is the weight of bags that looks heavy.

The size and shape of carry-on baggage. In general carry-on baggage must fit easily in the carry-on baggage check (approximately 56x35x23 cm). These carry-on baggage check frames usually are located near the check-in counters and near the entrance to departure zone. Most often nobody cares. But once I was stopped at the entrance to departures in Hong Kong airport because of 90cm fins in hand luggage. So I had to solve this issue at check-in counter. They could give you special sticker or add this item to your checked baggage. In my case airline didn’t take extra charge for adding fins to my checked luggage.

Security Check

At this stage, airport staff is looking for prohibited items. They don’t check size and weight of your carry-on luggage. Feel free to go and don’t ask any questions.

Read more about prohibited items.


Here again, size is important. Especially for low-cost airlines. Ryanair, for example, is pretty strict. However, I was able to carry a bit more than allowed.


  • Check-in. Important things: general weight and weight of each piece, number and size of carry-on baggage.
  • Passing into departure zone. Maybe problems with size and shape of hand bags, weigh of individual bags and tags (stickers).
  • Security check. Don’t put any prohibited items in your carry-on baggage.
  • Boarding: problems with size of carry-on baggage, but very rarely, mostly low-cost airline.

At each of the stages airport staff check compliance to some of the restrictions, but never all at once.

Table with information about size and weight restrictions for carry-on and checked baggage.

AirlineCarry-on size restrictionsCarry-on weight restrictionsChecked baggage weight restrictionsChecked baggage size restrictions (length + width + height)
Aeroflot55x40x20 cm10 kg23 kg158 cm
AirAsia56x36x23 cm7 kg
Air Berlin55x40x23 cm8 kg23 kg158 cm
Air France55x35x25 cm12 kg23 kg158 cm
American Airlines56x36x23 cmNo restrictions23 kg158 cm
British Airways56x45x25 cm23 kg23 kg90x75x43 cm
Cathay Pacific Airways56x36x23 cm7 kg20 kg158 cm
China Southern Airlines50x40x20 cm5 kg20 kg158 cm
Delta55x35x23 cmNo restrictions23 kg157 cm
Easyjet50x40x20 cmNo restrictions
Emirates55x38x20 cm7 kg30 kg300 cm
Etihad Airways40х50х21 cm7 kg30 kg207 cm
German Wings55x40x23 cm8 kg
Iberia56x45x25 cmNo restrictions
Japan Airlines56x40x25 cm10 kg20 kg120x60x50 cm
KLM55x35x25 cm12 kg23 kg158 cm
Korean Air55x40x20 cm12 kg23 kg158 cm
Lufthansa55x40x23 cm8 kg23 kg158 cm
Norwegian55x40x23 cm10 kg20 kg158 cm
Pobedahandbag or briefcase10 kg158 cm
Qantas56x36x23 cm7 kg30 kg или 23 kg158 cm или 140 cm
Qatar50х37х25 cm7 kg30 kg300 cm
Ryanair55x40x20 cm10 kg
S755x40x20 cm7 kg23 kg158 cm
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)55x40x23 cm8 kg23 kg158 cm
Singapore Airlines115 cm7 kg30 kg200x75x80 cm
Sky Express45x35x20 cm6 kg15 kg
TAM Airlines55x40x20 cm5 kg23 kg158 cm
Transaero55x40x20 cm10 kg20 kg203 cm
Turkish Airlines55x40x23 cm8 kg20 kg
Vueling55x40x20 cm10 kg

Example from my life.

I moved from Moscow to Shanghai. According to the ticket fares, I had two pieces of luggage up to 23 kg free of charge, and 150 euros for each extra 23kg luggage. Moreover, if the weight or size of a bag was more than max (23 kg) I had to pay extra 50-150 euros per item. So the choice was clear: no more than three 23 kg items as a checked luggage. So my carry-on luggage included 4 bags, and the total weight was about 30-40 kg.

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