Baffling baggage rules on airlines lead to passengers paying nearly £400million in excess fees every year, new research has revealed.
One in five Britons has been charged by an airline for exceeding a baggage allowance for a flight in the past two years, leading to an average of £135 in fees each.
However, travellers blame airlines for bringing in complex and confusing baggage charges, which can regularly change depending on the flight route, departure airport and ticket class.
Baffling baggage rules on airlines lead to passengers paying nearly £400million in excess fees every year, new research has revealed
Fees for excess and overweight luggage even with the same airline can vary markedly, with some carriers having up to 32 different charging brackets.
The research by travel insurer Columbus Direct reveals Brits pay an estimated £395million a year at airports in charges for overweight and excess baggage.
Analysis of leading airlines flying from the UK reveals a huge variation in policies for both checked hold and hand luggage.
While the majority of airlines allow only one hold bag and one piece of hand luggage, some allow two for the hold and in cabin.
Most airlines will allow women passengers to bring on a handbag in addition to a piece of hand luggage, but some airlines will charge for this as a separate item. A few will also require that if needed, the handbag fits inside the other piece of cabin luggage.
When it comes to the weight of a bag for checked hold luggage, some airlines allow as little as 20kg even on long haul flights, while others permit a generous 35kg. Hand luggage allowances range from a modest 7kg through to a massive 23kg. The dimensions of hand baggage permitted also vary largely, ranging from 22cm x 35cm x 56cm through to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm for the flights analysed.
For those travellers reluctant to travel light who have the money to pay for excess baggage, airlines can be extremely generous with the total number of items a single traveller can fly with.
One leading international airline allows every person over the age of two to pay for up to 10 additional bags as well as their free checked baggage allowance, which could see them travelling with 11 items of luggage.
It is not just the airlines that place restrictions on the type and shape of luggage transported; airports are increasingly cracking down on irregular shaped, oversized, and round bags.
Recent rules introduced by the Dubai International Airport to make the baggage handling process more efficient could see bags without flat surfaces rejected at check-in.
Fees for excess and overweight luggage even with the same airline can vary markedly, with some carriers having up to 32 different charging brackets
Alison Wild, head of marketing at Columbus Direct, said: ‘No one wants additional stress at the airport, or to pay unexpected charges, so we urge travellers to check carefully with their airline the permitted baggage allowances based on their departure airport, destination and specific class of ticket, especially since variation between airlines can be confusing for passengers.
‘However much luggage people are jetting off with, whether it is a large number of checked suitcases or just a handbag, travellers should ensure they are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy in the event their luggage or belonging is damaged, lost or stolen.’
Travellers conjure up a variety of ways to avoid charges for excess and overweight baggage.
One in seven of the 2,000 people quizzed load up their carry-on bags with additional weight to offset the limits on hold luggage.
One leading international airline allows every person over the age of two to pay for up to 10 additional bags as well as their free checked baggage allowance, which could see them travelling with 11 items of luggage
One in 10 will throw away packed items such as toiletries and clothing at a check-in desk to remain within the permitted limits.
A similar number are happy to resemble Michelin Man by wearing all their heavy clothes to avoid excess charges.
The annoying queues at check-in, while travelling parties repack their bags to redistribute the weight, are caused by the 10 per cent of people that rely on their travelling companions to carry their possessions to remain under the weight limit.
However, one third of holidaymakers say they deliberately pack light in order not to exceed their baggage allowance.