Airline Baggage Restrictions Tips

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How can I boost my chances of being reunited with my luggage?

Tips for Not Losing Your Luggage

You've stayed within the airline baggage allowance and made sure your liquid items met the carry-on luggage restrictions. Now it's time to make sure you and your luggage make it to the same place at the same time.

  • Make your bag stand out from the crowd. If you have the same black luggage as everyone else, try tying a colored ribbon on the handle, or use masking tape to make stripes along the side -- not fashionable, perhaps, but easier to spot on the baggage carousel.
  • Pack smart. If you don't need it, don't bring it. Consider shipping some items ahead of your trip rather than carrying them with you. Your carry-on bag should include everything you need for the first 24 hours at your destination, including a change of clothes.
  • Put your name, phone number and e-mail address on a label inside every piece of luggage, as well as on tags on the outside. Do not put your home address on the tags -- no need to advertise your empty house to thieves.
  • Double-check the routing tag that goes on each piece of luggage at check-in. It should have the three-letter code for your destination airport.

   
What is the latest on security and how does it affect my luggage?

What About Liquids?

You've probably heard horror stories from passengers who had to sacrifice valuable perfumes to airline security guards, or arrived for important presentations without hair spray and deodorant. It's important to verify what is permitted on board at both the beginning and end of your journey. The TSA is the governing authority on luggage rules, not the airline. Rules for checked bags have not changed a great deal in the past couple of years. Carry-on luggage rules have changed, in ways that continue to confuse some passengers. Some examples:

  • A bottle of water, purchased before entering security, even though it was sold to you from the airport's on-site vendor, is not permitted on board the plane.
  • Some airport rules allow you to take the water on board if it is purchased at a restaurant beyond security, while still others require you to finish drinking or discard the item before boarding.
  • Personal care items may be carried on provided they are in containers holding 3 ounces or less. These should be placed in a one-quart clear plastic bag for easy screening -- one bag per person.
  • Prescription medications, baby formula, and milk for infants or toddlers are allowed in greater quantities, but must be declared before boarding.

   
Do the rules change all the time?

Airline Baggage Restrictions

You may have bought the same exact ticket in May that your friend bought earlier in March -- only to find that the two of you are subject to different airline luggage regulations. Why? First, baggage restrictions may have changed. Second, some airlines set different restrictions on each cabin (first class, business or economy).

If you are concerned, call to verify. Other factors include discounts, originating airlines, use of frequent-flier miles.

One final consideration is the cost of airline fuel. Luggage weighs down aircraft and when fuel prices go up, airline luggage weight limits go down.

   
I love to travel, but packing is a bore. Can anyone help me?

If You REALLY Hate Packing

Let's say your karaoke dreams come true and you really do make it big as a pop star. All that jetting about from place to place must get pretty tiresome, right? And it's hard to get a good entourage these days -- pretty soon they all want their own reality shows.

A service called FlyLite caters to people who really hate packing and unpacking, or whose careers are too hectic to be bothered. For a $500 setup fee and $100 per trip, you get an empty suitcase, which you fill with a few travel outfits and personal care products. Then, when you travel, log onto their site and choose the items you want waiting for you. Your chosen garments will be at your hotel, dry cleaned and ready to go.

   
What are the rules for airline luggage?

Airline Baggage Restrictions

Before you fly, check the airline Web site or call to find out what the airline luggage allowance is for your flight. Don't assume you know what it is because you've flown with this airline before. Airline luggage weight limits are likely to change with little notice, and some airlines set different luggage rules for domestic and international flights.

Besides finding out the luggage weight limit for checked and carry-on bags, you'll need to find out the maximum luggage dimensions allowed.

While you may be permitted to check a bag that weighs 50 pounds, you cannot necessarily take a four-foot fishing rod without paying an extra "sporting equipment" charge.

While an airline baggage allowance may vary from company to company, many airport luggage rules are primarily guided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

   
I'm traveling on more than one airline. Whose rules apply?

Which Set of Rules?

If your journey includes stopovers or transfers, you may be traveling with more than one airline, each with its own set of airline baggage restrictions. Whose rules apply? As long as the itinerary is on one ticket, the "governing carrier's" luggage allowances apply.

Determine who your air carrier is by finding your ticket number on your itinerary. When traveling internationally, the “governing carrier” on the ticket simply means the airline that is “taking you over the water” from a domestic airport to an international airport. Regardless, carry-on baggage sizes, and checked luggage rules can vary considerably.

Some international airlines even base their baggage restrictions on the cabin you will be traveling in—first, business, or economy. You benefit when the airline that issued your ticket is the one that has the greater flexibility, higher weight limit, and larger luggage dimensions. The other airlines cannot charge you excess baggage fees if you are following the governing carrier's rules.

   
Should I wrap my gifts before I travel?

Traveling With Special Items

If you're headed home for a birthday, Christmas, wedding or other festive event, you're probably bringing a gift as part of your airline baggage allowance. The Transportation Security Administration warns travelers not to wrap gifts before they fly. Security agents have the right to unwrap your gifts for inspection, which can ruin the wrapping and hold up the line for everyone behind you. Plan to shop for wrapping materials when you get there, or tuck a folded gift bag into your luggage with the unwrapped gift.

   
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George Sayour