The Nonsense of Airline Baggage Weight Limits

On our recent trip to Australia and New Zealand, we were unhappy to learn that domestic flights in New Zealand had severe weight restrictions.  Only one piece of checked luggage is allowed, maximum of 20 kilos, and one carry-on limited to 7 kilos.  The intercontinental flights did not have these restrictions, but our plans included domestic flights in New Zealand.

Our trip was over three weeks in length, and included both cool and warm climates, and requirements for both casual and dress clothes.  The 20 kilo (44 pound) limit was a real problem.  We struggled with our packing for days before the trip, and after many trials on the bathroom scale, finally got close to the limit.  We hoped they would be lenient, or that the overweight charges would not be excessive.  It turned out to be no problem.  New Zealand Air let us squeak by with a few raised eyebrows.

I have read recently that our domestic airlines are also starting to tighten their weight restrictions.  Both Delta and American have announced new limits, with hefty fees for overweight bags, and the other airlines are sure to follow.  What is going on here?  Most airlines have already tacked on a “fuel surcharge” to cover higher fuel costs.  Is this just another way of trying to increase profits (or cut losses) via fees that aren’t advertised with their low fares?  Is this another example of what the cruise lines tried to pull a few years ago when they tacked extra “port charges” onto cruisers bills, claiming that they were charged those fees by the ports they visited?  They were eventually forced to refund those charges when lawsuits proved that they were fictitious.

A recent article in a local newspaper noted that air freight is more profitable than passengers, and the reason for the new rules was to make it possible for passenger aircraft to carry more freight.  If air freight is so profitable, why not buy more planes and devote them to freight?

But I have another more fundamental problem with these new weight rules, and large, overweight people are not going to like what I have to say.  I saw a guy on a flight a year or two ago who must have weighed 350 pounds at least.  He could barely fit in the seat, and crowded the person next to him, a slim, dark-haired lady who could not have weighed more than 125 pounds.  With the new rules, both of them would have the same baggage weight limitations, but the total weight that they are putting on the aircraft is nowhere near the same.

I can hear the screams:  Discrimination against fat people!  Treat people equally!

Wouldn’t it make sense for an airline to charge passengers the way it charges for freight?  By the pound?  I envision a revised check-in procedure where you stand on a scale with your luggage, and your fare is based on the TOTAL weight that you are putting on the aircraft.  Airlines would compete for business by advertising their fare “per pound.”

United Airlines special today:  “Fly from LAX to JFK…only $1 per pound!”

By the way, my wife and I are not small people.  I am well over 200 pounds and she
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