Paying a high price for flying over the limit: Long-haul travellers can face hefty charges for excess baggage. Andrew Bibby reports

SECOND only to the nightmare at the airport check-in of being told you are to be bumped off an oversold flight is being informed that your luggage is over the allowance limits. A little carelessness with the kilos when packing can be expensive, particularly on long-haul flights, where charges can quickly mount up to penal levels.

Air travellers have to cope with two separate baggage allowance arrangements: the piece system, used primarily on north American routes, and the weight allowance system. To complicate things further, individual airlines often have their own rules which are quite different from the industry norms.

Some airlines are getting tougher in ensuring that baggage limits are observed. 'Airlines have the discretion not to charge,' says Clare Tallboys of the Air Transport Users' Committee. 'However, increasingly airlines may be trying to impose charges, because the economic situation for them is so bad.'

Travellers to North America and the Caribbean are served best, partly due to past pressure from US consumer organisations for more generous allowances. The normal industry allowance is two pieces of baggage per passenger, plus cabin luggage, with restrictions on weight and maximum dimensions. Any excess is charged per item, typically pounds 50- pounds 80 for North American flights.

Elsewhere in the world, allowances are by weight, and are tighter. The norm is 20kg (well under three stone) for economy class travellers (BA permits 23kg), 30kg for business class and 40kg for first class. The standard excess charge is 1 per cent of the one-way first class air fare for each kilo.

Given that a first class ticket from Heathrow to, say, Sydney costs over pounds 3,000, this means that 10 extra kilograms could cost as much as pounds 300. In fact both BA and Qantas operate a lower tariff of pounds 15 per kilo for flights to Australia.

There are alternatives to paying an excess charge. Some airlines will permit baggage to be sent unaccompanied. BA has a special desk handling unaccompanied baggage at Heathrow terminal 4. Taking the London-Sydney example, it would charge pounds 6.87 per kilo (minimum pounds 50) plus a pounds 12.60 handling charge. Qantas's charges are similar, though baggage has to be taken to a separate cargo centre at the airport.

'For security reasons, no one can guarantee that your unaccompanied baggage will go on a particular flight,' says Charles Loxley, managing director of the London Baggage Company. In other words, it won't emerge with your ordinary luggage on the conveyor belt and you may have to return to the airport a day or two later to retrieve it.

Mr Loxley's company, which he describes as a 'bucket shop for baggage', buys up excess cargo space on flights at discounted prices and undercuts the airlines' own rates. He quotes a rate of pounds 6.20 per kilo for London-Sydney. The London Baggage Company has depots at Heathrow, Gatwick and the Victoria air terminal in London. It will pick up baggage elsewhere on request.

'If you want the cheapest possible option there are cargo agents who send personal effects at cargo rates,' Mr Loxley says. Sending baggage in this way needs advance planning. One of the largest air freight handlers, Air Express International, accepts personal baggage, though security precautions are tight. 'We have very strict guidelines, and we would need a very detailed packing list,' says Graham Manson, export manager.

He quotes pounds 2.62 per kilo for the cheapest London-Sydney freight service (minimum pounds 35), plus a handling charge, typically about pounds 45 for London, and optional insurance. He says air frieght tends to be cheaper than sea freight for smaller loads.

Other firms, including courier companies such as UPS, choose not to handle personal baggage, on the grounds of security and the cost of handling small cash accounts.

If you know in advance that your baggage will be over the limit, it may be worth asking your airline for their suggestion. Qantas, for example, offers a door-to-door 'Luggage Connections' service, obtainable through most travel agents, which for a flat pounds 120 will take a piece of baggage up to 23kg from a UK address to anywhere in Australia.

The London Baggage Company 071-828 2400

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
In too deep? Travel cover is among the benefits offered by packaged bank accounts

Claims firms blamed as complaints soar over packaged bank accounts

Many customers complained they were switched to the accounts without their knowledge

Finger on the interest rate trigger: the Bank of England

The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums

Meanwhile, high-street lenders continue to cherry-pick and be more competitive on larger loans

China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'

The market plummeted this week, losing all the gains made for the year

Which? warns sports fans about Rugby World Cup ticket scams

GetSporting.com offers deals that may be too good to be true

Could it be the time to focus on Japan? Some believe the country has no choice but to boost consumption and the economy will get back on track

Investors told to travel the world in the search for higher returns

Assets have risen in value across the board and volatility isn't going away. Rob Griffin asks where we should put our cash
As rising house prices push up demand for renting, so tenants are having to dig deeper than ever

Starter home initiative is urgently needed as rents go through the roof

Rents in England and Wales rose by 1.9 per cent in July to an average of £804

Peer-to-peer lending rates put Nisas to shame

The returns from P2P providers look more attractive than ever

Questions of Cash: Log-in problems turned eDreams booking into one-way ticket to nowhere

The company failed to provide our reader's flight ticket - or a refund

Hot property: business has been booming in estate agents this month, even though it’s the height of the summer holiday season

Heat rises for mortgage deals as UK homeowners sense a rate hike coming

The housing market should go quiet in August but instead people have been acting like cheap loans won't last. Do we really have to rush, asks Simon Read
Phones have now overtaken personal computers as the most used way of accessing the internet

Who you gonna call? The Complaints Busters

Unhappy customers have been given their own Ombudsman to help fight for them.

Undergraduates are being tempted with freebies by banks

Students should give freebies a wide berth and focus instead on cheap borrowing

An interest-free loan far outweighs the value of any of the bank's incentives

The Spanish carrier changed a reader's flight from Madrid – to a time before she was due to land

Questions of Cash: 'A connecting Vueling flight was cancelled and all my travel costs were left hanging in the air'

Our reader encountered problems when flying from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity ride

Complacency about rising rates could prove to be costly

Interest rates stay at 0.5% for now - but don't wait to get a better deal on your savings and mortgage

The years of ultra-low rates are coming to an end

The elderly are being targeted by fraudsters with postal scams such as fake prize draws

Fraudsters are bombarding older people with dangerous pension scams: here we reveal the warning signs

Many people are being repeatedly targeted by crooked schemes

Football and credit cards aren't always a good match

A football club-branded credit card could end up being a financial own goal

It may be a great talking point when you get your football club plastic out in front of your mates, but these deals aren't the best option for all fans

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

    £15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935