Q&A: Travel unravelled

Q. I feel have been ripped off by Aer Lingus for baggage charges. I booked and paid for two check-in bags online. Then, when I got to airport, they said my baggage was 17kg overweight and charged me £204 (twice the price of the ticket). There was nothing on the website saying the total of both bags was not to exceed 20kg. Aer Lingus says the website has it, but I cannot find it there. What can I do? Georgie, London

A. You haven't been ripped off, and should put it down to experience. Aer Lingus, with other budget airlines, invites travellers to pay in advance for the right to check in baggage. Passengers are able to pay for more than one bag. You might reasonably assume that your weight allowance increases proportionately: one bag equals 20kg, two bags equal 40kg, etc.

As you discovered to your considerable cost, it doesn't work like that. Your limit is capped, and two bags equal 20kg. But Aer Lingus does state on its website that there is "a maximum of 20kg in total checked baggage weight per passenger". It also prohibits, incidentally, "pooling or sharing of baggage allowances" – so if you had been travelling with a companion with only 15kg of luggage, you could not have reduced your liability by using the "spare" 5kg of theirs.

If you find yourself in that position again, before handing over the cash, it is worth seeing how much you can fit in your hand luggage/pockets. You might even consider giving or throwing away some of your possessions rather than paying £12 per kg to fly them across the Irish Sea.


Q. My passport expires on 30 April and I am planning to visit the US for a week before then. Do I need a new passport? Bisi Fadairo, Surrey

A. No, thankfully, because it would be expensive to replace it in a few days. The Foreign Office says only: "Your passport need remain valid only for the duration of your stay in the United States." You will, though, need to get an "ESTA" – an electronic visitor's visa – for which you should apply at least three days before departure and pay a $14 (£9) fee. The website you need is esta.cbp.dhs.gov.