Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Leave your wardrobe at home


I'm delighted to see that airlines are finally taking steps to encourage passengers to cut back on the ridiculous amount of luggage some of them travel with.

Many a time I've stood waiting in the check-in queue while some fellow travellers, usually overweight themselves, pass over a couple of huge suitcases plus half a dozen smaller bags, cases and parcels to be loaded on the plane.

Then they head for the duty-free shops, already with half a dozen more items over their shoulders to be stuffed into the overhead lockers.

All of that means more weight to be carried and so more fuel to be burned, more luggage to be loaded and so slower and more expensive turnarounds for the aircraft, and in the end higher air fares for all of us.

And the fact is, except in special circumstances, it's not necessary to take so much.

My wife and I recently survived a five-week holiday in Europe, with activities ranging from cycling round Provence to dining in a two-star restaurant in Paris, with just a single small suitcase and a small cabin bag each.

If we can do it, why can't others? Why should we have to subsidise the fares of people who don't know how to pack?

Cut-price airlines have been charging people for check-in baggage. Pacific Blue, for instance, adds a fee of $8 if you pre-pay when you book or $20 at the airport for an initial 23kg of baggage.

I'm not entirely enthusiastic about that, because judging from what I've seen in Europe it does encourage people to take everything as cabin baggage, leading to a free-for-all during boarding.

But it certainly succeeds in reducing handling costs and making travellers think more carefully before they pack.

I think I prefer Air New Zealand's new system, which comes into effect on domestic flights on September 15, whereby you get one bag of up to 25kg for free and thereafter you pay.

If for some reason you have to carry a second bag, like the time I was required to transport a toy fish tank for a new granddaughter, it's only $15 extra, which isn't exactly the end of the world and certainly cheaper than posting it.

The 25kg limit is probably a bit higher than necessary. Qantas gives you only 20kg free on domestic flights but I guess the airline is trying to ease the system in without upsetting customers.

And it is a step in the right direction which will reduce baggage handling costs while hopefully getting people to think more carefully about what they really need to take on a trip.

Now, if we can only get the airlines to enforce their rules on carry-on luggage consistently and firmly, we might really get somewhere.



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