Qantas Cracking Down On Hand Luggage

Filed Under: Qantas

The big benefit of checking in online for a flight when you don’t have any luggage to check is that you can usually bypass the check in experience completely. This means not lining up for check in, and not having to speak to any airline staff until you reach the boarding gate.

I travel Hand Luggage Only virtually all the time now, so use online check in wherever I can. I love arriving at the airport and breezing through security straight away.

When I’m at the gate for boarding, I often notice that plenty of other passengers have little paper tags on their hang luggage that indicate the airline has checked that their hand luggage complies with weight and size requirements and is suitable to take on board.

If you check in online and skip check in, you still need to ensure your hand luggage fits within the size and, if applicable, weight limits, but in my experience, airlines very rarely check this at the boarding gate unless your bag looks to be obviously too big.

All airlines have size restrictions for hand luggage (after all, those overhead bins are only so big), and some also have weight restrictions for hand luggage.

For frequent flyers who use online check in, they may regularly exceed the weight limits for their hand luggage without even realising it. I would even go so far as to say that some may use this method to purposely exceed the weight limits because they know they can get away with it.

On full service airlines, I’ve never had a bag weighed or measured.

I couldn’t even tell you exactly what my hand luggage weighs (I don’t pack my bags with bricks or anything, though).


Qantas is an airline that has rarely, if ever, weighed hand luggage at the gate. But they have now realised that online check in passengers are exceeding the hand luggage weight limits, and are cracking down.

They have started weighing all passengers’ hand luggage on certain flights, and are forcing those passengers over the limit to gate check their hand luggage.

This is much to the frustration of their valued frequent flyers, who are being delayed by this cumbersome process both when boarding, and at the other end, waiting for their luggage on the belts.

Qantas has claimed the reason for these random checks is both to ensure each passenger has their fair share of overhead space, and from a safety perspective, because cabin crew members were injuring themselves lifting overweight luggage into the overhead bins at the request of passengers.

I was recently on a Nile Air flight in Egypt, and we boarded via a bus to a remote stand. When I got to the bottom of the stairs to the aircraft an elderly lady tapped me on the shoulder, pointed at her cabin bag and motioned for me to take it up the stairs for her.

I happily agreed but when I picked it up it was so heavy I struggled to even carry it up the stairs. While it was within the size limits goodness knows what was in it.

I estimate it would have weighed well over 15kgs / 33lbs. But it could have easily weighed 20kgs / 44lbs. There was absolutely no way this woman would have been able to lift it into the overhead, and I pity the back of the cabin crew would she would have been tasked with doing it for her.

Bottom line

I’m sure I’m guilty of exceeding hand luggage weight limits in the past. I rely on the fact that most airlines do not weigh bags at the gate, and know that size wise, my bag or bags are within the size restrictions.

If an airlines did charge me for exceeding the weight limit, I would just suck it up and check my bag or pay any excess fee knowing that I had ‘gotten away with it’ so many times in the past.

While frequent flyers will grumble at Qantas being so strict with this, Qantas already has a very generous hand luggage policy, as they allow two full size cabin bags on most flights, weighing up to 7kgs / 15lbs per bag.

And no crew member should be injuring their backs lifting over weight bags that passengers can’t lift themselves.

Do you think it is fair for full service airlines to randomly weigh hand luggage?

  1. I’ve had Virgin Atlantic weigh my carryon. It was a kilo or 2 over, so the sweet clerk watched me take a couple of books out of the bag and carry them, so the bag was now under the limit, and I was good to go (and put the books back in the bag).

    Rules is rules. But what irritates me is that they don’t seem to care how much insanely heavy duty-free you buy before the gate, to be shoved into lockers in their flimsy plastic bags, along with vast novelty hats, bags of new shoes and God knows what. Apparently there is no limit on those items.

    A little old lady asked me last week to lift her bag into the overhead locker at the start of an EZE-LHR marathon. But she suckered me: the problem was that her bag was incredibly light, so I hurt my back… I dunno if it was a practical joke she always played on people. I think the bag was actually empty.

  2. It is fair to enforce this as too many people get away with it on so many other airlines around the world. There are rules for a reason which clearly, some people have little or no regard for. Airport staff need to be more strict in weighing cabin bags. Safety of passengers and crew should always come first.

  3. I’m a gate agent and noticed those carryons are getting heavier each yr. Even with free check at the gate people refuse to check their bags. Flight attendants are getting injured and are now refusing to help putting bags in the overhead bins.

  4. Air India and Jet Airways will randomly call you out and weigh your carry-ons if they look too big. Usually it’s when you check in, but I’ve seen it at the gate too. If it’s during check-in you can usually rectify the situation with a 500 Rupee note (about $7 USD).

  5. Very good. I never understood why people try to drag their whole househould into the cabin.
    I rarely bring anything, to the point that occasionally flight attendants ask me if I’m sure I did not leave anything behind.

  6. If your carry on is a bit over the weight limit it shouldn’t be an issue as long as you can lift the bag yourself into the overhead bin otherwise check it in. Don’t ask a flight attendant to help, especially when your bag is weighting more than allowed.

  7. Rules are rules and everyone should have to comply. I worked for TSA and i have seen carryon bags come through that were so large and heavy the passenger had trouble lifting them. For goodness sake CHECK YOUR BAG. Its not that expensive.

  8. This scenario happened to me at Qantas. I had a trip planned to JNB and then on to SYD for work, but upon my return, back through JNB, I needed to head up to AUH. Since it was cheaper than a full re-route, I just delayed by JNB-Home ticket, and added a separate ticket from JNB to AUH roundtrip. Though I made sure my connection time was ‘legal’, I didn’t have time to clear customs in JNB, grab my bag, and re-check it, so I planned to just carry on. Once in SYD for my return, the agent all but forced me to re-check it to JNB and wouldn’t consider my second ticket on to AUH for a through check. I somehow managed her to allow me to take it to the gate, and let them decide if they needed to gate-check it. Since I was traveling business, the gate agent had no issue with the weight or size, but there was a ‘monitor’ walking the security line in SYD telling others to take their bags back to the counter to get the paper strip bag tag indicating it had been approved for carry on. This was almost 2 years ago, so it seems this has been in the works for QF for quite some time.

  9. I have zero patience for someone who cannot lift their own carry-on. This is what checked luggage is for. While I hate the whole “FAs are only here for your safety” nonsense, I would absolutely support any FA that refused to lift a bag a passenger couldn’t handle. In the event of genuine disability, all airlines have a procedure to request assistance in boarding.

    Since airlines have mostly embraced a model of monetizing the baggage experience, it only makes sense that they enforce these rules. It’s unfair for those who pay for overhead space that is used by “hand baggage only” passengers who can’t fit their stuff under the seat.

  10. Depends on the weight limit. There are limits which are obviously low because they want to get more $ from fees (such as 8kg – even light bags are almost 3kg so 8kg is a minuscule allowance for a 55cm carryon). If it’s stupid heavy it’s one thing, but 10-12kg would be a more realistic limit.

    I only travel with carryon unless needing equipment (skiing, etc), and don’t trust most airlines to handle my bag in a timely and safe manner.

  11. Camera backup can easily weight 8kg and it’s not something that you would want to check in. Or carry on with laptop and power cables. On my last travel, carry on was 12.5kg and I didn’t take my household items 😉 Just enough stuff to survive 4 weeks while working away.

    Qatar is weighting hand baggage. It happened to me in AKL, they asked to weight my backpack and small bag. I wouldn’t check any of them anyway.

  12. The lightest full-size carry on luggages are weighting 1.8kg, and most are between 2.5 and 3.5
    Let’s be serious: up to 15kg no safety issue whatsoever. Too many airlines are abusing the concept of safety just to get more juice out of our pockets. If they eventually demonstrate 100% OTD and zero damage, I’d be more than happy to travel without any carry-on…

  13. Easyjet demands passengers to be able to place the luggage in the overhead compartments on their own. Simple rule: take as much as you can carry.

  14. If they really cared about safety inside the cabin they wouldn’t cram as many seats as they can into coach. No-one has ever done a real world evacuation test in some of the latest configurations. Until they do, I don’t take their claims for safety seriously. It is all about the $$$.

  15. As long as you can lift the bag yourself they should make some allowances. My biggest gripe are the passengers that obviously exceed the size limits and force me to use a bin in a section relatively far away from my seat.

  16. If you can’t lift it, you check it as far as I’m concern. @james do you know if they care how heavy your carry on is if you fly domestic business class? Thanks.

  17. Air Canad made me check a carry-on bag this past summer even though I was in international business class on a Dreamliner. They did not weight it – it was on grounds of size.

    But every other airline has let me carry that bag on, even US domestic airlines flying in Coach.

    That’s a big negative for Air Canada in my book

  18. I don’t check bags and my carryon that goes in the overhead bin weighs around 12 kg for a three week international trip on the outbound flights and and usually a bit heavier on return. It’s been as high as 16 kg a few times and it was no problem lifting it overhead or getting up stairs with it. If you can’t get up a flight of stairs with your carryon luggage, you should either hit the gym or pack lighter.

    I have no issue with airlines enforcing these rules.

  19. I understand the airlines wanting to crack down on people bringing crazy amounts of luggage on, but for photographers this is a nightmare. I bring a backpack that is not that big but often can weigh 9-10 kg. You can’t check photo gear (most airlines will even tell you not to) it will never make it. There does need to be some enforced limit on carry on’s but it would be nice if the airlines would make an effort to respect fragile items even if there’s an extra cost. I’ve actively avoided some airlines due to how awful they are about it Air Canada being the worst example.

  20. I’ve rarely seen any cabin crew on a ‘western’ airline help anyone store cabin luggage. They do play a bit of Tetris to try and find additional space but rarely lift anything more than a purse size into the overheads. Asian and middle eastern carrier crews have been more helpful and they tend to have less restrictions. So I don’t really accept the safety of cabin crew reasoning.
    I usually save the tags they add at checkin to hand luggage for future use on on the more problematic airlines.
    The biggest problems I have are with consistency. I would be ok on outbound but have to checkin at gate on return with same airline. US legacy carriers don’t seem to care much.
    I hate to admit it but (sl)EASYJET is the best on this point. There are no weight restrictions on hand luggage but they will only let the first 70 or so bags on board that fit in the measuring cubes. Best solution is to pay for (sl)EASY BOARDING where you get on first with 2 items and no weight restrictions. It’s cheap and it works, no surprises. If you travel enough on it by the EASYJET plus annual pass that gives you any free seat and priority boarding and fast track security.
    As for the comments regarding passengers who can’t lift their own luggage, I usually take the hard line. If you can’t lift it then check it. I make exceptions for sweet elderly ladies and people with disabilities but often play the ‘bad back’ card for others especially those with even a hint of attitude or expectations that It’s normal for me to be their bell boy. I also avoid flights and airlines to from countries with large population of migrant workers who return to/from their home countries with everything but the kitchen sink as cabin luggage (loads of plastic bags is a usual indicator). Eg. Pegasus airlines between Europe and Turkey. Turkish airlines to smaller European cities too, not to mention Nile Air destinations.

  21. On several Air New Zealand flights earlier this year, our carry-on bags were weighed every time, and we had to move some items into our checked luggage.

  22. Its a way to save fuel cost. I don’t blame them. If you don’t like it, stop flying. The airlines owes you nothing.

  23. Nate,

    The bag weighs the same whether I check it or carry it on

    I want to carry my bag on for convenience. If I am not checking a bag then the airline should be liberal with my carry on bag

  24. Yes, all airlines should enforce this and people shouldn’t be surprised. It’s only a matter of time for such a backfire when too many exploit the fact that their luggage wasn’t checked. Everyone agrees to these weight and size limits when booking anyway.

  25. Air New Zealand has similar behaviors, though inconsistently applied as of last August. It is especially annoying when you have just arrived on a international flight with more relaxed rules. And I agree that limits are appropriate, but 7 Kg is ridiculously low and obviously designed to save on fuel costs. Size matters more than weight, in my opinion.

  26. Always thought it would better for all if the airlines gave us one free checked bag, and one free carry on the size of the backpack, and charge for anything else in the cabin. Not sure what pissed me off more, the gate agents ignoring the two bag limit, the passengers breaking the rules and hogging your overhead space, the people that need help, or the flight attendants that ignore all the above.

  27. Agree with points made by @richmond surrey. It’s just work stuff I carry, small vid camera, small recorders, cables, attachments, laptop, kindle, work papers and the like which adds some weight but you cannot check in these expensive items which are work related. Airline won’t take responsibility. My trips are usually 6-8 weeks at a time. This is not a one size fits all situation.
    I’d like to see what happens when a pax is flying LHR-MEL on the nonstop to Perth and runs into this on the PER-MEL domestic sector getting off and on the same plane. Also, why should premium cabins have same level as economy, premium should have extra? And stop pax towards the back putting their luggage in the bins for upfront passengers. Finally, are the crews bags 7kgs?

  28. At risk of sounding a tad elitist, if you fly J or F you are unlikely to have your bags weighed at all, unless they look/are insanely oversize and therefore probably overweight.
    A rare exception for me was last year out of ADL on SQ when the (contract) check-in agent asked to weigh my regulation compliant roller-case. It was 7kg precisely, as I could have told her.
    Lucky she didn’t ask to weigh my smaller personal bag which I knew was 12kg!

  29. They typical overhead bin can hold 180 lbs. It is not a safety issue. Also, for those flying with just a carry-on, they may be saving the airline money (assuming the airline does not charge for baggage) as the handling of a bag has a cost. The bigger issue is asking a crew member to do so. That is not their job, although on many Asian and Middle Eastern airline, they always want to help me. 15 lbs is a joke. A hard-sided carry-on weighs about 5 or 6 lbs. A laptop about the same. Add in some clothes and shoes, medicines and paperwork and you easily have 30 lbs or 15 kg. Ridiculous limits have caused me to stop flying certain airlines (such as Virgin Atlantic, although not sure how they are these days).

  30. I object more to the massive size of carry-ons that some people have rather than the weight. Afterall, we all deserve some overhead space. If you have a large carryon suitcase and a massive computer bag, you effectively fill the overhead container above 3 seats. If you can’t lift it yourself, check it. I almost always check my bag for that specific reason (plus dealing with liquid toiletries at check-in is a pain). I agree flight attendants should not have to lift anyone’s bag.

  31. WHATS THE POINT of putting a limit on weight/size/amount of carry on bags if anyone can buy a shit ton of things at Duty Free and board with a couple of extra shopping bags and being allowed to store them in the overhead bin????

    I personally have never seen anyone weigh my carry on or care too much about it, which is a relief. I do hate though when you’re at the gate and they’re looking at people telling you if you need to check or no. Leave me alone, if I wanted to check I wouldve checked. I think its ridiculous. Its all about greed $$ saving fuel costs and all.

  32. Jetstar is particularly draconian when it comes to hand luggage. They weigh every hand luggage bag on some routes I’ve flown e.g. Cairns to Melbourne.

  33. I think Quantas is doing a disservice to the traveling public. We recently flew SYD-Cairns on a Boeing 737, they have a 7 KG(15 lbs) restriction on carry ons. If you weigh the average roller bag empty, it weighs about 6 lbs., leaving one with 9 lbs of personal items which is rediculus for international travelers. When we boarded the overhead bins were virtually empty. You pointed the hassle of checking bags, and the traveling public knows that flight attendants are there for safety, not to hoist your bag. So what is the gain for Quantus other than making life miserable for travelers?

  34. James

    Flying Qantas all over in January/February mostly in J. Impossible to understand weight limits for checked luggage. Most tickets seem to limit to 23 Kg (in J!) but web also states 32 Kg.

    Which is it?

  35. I regularly bring camera equipment including lenses in carry-on, and I always have checked luggage. I can never keep my carry-on below 8 kg – it typically weighs 10-12 kg. I would never ask for assistance, and flight attendants should always refuse to help for their own safety. You must carry and lift what you bring with you. What you can’t lift, you check in. However, the airlines should increase weight limit for carry-ons to something reasonable like 12kg or so.

  36. Boarding a United flight at Newark the gate agent suddenly started to tell us to check EVRRY bag ! I only had a little wheel bag but no exception. I got on the plane and sat down and to my spitting nails annoyance people were ignoring the mandatory check bags and on top of that there were humungous bags in the overheads already. Dont tell me United dont know how much the overheads will take and should have planned to take every oversize bag to the hold. To add insult to injury when I got to Houston and waited forever for my bag it arrived wet inside and out because the baggage handlers left the bags out in the pissing rain as revenge for have to load extra bags. Basturds !! I complained but all they said was Oh, Dear ! Ridiculous
    And the airlines wonder why people hate them. I bet Cathay, SQ, etc dont treat their customers like that

  37. They should just charge everything by the Kg, like you buy veggies at the shop. Checked luggage 2$ per kg, carry on bags 4$ per kg. Pay for what you bring.

  38. Well for too long the main offenders have been the high tier FF’s the ever “entitled” who already have a generous baggage allowance – crew are constantly injured by inconsiderate passengers who only care about themselves – Can you imagine all of those overloaded lockers coming down in a crash – I guarantee all of the lockers weigh more than the placarded weight limits – but who cares right ? Until you sustain a brain I jury? Who cares then ?

  39. I agree that Easyjet has the best policy: so long as you can lift it (and it satisfies the size limits) it’s OK, which avoids unreasonable demands on crew and other passengers.
    Limited space is dealt with by whether passengers have paid for premium seating.

    What I find odd is the variations within the legacy carriers.
    E.g. BA 23kg (* 2 even in Economy – they explicitly say that the smaller bag can be that heavy!), IB 10/14, AF 8/12, CX 7/10/15, JAL 10, but LH 8, and SQ as well as QF 7kg.
    Who in E.g. LH Business Class has each bag less than 8kg (the policy says that the class means two bags, not one heavier one) ??
    Those limits are ridiculously low, and in Business Class it’s not about maximising income from checked bag fees.
    Make the limit at least 15kg, and then enforce.

  40. I’ve had two QF flights in the last two days with a big backpack, and no questions asked. I almost always put it under the seat infront, but I had a bulkhead row today so it had to go in the overhead locker.

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