Smart Consumer: Don't get weighed down by airline baggage charges
Irish people blow €28m, or €55 each, by exceeding our baggage allowance when flying. Those are the findings of a survey by lastminute.com who found that over 15% of Irish people had incurred charges totalling those amounts in the last year.
Now admittedly, that means that 85% of us managed to pack lightly, but when you add it up that's an awful lot of excess charges and money out of our pockets.
So how do you do it? How do you make sure you won't get charged any extra? Really, it's all about playing by the airlines' rules and playing them at their own game.
Start by only taking carry-on luggage. This might not be so practical if you're off on a two-week sun vacation, but try anyway because it's free. Bring the minimum and pack lightly, which is easy if we're talking about shorts and tees. Wear your heaviest clothes and layer them on.
You can also use a travel vest or poacher-style jacket that comes with plenty of pockets.
Last year I stuffed 4kg of clothes and cosmetics into 13 pockets on a Columbia 'Voyager Vest'. Yes, I looked a bit odd, but it just goes to show that where there's a will, there's a way!
You can also use the right-sized luggage. Michael O'Leary's Ryanair and Aer Lingus allow 55cm x 40cm x 20cm for carry-on luggage and for Aer Lingus regional flights the size is reduced to 43cm x 28cm x 20cm.
Beware of soft luggage that may comply with those dimensions when empty but will expand when stuffed. Ryanair even sell their own approved Samsonite case decked out in their livery for €79.
I experimented with that too and it does fit a lot if you pack with care. Don't stuff too much in, though, as both Ryanair and Aer Lingus allow 10kg per hand luggage or 7kg on Aer Lingus regional flights.
The charges can vary: with Ryanair if your hand luggage is oversized or overweight you will be charged €40 to put the bag in the hold. And one bag means one bag; your hand-bag or laptop cannot be carried separately.
Aer Lingus' terms and conditions do allow you to carry your coat, laptop or hand-bag in addition to your carry-on bag, but if you have to put your bag in the hold you'll pay €20 (depending on where you are flying to).
If you must check bags in, then take into account that you'll pay handsomely for the privilege; Aer Lingus charge between €15 and €20 depending where you are flying, or €20 at the airport, for the first bag each way.
Ryanair charge €15 or €35 each way per first bag off peak or €20/€40 between June and September. If you're bringing a second bag you're looking at more charges again.
Don't go overweight. Excess charges are levied per kilogram, and that means you'll have to weigh your bag before you leave home as well.
Aer Lingus allow a maximum of 20kg for checked-in luggage on short-haul economy flights and charges €9 for each kilo over that or €15 at the airport.
Ryanair allow 15kg for the first checked bag or 20kg if you pay higher fees, and charges a whopping €20 per kilo for excess weight.
Did you know the Legal Metrology Service is responsible for regulating and licencing weights and measure used in trade?
However, those hand- luggage measuring frames at the airport do not come under their jurisdiction. Both Ryanair and Aer Lingus say they ensure that the sizers are consistent across airports.