Taking the load off excess baggage
For most of us in entertainment and sport, 'travelling light' isn't an option. With equipment as our regular travel companion, excess baggage charges often join us for the ride. So what's the best way to manage and trim this weighty expense?
What are the parameters of excess baggage?
Excess baggage allowances vary dramatically from airline to airline. For international travel, most airlines will allow you to check in 20-23kg of luggage at no cost. Yet selected airlines will allow up to 30kg, or even two pieces of luggage up to 32kg each. Business and First Class travellers also enjoy higher allowances, as do premium frequent flyers with certain airlines.
At the other end of the scale, some low cost carriers have no allowance and you have to pay for every ounce of your checked luggage.
That's why it pays to look into the extra charges that apply with any airline you are considering as a preferred supplier. What you think are the lowest practical fares for your needs may in fact not be so low when you take excess baggage costs into consideration.
Why do the charges vary?
As with weight limitations, excess baggage charges vary greatly from airline to airline and unfortunately there's no single rule of thumb. Amounts can be charged not only by airline, but also by the type of fare and the destination. As charges can sometimes be based on a percentage of the airfare, they may also vary from season to season.
Excess baggage charges are ultimately made at the discretion of each individual airline and, within Australia, are not governed by any legislation.
So the key is to take this charge seriously, as costs can be hefty - upwards of thousands of dollars - if there is a large group of you.
Strategies to reduce excess baggage costs
Be savvy with your suppliers
When working with your travel manager to choose a preferred carrier, take their excess baggage charges into account as these can vary from airline to airline. Check the full range of benefits you receive in any airline membership you may have, as some airlines allow additional weight (and therefore cost savings!) as part of their membership. If you don't already have airline membership, explore the options because loyalty to a particular airline can pay dividends in higher levels of membership and higher baggage allowances.
Get in early with groups
If you are booking travel for large groups or tours, tell your travel company as soon as possible if you think you will have excess baggage, so they can negotiate the costs directly with the airline. This usually costs more per kilogram or piece if paid at the airport, and negotiation often can't be done at the last minute. So you need to advise your travel manager as early as you can.
Weigh before you go
Speak to Stage and Screen to find out about the free allowances of your chosen airline so you don't over pack. Weigh your packed luggage before you leave home and if it's over, get rid of any unnecessary excess.
Take fewer pieces of luggage
Determine whether your chosen airline uses the piece system (which is used mostly for travel to/from the US) rather than the weight system. For example, you may be allowed two pieces of luggage up to 23kg each, but if you check-in three pieces of only 5kg each, even though you're under the weight allowance you may be charged for the additional piece.
Pre-pay if possible
If you can't avoid having excess baggage, find out whether the airline will let you pre-pay the fee online. For example, excess baggage on Qantas domestic flights is $10 per kilo at the airport, but reduces to $7 per kilo (up to 35kg in excess baggage) if you pre-pay online. That can save you more than $100 on the maximum excess baggage allowed!
Share the load
If you are travelling with one or two other people, checking-in together will allow you to share the total free allowance. So if the allowance for three people is 60kg and your combined checked luggage doesn't exceed this, you should avoid a fee even if your own luggage is more than 20kg.
Pay when you book low-cost travel
If you're flying with a low-cost carrier that doesn't allow any checked luggage in the fare (only carry-on luggage), see if the airline will give you the option to pay a minimum fee for excess baggage (eg. $10 for 20kg) at the time of booking. This will be far cheaper than what you will have to pay at the airport.
Leverage our airline relationships
If you're flying with a Stage and Screen preferred airline and you're part of a large group or event, we may be able to assist in negotiating discounted charges or higher free luggage allowances with that airline's group department. This is never guaranteed as it is impacted by a whole range of factors, but we will try negotiating when possible.
Pump up the volume
If your organisation has high volumes of travel with a particular airline, Stage and Screen may also be able to negotiate excess baggage waivers for your staff or team members. As with the above point, this is more relevant for large groups rather than individual travellers, and waivers can't always be guaranteed but they may be negotiable with our preferred airline partners.
Weigh up the freight options
If you have large amounts of luggage, equipment or other goods, investigating freight options may be cheaper than paying excess luggage rates with airlines.
Further help from Stage and Screen
To maximise your 'weight loss', we need you to advise us of any additional luggage at the time we are making your bookings. This allows us to book luggage (if it's not included in the fare), or investigate other airline options if your excess is going to be high. We also need as much notice as possible – a week or more before your departure – so we have time to negotiate with your airline in an effort to reduce your charges.
By working with us in these areas, we can help ensure excess baggage is a lighter weight on your costs and your conscience!