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4 Easy Ways to Avoid Excess Baggage Fees

Is there anything worse than unexpected baggage fees? Well, okay *maybe* the plague would get a look in, but excess baggage fees would be a close second. Check out Skyscanner New Zealand‘s guide on how to avoid excess baggage fees and the excess costs of all the major airlines flying out of New Zealand.

What are excess baggage fees? 

Excess baggage fees are charges that you incur if your bags exceed the dimensions or weight allowances set forth by the airlines.

How to avoid excess baggage fees

There are lots of ways to ensure you won’t get charged those pesky excess baggage fees – but don’t worry, you won’t have to wear your entire wardrobe. From choosing a lightweight bag, cracking out the scales, or sharing packing space, here are our top tips for avoiding additional fees. 

1. Pay for extra bags online and in advance

If you know you’re going to go over the weight or size limit, or are worried about it, it’s almost always cheaper to book extra luggage allowances in advance. You’ll find that most airlines will offer discounts of up to 50% if you pay online instead of choking up airport queues. Often you can pay for extra baggage by the kilo, or by piece.

Budget carriers like Jetstar and Tigerair have baggage allowances which start at around $36, so it’s absolutely worth scaling up if you’re unsure of how much you’re bringing, so you can save on those hefty baggage fees later. 

Avoid excess baggage fees by paying for extra bags online

2. Weigh your bags at home

It may sound obvious to weigh your bags before you leave, but so many people rely on the ol’ pick-it-up-and-guess trick, and if you’re off by a couple of kilos, it can hit your wallet where it hurts. Double check the weight of your bag once you’ve packed, and if you’re over, you can take out a few things.

However, trying to weigh your bag on bathroom scales is harder than being an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil, so we recommend portable luggage scales. These cheap, handy tools are also small and easy to pop in your bag, especially useful if you’re the kind of traveller that loves to shop. These magic little gadgets will save you having to deal with baggage fees on the return journey.

Need advice on packing? We’ve got more tips on packing right here.

Excess baggage fees can be avoided with a handy digital scale

3. Share the love baggage space

If you’re at the check-in desk, and horror of horrors, your bag is terribly overweight, you can fall on the mercy of a travelling partner – especially if they’re a light packer. Swap a few things around and even out the load between your bags. Most airline staff will allow you to do it near the desk, but you can always pop to the side and quickly sort out your bags if you’re worried about holding up the line.

If you’re a planner, and the thought of a last minute pack-fest is not your idea of a good time, airlines like Jetstar let you buy your baggage by kilos, so you can purchase up to 40kg, and spread it out over a couple of bags. In this way, it won’t matter if the two bags are weighted unevenly, as long as they don’t exceed the total limit.

Read about the most common packing mistakes people make here.

Spread the load with your friend if you’re faced with excess baggage fees

4. Buy lightweight luggage

No one ever thinks of the weight of the actual bags, and some options can weight up to 5kg – empty! Lightweight and durable baggage options will allow for all those extra souvenirs you just had to buy, whilst not racking up annoying baggage fees.

Older suitcase models can have heavy frames, which will eat up your weight allowance, so definitely check out what new lightweight models are available. If you’re feeling lost on where to start, check out our travel-smart suitcases for 2017.

Don’t let luggage weigh you down, go for something lightweight

How much will I be charged if my bags exceed the weight or size limits?

Excess charges vary by airline. To help you out we’ve put together a handy list you can crosscheck your airline to know exactly how much you could be charged.

AirlineExcess baggage charge
Air Canada$100CAD ($116) for an overweight bag, $225CAD ($262) for an additional checked bag. 
Air China190-700CNY ($41-155) for excess within allowed pieces, additional pieces start at 700CNY ($155).
Air New Zealand$35-205 per bag – please note these are pre-paid values.
American Airlines$100-$200USD ($151-303) per bag
ANA$43-152 depending on whether it is an extra piece or overweight.
China Eastern1000CNY ($221) for the first piece, 2000CNY ($443) for the second
China Southern1000CNY ($221) for the first piece, 2000CNY ($443) for the second
EmiratesFrom $40USD ($60) per kg
Etihad AirwaysFrom $70USD ($107) per every 2kg
Fiji AirwaysFrom $18FJD ($13) per kg 
JetstarFrom $15 per kg
KLM€55-100 ($98-178) per bag depending on route and travel class
Korean AirFrom 70000KRW ($95) per piece
Qantas$78 per extra piece on domestic routes, and from $20 per kg on international routes. 
UnitedFrom $100USD ($151) per piece
Vietnam AirlinesFrom $10USD ($15) per kg
Virgin AustraliaFrom $72 per piece


Some oversized or overweight baggage can be classed as cargo and subject to additional fees if you’ve exceeded the airline’s maximum weight restrictions. Excess baggage fees vary according to route and/or destination. Typically an overweight bag is classed between 23-32kg on long haul flights.


Need more tips on packing? Or looking for some travel smart ideas? We have all you need…

Top 10 weirdest items not allowed in hand luggage

Here’s the list of the unexpected things that will get you caught short in the midst of airport security in New Zealand.

Need a bag that can withstand a big trip? See our ultimate challenge: Suitcase Must Die. 

Check out our tried and tested suitcases, and watch them go through a series of gruelling tests – including having a car dropped on them. Seriously. 

*Published September 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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