Is it Unethical to Do This With Carry-on Luggage?

Here is a hypothetical:

  • Airline includes checked baggage allowance as part of ticket but passenger does not want to check luggage
  • Airline is militant about carry-on size limit (7 kg), regardless of plane type or what other airlines with similar equipment do, and by the weigh, they don’t weigh passengers (a few with this 7 kg enforcement are Qantas, Air New Zealand and Fiji)
  • Online check-in is not available so passenger must go to counter where bag is likely to be weighed
  • Passenger happens to leave part of his carry-on contents with companion or in rental car for the weigh-in, then loads it back up for security check and departure, same size, takes up same space, but a bit heavier

Approved Cabin Baggage

Readers, what’s your take. How unethical? Any legitimate safety concern or airlines just grubbing for more money on check-in luggage?

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  • Tyler

    I do this all the time. The 7kg carry on limit is ridiculous. It makes no difference for the airline cost-wise whether that weight is in the cabin or checked.

  • Aaron

    I flew Fiji last fall and this was my only complaint. They’re militant about it and frankly, what you’re doing is clever.

    I’d been traveling for >2 months and had no interest in checking my small, soft-sided backpack weighing 8.5kg that easily fits in an overhead or underseat in everything but a turboprop.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Aaron – with a number of Fiji routes the frequency is as little as weekly so so a misdirected bag has a decent chance of never catching up, especially in complex trips. Fiji did well for me this trip, otherwise impressed. Oh, except online boarding pass means you have to go to online check-in counter, not to board!

  • Suzanne

    Hmm. Unethical in my book, but I sure understand the temptation. Maybe I’d try to shove stuff in my pockets for the flight, rather than repack later in the carry-on. As you imply, it’s particularly ridiculous when they don’t weigh passengers as well – it just looks like a cash grab by the airline. The one time I flew to Fiji (from Australia) I was struck by how large most of the Fijians were in comparison to the other passengers, so a few extra kg in hand baggage would have been inconsequential. My seatmate was a lovely Fijian woman with whom I had a great conversation, but she basically bulged into my seat space for the full four hour flight.

  • 02nz

    Nothing unethical so long as the bag isn’t so heavy that you’re creating a genuine safety hazard. The 7 kg limit is ridiculous, most carryons weigh more than half that, so if actually following this rule most people wouldn’t be able to put much more than a few pieces of clothing in their carry-on.

  • Phoenix

    Unethical? Not on the face of it. I call this a clever workaround! I don’t see this being different than removing something from the bag and slipping it into your pocket.

    I’m with 02nz. If the extra size and mass creates a safety concern inside the cabin then it should be checked.

    That said, yes 7kg is rather light. I’ve seen laptops whose travel weight approach this.

  • DaveS

    I definitely wear clothes with lots of pockets when up against this one.

  • Pam

    I’m a professional photographer and I travel regularly with ten to twenty cases of lighting, wardrobe, etc. Only my cameras, lenses and computer get carried on. But that expensive glass is heavy. I usually cram 45 lbs in my roller and another 35 in my personal item, with not an inch of extra space for any clothing. The 7kg rule is my enemy and I find more and more airlines enforcing it, especially in Europe. I have to avoid KLM, and have had to embrace BA. But BA recently reduced the size limit for the personal item. I have no idea if there is even a carrier left that will accommodate the same carryon allowance as we have in the states.

    I’d love to be able to hide and then repack after weighin. But it might be hard to hide 70 lbs of lenses and hard drives. I have even offered to pay for the carryon weight and have been refused.

  • Virgin Australia had a second scale in the jetway at LAX, but they let us take our ‘overweight’ carry-ons in business class LAX-BNE as well as BNE-DUD. It never hurts to ask! The tiny rollerboards that walk around Australian airports look comical.

  • john

    Not unethical at all. I use ScotteVest for all my electronics and it has tons of pockets.
    The 7k= 15 lbs is NOT unreasonable if you learn to pack light. The problem is most wheeled luggage starts off empty at 7 pounds and people buy backpacks that are over 3 lbs. I carry on my back my Eagle Creek Digi Hauler under 2 lbs. I am usually over 7k due to electronics and charges but then put them in my Sc0ttevest and wear the extra sweater so it weights even less.
    I am looking into this new bag Cabin Zero which is 1 lb, 6 oz. Remember, the idea is to leave home behind not take it with you.

  • Matt

    Interesting that you simultaneously claim 7kg is reasonable is you “learn to pack light” while admitting you are generally over and need to buy and wear specialized clothing with extra pockets to manage…. If someone making an effort to pack light, including buying lightweight bag and wearing a scottevest, is barely scraping through (and needing to stuff pockets), then the limit is not so reasonable for anything beyond a purse or small personal item. Business travel, or anyone with much in the way of electronic devices, ends up being problematic.

    I can understand the motivation to keep people carrying on only very small bags to keep boarding and deplaning fast and efficient (and in some cases bring in extra revenue) as we all see slow boarding and deplaning due to carrying storage quite frequently. It does make for an annoyance carrying on though. And the heaviest items (camera, laptop, etc) are frequently the ones you really do not want to check.

  • sreve

    get a ScottVest

  • Tony

    There is absolutely no reason for the 7kg limit on carryons. Airlines do it so they can steer you to pay to check a bag instead. The hogwash about safety or equipment concerns is non-issue because other airlines flying the exact same aircraft types have no such enforcement rules, and you can clearly see that those overhead bins are marked to have a capacity of over 100+ lbs.

  • john

    @Matt, The only time I go over the weight is when I travel in Fall season where layering & heavier clothing is important. When I am over due to fall/winter weather it is by 1-1.5k. Anyone who has used Scottevest clothing knows that there is no stuffing of pockets as everything fits smooth and sleek.
    When you do not use wheeled luggage you pack lighter knowing you are carrying it on your back. Maybe, when I am older and can’t carry on my back I will feel different.
    I do not think 7k is unreasonable. In summer, you can pack it under 7k. However, i can understand that people get frustrated of trying to pack light and the shake down for money of the low weight limits.

  • john

    To clarify, my comments about packing is ONLY for recreational travel. Business, Professional Photography, events, suits, tuxedo traveling with young children,and winter hiking require a different mindset…

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @john – I just carried blazer, shirt and tie for two weeks in the Pacific for my event tonight in Vegas, boy were they wrinkled!

  • Ivona Fisher

    I cut a solid cardboard box that I have totally reinforced with packing tape to the exact carry on dimensions so I end up with a container that weighs less than 1/2 pound so I end up with almost the entire contents weight allowance. I also slip the box into a solid plastic bag with handles to make transport easy.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Ivona Fisher – brilliant!

  • Derek H

    I like to wear a large photographer’s vest when I’m traveling. It’s amazing what you can fit in the pockets of the photo vest. Of course I take the vest off when going through security like any other outer wear but it’s not part of the designated carry-on. It’s not reasonable to put my lenses in the vest when I’m going through security so those stay in the carry-on but my Li-Ion power packs, ereader or tablet, point-and-shoot camera, cell phone, iPod, notebooks, etc. are in the vest.

  • john

    @RTC, did you being any pants? 🙂
    it is true when you pack light and if with a sport jacket, you need to do Laundry or dry cleaning along the way but things get wrinkled no matter how you pack.

  • Farnorthtrader

    Sorry, I think the answer to whether it is unethical is pretty obvious if you have to hide that you are doing it. It is obviously unethical. Airlines forcing you to check luggage when you should not need to is also probably unethical but does not change the ethics of what you do. Your act stands alone for judgement.
    One other note in regard to whether there is a reason for this rule; they may be avoiding having anything really heavy dropped on people’s heads. I have seen a lot of people get stuff dropped on them by other passengers whole accessing the overhead bins. Not entire carry ons, but I could definitely see that possibility.