As anyone that’s been stopped by the Jetstar or Tigerair “baggage police” will know, attempting to flout your baggage allowance can be a costly mistake. Airlines impose strict piece and weight limits for both checked and carry-on luggage. And the most expensive place to pay for excess baggage is at the airport.
If you know that you need extra luggage, it’s a good idea to pre-purchase this as you’ll pay less than at the airport. For example, Virgin Australia charges $39 per bag to pre-purchase up to two additional bags online (or $49 via the call centre) when travelling domestically. But if you turn up at the airport with an extra bag, you’ll pay $70 at the check-in counter (or even more if you have multiple extra bags).
Almost all airlines charge more for excess baggage at the airport. This is done to encourage passengers to pre-purchase extra baggage online or at the time of booking. Airlines prefer passengers to do this as processing payments at the airport takes up their staff’s valuable time. But they also want you to pay for baggage before you know exactly how much it will weigh, in the hope you’ll overestimate and not fully utilise your allowance. Once you’re at the airport, they know you’ll pay whatever price they tell you… so they charge more. At this point, most people will just accept the charge rather than leaving their luggage behind at the airport!
How much do Australian airlines charge for excess baggage?
Qantas and Virgin Australia charge an additional fee for each extra piece that you check in. Alternatively, they may charge you an overweight bag fee if your luggage weighs more than your designated allowance but less than 32kg. No airline can accept bags weighing more than 32kg for OHS reasons. Note that Qantas uses a slightly different system for some international flights.
Jetstar and Tigerair charge a fixed fee for extra baggage weighing up to 15kg. They then charge by the kilogram for any excess weight above 15kg. This can get extremely expensive, very quickly, if you haven’t pre-purchased luggage. For example, Jetstar would charge you $500 if you turned up for a flight to New Zealand with an extra bag weighing 32kg.
Regional Express imposes a 15kg baggage weight limit for most passengers on its regional flights, although anecdotally does not charge an excess baggage fee unless the bag weighs more than 20kg. The exceptions are those booked on fully flexible fares or connecting within 24 hours to/from an international flight (regardless of the airline) who receive 23kg. Any extra weight is charged for by the kilogram. Rex does not allow passengers to pre-purchase additional baggage and payments can only be made when checking in at the airport.
Here is a comparison of airport excess baggage charges levied by Australia’s major airlines. Firstly, these are the airlines that charge a flat “per bag” fee:
|Airline||1st bag||2nd bag||3rd + bag||Overweight bag fee|
|Qantas – domestic||$90||$90||$90||$50|
|Qantas – flights to Americas||$185||$75|
|Virgin Australia – domestic||$70||$90||$150||$45|
|Virgin Australia – short-haul international||$130||$200||$250||$120|
|Virgin Australia – long-haul international||$140-160||$140-160||$140-160||$100|
And these airlines charge for excess baggage by the kilogram:
|Airline||Excess baggage fee||Overweight carry-on fee|
|Jetstar – domestic||$60 (up to 15kg) + $15/kg||$60|
|Jetstar – trans-Tasman||$75 (up to 15kg) + $25/kg||$75|
|Jetstar – long-haul international||$100 (up to 15kg) + $25/kg||$100|
|Tigerair – flights under 1 hour, 45 minutes||$75 (up to 15kg) + $20 per extra kg||$75|
|Tigerair – flights over 1 hour, 45 minutes||$90 (up to 15kg) + $25 per extra kg||$90|
|Qantas – international (except Americas)||$20-80/kg (depending on route)||N/A|
Overweight carry-on fees
As you can see in the table above, both Jetstar and Tigerair also charge extra if your carry-on luggage weighs more than the 7kg limit.
Jetstar and Tigerair both actively monitor carry-on luggage being brought onto the plane. In fact, these airlines have dedicated staff to weigh passengers’ hand luggage at the gate!
Jetstar allows you to purchase up to 3kg of additional carry-on baggage at check-in for a $30-50 fee. But if you get caught at the gate with a bag weighing more than 7kg, Jetstar will charge you the full excess baggage fee of $60-100 (depending on the route). If your bag weighs between 7kg and 10kg, you’ll still be allowed to carry the bag on board. If it weighs over 10kg, you’ll be required to check it in. Tigerair requires all bags over 7kg to be checked in and also charges the full excess baggage fee to do so.
Qantas has also been cracking down on carry-on luggage lately with random weigh-ins at the gate. But, provided you haven’t yet used your free checked baggage allowance, they won’t charge you a penalty to check your bag in if it’s above the 10kg (previously 7kg) carry-on weight limit.