One thing about the trip I didn’t mention was our adventures with the Qantas luggage allowance. Qantas has a more limited luggage allowance than most airlines and since we are planning on being in New Zealand for a while, we maxxed it out! We actually didn’t have much problem with our checked luggage, even though we were over the size restrictions on one bag (because we strapped our sleeping bags to it). Qantas is way more concerned about the weight restrictions. Luckily we were within the weight restrictions on our checked bags (although we were close on one bag, which they labeled with its weight). The problem was our carry-on luggage.
Between our laptops, hard disk drives, cameras, toiletries, reading materials, and food, we had quite a bit of stuff to carry on to the airplane. Qantas, like most airlines, allows you to carry-on one bag (with the standard 45 inch size restriction) plus one “personal item” (purse, laptop, etc.). Where they are more restrictive than most airlines is their weight restriction. They insist that each bag weigh less than 15 pounds (7 kilos). This might not seem like a problem, but 15 pounds is a rediculously light weight for a bag. And they enforce it!
Our flight from Portland to LAX was on Alaska Air, so they merrily let us on with all our carry-on. But when we checked in for our (first Qantas) flight in Los Angeles, they weighed our carry-on bags and they were way over the limit. I’m talking seriously way. Now, our main luggage is already checked through, so we can’t move anything from our carry-on to our checked luggage. What to do? Checking extra bags is an option, but we don’t really want to check things like our computer equipment and cameras, and besides, extra checked bags are $90 each.
To give you an idea of how small a 15 pound allowance is, I have a subcompact laptop, but when you add in the power cord, case, and everything, that’s easily 8 pounds, which is over half the 15 pound limit. Throw in one good sized book and some dried fruit and you’re over the limit.
We finally got around it by taking everything out that had a strap on it. The laptops (we brought two), the cameras (we brought three). Then we took out all the food (dried fruit mainly) and the books, got a duty-free bag and put that stuff in the bag. So now we look totally rediculous. I have my carry-on sized bag, and my daypack (as my “personal item”), plus I have my laptop and cameras dangling around my neck, plus I’m carrying a bag containing food and books. The bag alone weighs over 15 pounds, but they tend to ignore duty-free bags. Cindy is similarly smothered in various carry-on items. But they let us on.
Apparently their main concern is luggage falling out of the overhead bins and seriously injuring people. So they don’t care if you have lots of little things, they just don’t want any single bag to be over 15 pounds.
Then, once in NZ, we had a connector flight from Auckland to Wellington, and sure enough, they weighed everything again. We were still slightly over the weight limit on a few things, but they let us check in. Are we home free yet? No! When we get to the gate, the person checking our tickets won’t let Cindy on with her carry-on bag because it is too heavy. Luckily, they just want to gate check it (at no extra charge). So we get away with 5 checked bags and a motley assortment of carry-on items, but we do make it to Wellington with all our stuff.
Well, almost. NZ Customs did confiscate my turkey jerkey. If it had been beef jerkey they would have allowed it, but because of all the bird flu going around they won’t let in poultry meat, even if dried. They were also very concerned about our hiking boots, but luckily they were easily accessible and checked out as clean.
We have heard that for flights in NZ or Australia, they are even more restrictive. Apparently, the weight limit flying from NZ to Australia is 20 kilos of checked luggage. That is unbelievable. How do people do it?
Maybe we just need to learn how to live without all these material possessions.