Ask LH: How Stringent Are Virgin’s Hand Luggage Rules For International Flights?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m from the US and will be visiting Australia in November for business. I have 4 domestic flights on Virgin Australia and I plan to travel light (backpack + 1 personal item). I’ve spent lots of time trying to find a carry-on bag that meets VA’s size guidelines. The bag I’m looking at is slightly over their size requirements. So I’m wondering: how strictly do they enforce them? Should I try my luck or look for a smaller bag? Thanks, Sara

Dear Sara,

Australian airlines are in the midst of a crackdown when it comes to hand luggage. Unlike some nations’ airlines, our baggage size policies are exact. For economy flights, Virgin allows either one or two pieces that do not exceed total linear dimensions of 115cm with a total weight of 7kg.

With that said, I’ve rarely bothered to check the size or weight of my carry on luggage for international flights and have never run into any problems. (With all the tech I travel with, I’m certain my main bag regularly exceeds 7kg.) Provided your bag’s dimensions aren’t too far over the limit, you may be able to pass through the gates unmolested.

Your chance of success will depend on a range of factors, including how full the flight is, the affability of the staff members at the gate and your own personal charm (or lack thereof.) If you do get through, just be prepared for some dirty looks from the passengers seated next to you; especially if your bag takes up most of their allotted space.

In any event, if your bag does get refused by staff you can simply check it at the gate. As you’re not taking any other luggage, you won’t be slugged with excess baggage fees — although you may need to pay an unrelated handling fee for failing to check in your luggage at the right time.

Alternatively, you could check the bag in on arrival and take nothing on the plane (provided it’s reasonably sturdy, that is). Stopping by the baggage carousel should only add around ten or 15 minutes to your overall journey — and you’ll make up most of that time during your bag-free security screening.

We also want to hear from readers on this. Have you ever attempted to travel with carry on luggage that was slightly too big? What happened? Share your stories in the comments.


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