Airline Checked Baggage Regulations
Baggage check or airport check-in is a service offered by commercial airlines, allowing flyers to have their luggage carried in the cargo area of an airplane. Before passengers board their plane, they turn over their luggage to the airline; they are then united with their items at the destination.
Airlines always enforce limits on carry-on bags. Luggage that exceeds these limits is not allowed into the aircraft's main cabin and need to be checked in. This allows sufficient space in the cabin as well as quicker boarding and disembarkation.
Checked luggage has a size and weight limit, and all excess requires a fee. Checked luggage restrictions vary from airline to airline, so it's important to find out about airline rules and baggage fees before you begin packing. Details can often be found on your itinerary, by selecting your airline from this page, or on the airline's website. Contact the airline if you have any questions.
Checking Your Luggage
At the airport check-in desk, an airline agent first inspects tickets, passports (including visas, if required) and other documents. The passenger then turns over the luggage checking. All baggage is weighed, inspected, and tagged by the airline agent. If there are any baggage fees, this is the time to pay them. You would also be asked to fill out a luggage tag for each item; this will be helpful in case your bags are misplaced, so be sure to give correct information.
What Happens to Baggage Upon Checking
After your baggage has been checked and tagged, it's transported by conveyor belt into the baggage system. Out of sight, it's scanned by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) or equivalent international authority to see if there are any prohibited items. If anything seems questionable, an agent will have to force your bag open for a search. If all is well, the luggage is prepared for loading.
The tags (those attached by airline agents at the counter) are important in making sure the luggage is loaded onto the proper flight. Modern airports have scanners that sort the tags and direct them to the appropriate gate. Other airports do this manually. Once it reaches the proper gate, your baggage is then loaded into the aircraft. It must accompany you on your flight, but it remains in the cargo area, under the flooring of the aircraft.
At the destination, airline personnel unload the cargo once passengers disembark. The bags are then taken to a conveyor belt in an area of the airport inaccessible to passengers. From there, they are transported to the carousel in the baggage claim area. You will then have to simply wait for your luggage to pass by so you could pick it up.
Tips for Checking Baggage
- Excess baggage requires a fee, so it is best to pack light.
- Know the allowances and prohibitions, and follow them. Checked baggage restrictions vary, so be sure to get the correct information from your airline. Contact them if anything is unclear.
- Take laptops, cameras, and other sensitive items in your carry-on; never check them in. Security scanners may be harmful to these devices. They may also be more suceptible to theft. Do the same with medicine, prescriptions and personal medical supplies.
- Be sure to put tags on all your luggage, including carry-on bags and laptops.
- Buy sturdy, waterproof bag tags, preferably ones with opaque covers to avoid displaying your identity to strangers.
- Make sure to place your name, address and telephone number on each tag.
- Don't forget to secure all your bags with a padlock. Choose locks approved by the TSA, so TSA agents won't have to destroy your lock in case they need to search your bag.
- To make it easier for you to identify your bag at the baggage claim carousel, you may want to fasten a bright-colored ribbon or tape.