WHO’S that idiot with the titanic carry-on bag that ought to have gone in the hold? Shamefully, it’s sometimes me. The joy of skipping off the plane and out of the airport, without having to wait for the luggage conveyor-belt to crank into action, is so great that it’s tempting to cram everything into a carry-on bag (or two) until it creeps over the 10kg limit.
Here in Latin America such naughtiness is indulged. Equipaje de mano is normally not weighed at all and, when it is, the check-in police can be appeased by the transfer of a few items from one carry-on bag to another. Having sometimes thought my own hand luggage was a bit big, I’ve been encouraged to see fellow passengers hulking suitcases that would be better suited to a shipping container.
It’s a great contrast with Europe, where going over the weight limit reliably elicits tuts and fines. Last year Ryanair was attacked for applying a £30 ($45) penalty to anyone who couldn’t fit their duty-free shopping into their single piece of hand-luggage. The same airline charges extra for check-in baggage, of any weight: £45 for the first bag and £70 for the second, if you pay at the airport. Overweight baggage is charged at an additional £20 per kilo.
Latin American airlines can afford to be so generous because they charge such whopping amounts for the ticket in the first place. My glee at avoiding a penalty of a few pesos is mad considering that I may already have forked out $500 for a two-hour flight. Ryanair and co’s fees are hideous, but at least the flights themselves can be bought for pocket money.
And not everywhere in the Americas is relaxed. On a recent internal flight in Costa Rica, in a plane so tiny I wondered if someone was flying it by remote control, the check-in staff weighed not only the suitcases but their holders. Fortunately for The Economist, bulging luggage was offset by skinny correspondent.