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How much baggage is allowed on a flight?

On most U.S. domestic and international flights, the limit is two checked bags or three bags if you have no carry-on luggage. Depending on individual airline limitations, passengers can be charged an excess baggage fee for exceeding an airline's size and weight limits. Rules for baggage can vary on foreign carriers. Therefore, bags within acceptable limits on a domestic flight may incur additional fees on a non-U.S. airline. Check with your airline or travel agent.

What items should I avoid packing in luggage?

It is illegal and dangerous to carry hazardous materials on board or even within checked luggage. Toiletries and medicines weighing less than 75 ounces are exempt, but the following items are prohibited.

  • aerosols: polishes, waxes, degreasers, cleaners
  • corrosives: acids, cleaners, wet cell batteries
  • flammables: paints, thinners, lighter fluid, liquid reservoir lighters, cleaners, adhesives, camp stoves or portable gas equipment with fuel
  • explosives: fireworks, flares, signal devices, loaded firearms, gunpowder
  • radioactive materials: Betascopes, radiopharmaceuticals, uninstalled pacemakers
  • compressed gases: tear gas or protective-type sprays, oxygen cylinders, divers' tanks (unless empty)
  • infectious substances
  • poisonous materials: rat poison, etc.
  • matches (both "strike anywhere" matches and safety or "book" matches) may only be carried on your person

If you must travel with any of these materials, check with your airline's airfreight department to request that they be shipped as cargo.

What if my luggage is damaged during air travel?

An airline will usually pay for repairs if your suitcase arrives damaged. If it cannot be repaired, a settlement is negotiated based on the depreciated value of the bag. In June 2000, the U.S. legal limit on baggage claims was raised to $2,500 per passenger for domestic flights. The airline can request sales receipts and other documentation to back up your claims. They can also refuse to pay for a damaged fragile item that was not adequately packed.

What if my luggage is lost during air travel?

Usually, your missing bag will arrive on the next flight. In case of lost luggage, report the missing baggage, and fill out a lost luggage form before you leave the airport. Make sure you keep a copy of the form.

The airline may try to give you free transportation vouchers for a higher amount than a cash payment. Also, the airline can also refuse to pay for a fragile item that was not adequately packed.

Are airlines liable for lost luggage on international flights?

Yes. The Warsaw Convention has established that on international trips the liability limit is $9.07 per pound (U.S. dollars). The airline must weigh each bag and write the weight on the ticket. In some cases, the airline can legally assume that each bag weighs the maximum it can accept, which is usually 70 pounds. This limit ensures a maximum value of approximately $640 per bag.

If you are traveling to an international destination, this Warsaw Convention limitation applies also to the domestic portion of your trip, even if the domestic ticket is separate and bags are claimed and rechecked between the flights.

What if the value of my lost luggage and contents exceeds the airline’s liability limitations?

If your luggage and its contents are valued higher than the $2,500 limit, you should purchase travel insurance. Also, check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, because these may allow you to file a claim for lost luggage.

How can I prevent my luggage from being lost or damaged?

While there is no way to prevent luggage from being lost or damaged, these tips may help:

  • Put your name, address and phone number on the outside and inside of the luggage.
  • Do not over pack your bag because extra pressure may cause it to open and spill contents.
  • Check luggage early to ensure baggage travels on the same plane as you will.
  • Check the destination code and flight number that is attached to your bags at baggage check-in to be sure they are correct.