What Is Checked Baggage?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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The term "checked baggage" refers to luggage that is stowed in the belly of an aircraft during flight. Passengers will leave luggage with airline personnel so it can be stowed during flight; this prevents overcrowding within the cabin of the plane. It differs from carry-on baggage, which is any piece of luggage that is carried into the cabin of the airplane for storage in overhead bins or underneath seats. Checked baggage limitations can vary, and many airlines now charge passengers to check a bag onto a flight.

Most airlines require that checked baggage be under a certain weight or size. If the luggage is larger or heavier than the outlined regulations, the passenger will be subject to extra fees. In the past, airlines did not charge a fee for bags that fit under the weight and size regulations, but more and more airlines have changed their policies to include fees for checked baggage; many still offer checked bag services free of charge, while others offer free services for one bag only. Fees apply for baggage checked beyond the first bag.


A passenger will check his or her luggage at a check-in counter at an airport. Once the bags are checked, they will be tagged with the passenger's flight information so the bags can be transferred if the passenger has a connecting flight. The bags will be loaded into storage compartments in the belly of an airplane by baggage handlers. Once inside the belly of the plane, the bags will be stacked and secured so they do not shift during flight. Passengers will not be able to access checked baggage during flight or at a connecting stop. Once the passenger reaches his or her final destination, the luggage will be loaded onto a conveyor system that runs into the baggage claim area within an airport so the bags can be claimed.

Another type of checked baggage is gate-check baggage. This occurs when the overhead compartments within an aircraft fill up, but oncoming passengers still have luggage to stow. Flight attendants will ask passengers to tag their bags and leave them at the gate so a baggage attendant can load the bags into the storage area in the belly of the plane. When a bag is gate-checked, the passenger will not be charged for checking the bag. In some cases, the stowed baggage will be unloaded at the gate when the plane arrives at the airport so passengers can have their carry-on items for another flight.


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Post 9

@watson42- I can't help but wonder if you flew using RyanAir. They've become a really cheap alternative in Europe in recent years, but my friends who travel a lot say they have some really high prices for extras. I haven't flown on them myself, but I don't know whether or not I would if given the option; I guess it depends on just how cheap those cheap fare prices were.

Post 8

@sapphire12- It's not even just cosmetics, like you mention, either. The things that are considered "dangerous" these days are absurd! Last year I was flying through Slovakia to London on my way to the United States, and the local airport confiscated my knitting needles.

They said that they were a "weapon". While I understood the point, the fact is that knitting needles are not even sharp, and most of the ones I had were bamboo, not metal. It made me furious, and the only other option I had with the airline was to check my tiny bag for 40 euros. I trashed the needles, but I'm not sure I ever want to fly through that airline again.

Post 7

@Jessicalynn- Even if you get over size restrictions, the other issue with not checking baggage is what you can carry. There are so many rules about cosmetics and other liquids now, it's hard to prepare for an extended trip if you can't bring half the things you might need on the plane. I mean, I know it's maybe okay to bring small amounts of something for a weekend or borrow a friend's when you get there, but for something longer than a week, it's either check your bag or be willing to repurchase a lot of things when you get there, and then be willing to leave them behind.

Maybe there could be some sort of policy that checking bags under a certain weight- maybe under 30 pounds, since the ordinary limit is 50- would cost less than checking full weight bags.

Post 6

I know it can be a bit risky, but I really prefer to just check my baggage. I hate worrying about carrying my suitcase on the plane. It's not so bad if you just have a straight through flight, but if you have a connecting flight it can be a big pain to carry your suitcase through the airport.

But just in case, I always pack one change of clothes in my small carry on bag along with some toiletries. I know having a checked bag get lost is a real possibility, so I try to be prepared.

Post 5

@indemnifyme - That's a good point. However, not everyone is a light packer. As the article said, there are size restrictions on carry on suitcases. If you need to bring a lot of stuff, it might not be possible to avoid checking your bag. This is especially relevant for families.

So, I just wanted to point out that there are some airlines that don't charge for the first checked bag. Before you buy your tickets, you should make sure to check and find out what that particular airlines fees are for checked bags. This way you can save money and you won't be surprised when you get to the airport!

Post 4

An airline lost my luggage a few years ago and totally ruined my trip. I didn't get my suitcase back until I had been home for an entire week! So now I pretty much do whatever I have to do to avoid having to check my bag.

Usually I just buy travel sizes of all my liquid items, like hairspray and body spray. It's really not that big of a deal. I would much rather have to buy one or two things when I get to my destination rather than buy a ton of new stuff because the airline lost my bag!

Post 3

@feruze-- I think fees have been added because of rising gas prices.

The other advantage of checked baggage is that you can include liquids in it. You can't have any liquids on board the flight so it's out of the question to put it in carry-on bags. It will just get confiscated by security at the airport.

So if you're planning to take liquids, you will need to check in that bag.

Post 2

@feruze-- I guess that depends on how much your airlines will be charging you.

I think if you're flying in the US, it's not really worth paying to check in baggage unless you really have to. I check in baggage but that's because I have to fly internationally several times a year and I have too many things to fit in a carry-on.

The advantage of checked baggage is that it allows you to take more than 20 pounds of belongings, so you can take more. The disadvantage is the fee, and there is the possibility that it might be lost or arrive late.

The advantage of a carry on is that it's free and it's always with you during the trip so you can't lose it.

Post 1

I haven't been on a flight in quite some time. Why is there now a fee for checked baggage?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of checking in baggage in your opinion?

I'm going to be flying to see my daughter and her newborn next month. I want to take some gifts for the baby which means I will probably check in one bag. My wife thinks that I should just take a carry on and shop for gifts while I'm there but I'm not sure.

Do you think it's worth paying to check in baggage or not?

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