Sunday, 27 February 2011

2. Day before departure. Packing and luggage allowances.

Organised packing chaos?
I don’t think I have ever been on a trip where there are quite so many packing challenges. With all my experience of travelling, I normally find it quite an easy job. But that is for a standard trip where you have a straightforward allowance of one carry-on bag and one in the hold.

However, on this two-month long adventure, I am flying on so many different airlines and aircraft that my allowances vary widely. Although on a Star Alliance Business Class ticket, sometimes I have to travel economy (where C-Class is not available), sometimes in First (mainly on Airlines in the United States where, for some reason, Business is called First) and on aircraft which are so small that my carry on bag has to be checked in.

In theory, the rules mean that my international onward ticket governs my luggage allowance. But my 16-leg E-Ticket doesn’t actually tell me what these are, stating only that I should ‘refer to operating airline’.

You would have thought that the member airlines of Star Alliance would have one common allowance. But there is not. Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, for example, allow you dimensions of 55x40x20, while Thai specifies 56x45x25. Rather oddly, while the Thai bag is bigger, you are only allowed to have 7 kilograms in it, rather than the 8 kg permitted by the others.

While most airlines allow their front-end passengers two pieces of carry on, Air New Zealand only permits one. With, no surprise here, there is another set of completely different dimensions. (57x37x24). On one Air NZ flight, their website tells me I have no free luggage allowance at all!

The confusion is just as bad with hold luggage. United allows their Business Class passengers on internal flights 2 bags each weighing 23 kilos. In economy, there is no free allowance at all, with a $60 US dollar charge if you check in two at the airports. On International flights, I can have two checked in bags, each weighing up to 32 Kg’s.
The confusion is partly alleviated by using an excellent website called Luggage Limits (http://www.luggagelimits.com/) which also sells an app for Apple and Android devices.

I am assured by the good folk of Air New Zealand and United Airlines, where I have sought advice, that International Travellers simply have to show their international tickets when they check in for their domestic sectors and the larger allowances will be applied. I have, not surprisingly, printed out these emails and will have them handy ‘in case of any misunderstanding’.

Of course, this is all the theory. I haven’t even STARTED packing yet.

So what have I resolved?

Judging by the state of my bed 24 hours before I set off, I have achieved organised chaos as the result of my researches. But there IS a plan emerging.

Sort of.

I will:

Take just one large wheeled holdall as my one checked in bag and one smaller carry on, which can be checked in on smaller aircraft. Plus I will have a briefcase for valuables, cameras, computer, iPad etc. I have chosen a holdall rather than a suitcase for easier storage while I am in a camper van in the south Island of New Zealand. (My thoughts are very much with the folk of earthquake-hit Christchurch, where I shall be in early April).

My considerations for what to pack will include:

Moving through seasons varying from spring to autumn, with temperatures from plus 30-35 to minus 5-10.

Packing my carry on bag to ensure that I have two days changes of clothing in case my main luggage goes astray for a day or two (as I fully expect to happen).

Taking clothing for ten days covering all eventualities from jacket and tie formal occasions to shorts and t-shirts. (Plus making sure I have essentials such as washing powder tablets, decent tea bags and a bottle opener).

Dividing my cash, identity documents and plastic cards into three separate wallets. I will also have a separate body-attached device to secrete about my person.

Early on Tuesday morning, Lufthansa will be my first test.

Travelling used to be so simple.

You can also see the detail of where I am when at:

http://www.tripit.com/trip/public/id/4EFCAE7613A3
You can hear the first of my interviews on Talk Radio Europe at:

http://www.talkradioeurope.com/clients/msouter.mp3

(You can hear the next one from Bangalore/Bengaluru at 1230 CET this coming Friday on www.talkradioeurope.com).