excess baggage Airlines re imposing strict baggage limits to Latin America and the Caribbean

If you’re flying between the United States and Latin America or the Caribbean, you’d better pack light. Why? It’s December.


This is a policy that airlines don’t really publicize, and it’s doubtful that many people get a call or e-mail about this before it’s too late. But every year, usually on December 1, airlines start putting strict limits on the amount of baggage you can check if you are traveling to the warmer climates of the Americas.

Why? Apparently, passengers traveling to and from these countries are packing so heavily, the planes can’t accomodate all that baggage, along with a planeload of passengers. So they slap on a limit, and adhere to it strictly.

In most cases, the holiday baggage rule states that passengers can check two bags, but no overweight bags or additional bags. Not even for an additional fee. If you arrive with overweight suitcases and want to check the bag, you’ll have to take something out and leave it behind. Ouch.

This latter point is what catches most people by surprise, usually at the last minute, at the airport. And then they’re pissed off.

It’s a widespread practice, with minor variations. December 1 to January 10 is a common range of dates for these more draconian rules, but it’s different at every airline. For example, it kicks off on November 15 at Delta. On United, it starts on the first Sunday in December each year.

But one thing is common: Unless you’re a seasoned veteran, traveling in this timeframe between these regions, you’re in for a surprise if you packed heavily.

Case in point: A comment left on a March 2007 post today in the Upgrade: Travel Better archives. Neal writes:

My seventy year old Father in-law is heading back to Jamaica today and was told that one of his bags was overweight. Not a problem right? He will simply pay the extra charge and continue on his way.


Unbeknownst to the consumer, beginning TODAY, December 1st (try to find this on their website luggage section), Spirit Airlines has suspended carrying ANY overweight luggage (51 lbs +) during the Holiday season.

So, this wheelchair ridden man is in the process of emptying his suitcase to rid the 18 pounds he is overweight AND waiting for my sister in-law to retrieve the items (they will not store or hold the items until someone can come to the airport). Whilst on the phone moments ago with the “Customer Service Representative” at the check-in counter, I said “Where is this written?” to which she replied, “Our policy is subject to change at anytime”.

Spirit Airlines gets WORSE and WORSE by the moment!!!

While Spirit Airlines is easy to flog for its litany of customer-unfriendly policies, this isn’t unique to them. And in fact, perhaps in response to angry calls and e-mails, Spirit has posted their holiday baggage rules at the top of their FAQ.

I’ve done a quick search and found the rules for Spirit, American, Delta, Continental, and United. For other airlines, search for “holiday baggage” or “excess baggage Latin America” on an airline’s site to find it.

(That search also yielded a page on Delta’s site explaining the process for checking a Christmas tree as luggage. I’m not kidding.)

But passengers shouldn’t have to go through this rigmarole. The restrictions should be readily explained to all passengers traveling in that time, and not buried deep on an airline’s website. Once again, the airlines have found a way to piss off the consumer and create bad will. Wonders never cease.

Pack light, folks.


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10 Responses to “Airlines re-imposing strict baggage limits to Latin America and the Caribbean”

  1. Big Business Suck! » Airlines change luggage policy with no public warning Says:

    [...] change their policies capriciously, cause customers aggravation and frustration.  So what else is new?  At least publicize this so [...]

  2. Travel Destinations, Travel Deals, Online Travel Guide & Free Travel Tips from Peter Greenberg- The Travel Detective » Travel News Roundup, Dec. 3, 2007 Says:

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  3. Benet Wilson Says:

    Sorry, but I have to side with the airlines on this one. Having worked for 2 airlines, I have seen first hand some of the stuff people going to Latin America try to check as baggage. I had to explain to a gentleman why he could not check a washing machine on a regional jet.

    I know for a fact that Delta issues a press release on luggage restrictions for Latin America, and they target Latin American media, along with the general media. Believe me, this rule is for the good of everyone traveling. You would not be happy if you were bumped from a flight because weight restrictions had been exceeded. I agree with Mark – just pack lightly to avoid any trouble.

  4. Mark Ashley Says:

    I had to explain to a gentleman why he could not check a washing machine on a regional jet.

    I’m sure he was frustrated because you accepted the dryer and the refrigerator, but not the washer. ;)

    But seriously, my beef isn’t with the policy. It’s the communication of that policy.

    You, Benet, may get these press releases pushed to your inbox, and some journalists may be publicizing it, but shouldn’t the customer be told of the policy when they buy the ticket?

    I just did a search on Delta for flights from Newark to Bogota, Colombia, which would fall under these restrictions, just to see if any warnings come up. Nope. Clicking terms and conditions doesn’t bring up any warnings, either.

    And THAT’S what’s wrong with this process.

  5. Eric Says:

    I can certainly understand not allowing people to check a washing machine but why is december a time where people check UNUSUALLY heavy bags? This makes no sense.

  6. Mark Ashley Says:

    Holidays, I guess. The visiting-friends-and-relatives segment of the travel world tends to travel heavier than the business crowd.

    What I don’t understand is why the flights to and from this REGION are embargoed, but other regions aren’t. I’ve seen the piles and piles of bags at the Air India and PIA check-in lines in December, but why the limits solely on the Central/South America/Caribbean flights?

  7. Benet Wilson Says:

    I’m really surprised that Delta didn’t do the usual press release on baggage. And maybe they should put something in place for res agents to let people know when buying a ticket or have a pop-up box explain the policy when booking online. The focus is on Latin America because there are more flights daily to that region, especially from the south/southwest part of the U.S. And Latin American passengers do tend to bring more baggage as they transport items for their families to and from the U.S. So don’t hate the player – hate the game!

  8. Ellen Morrison Says:

    Hmmm. I wonder how much the increased mail and packages for the holidays has to do with the fact that you can’t even pay for overweight bags during this time. The airlines’ bottom dollar often relies upon contracts with the USPO for moving mail and so mail is getting on the plane instead of overweight bags.

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  10. Elba Says:

    Outstanding story there. What occurred after?

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