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Help! Carry on luggage weight limits (KLM)

We are flying KLM (booked through Delta) and taking carry on luggage only. Delta doesn't have a weight restriction, but KLM has a weight limit of 26 pounds total for bag plus personal item combined. Delta says we don't need to adhere to this since we booked through them, but I've read elsewhere this isn't the case, so I'm trying to follow the KLM rules to be on the safe side. Yesterday we did a trial pack. No problem whatsoever with the size (in fact, our suitcases have tons of extra room) but the weight is another issue. We took out a bunch of stuff and after many re-tries, barely got to 26 lbs for each person. But we're really not happy with some of the things we left out, such as sports sandals for hanging out at the hotel after a long day. I'd love to be able to add back maybe 1 lb per person.

Lots of questions: How/where do they weigh your carry on items? How strict are they about the 26 lbs (what if our scale at home is not 100% accurate, and we come in at 27 lbs? or what if my bag + personal item just is 27 lbs to begin with? ) Is it safe to assume we can stuff our jacket pockets? Has anyone else booked through Delta and flown KLM, and if so, what has been your experience regarding carry on weight?

What strategies do you have for lightening the load....other than lighter suitcases (one of our suitcases is 6.5 lbs and the others are close to 8 lbs each. It's not practical for us to buy new suitcases at this point.)?

Thanks for your help with this!!!!!

Posted by
238 posts

Although I do not have any knowledge to add to this from experience, I am getting ready to travel myself with a similar situation. I am on Delta from the USA and the Alitalia on the way back.

Friends that I trust who have traveled in a similar situation told me the weight matters when you check in for your flight back home much more than it does from USA to Europe. They warned me about the 25 pound limit. I also have had a HORRIBLE time with weight. I keep taking things out that I do not want to take out or buy over there. So...I can relate to what you are going through.

After many trials and errors, I decided I will be checking my one bag and wearing some old clothes that I can discard on my trip to make way for anything I purchase and want to take back with me.

Posted by
2081 posts


I use Delta/KLM as my only flights from PDX to AMS and back. all of my luggage is carry on and i have booked them directly and through some flight search engines, depending on if there is any savings.

But so far i have not been denied on my larger backpack/bag and its weight is close to the 26 lbs sometimes.

as far as lightening your load this is what i do:

dont take any toiletries - shampoo-toothpaste - (liquids/pastes)- buy once i arrive. dont have to worry about TSA saying thats too much of this or that.

bring changes of (outside) clothes for 2 or 3 days including what your wear. choose wisely where mix and match colors go well with each other.

minimize/eliminate cotton jeans and such. Longer to dry and heavier than synthetics.

wear heaviest clothes on plane including most bulky/heavy shoes and jacket/coats.

minimize e garbage. If you have an power adapter for each device and they run/charge off of USB voltage, look for 1 adapter with USB ports and just bring the individual cords.

happy trails

Posted by
620 posts

Thanks, Both of you! The clothes situation is good -- nothing at all heavy there. Extra shoes because we'll be doing lots of walking in two very different climates, electronics, and toiletries are definitely some of the heavier items. I'll look into reducing cords and cutting way back on the bottles. When and how does KLM weigh your carry ones? At the gate before you board? Do they care if your jacket pockets are stuffed when you board?

I'm not worried about the return flight. We'll put our dirty clothes and extra shoes in one suitcase and check it and divide up the rest so we can use a duffel bag with whatever we buy as a carry on instead and won't need to worry about weight at all for the return flight. But I don't want to risk lost or delayed luggage on the trip so have to carry on from the US to Europe.

Other hints?

Posted by
1994 posts

My last two times to Europe I flew Delta/KLM/Alitalia codeshares, booked through Delta. The rules that applied were the rules of the airline doing the check-in and flying the plane. That meant a carry-on that was okay with Delta, was not okay with the other carriers. I solved the problem by taking my book out of my personal item, and they didn't object to that. But I did it unobtrusively. But when I got to Europe and had to change planes, that carry-on was no longer acceptable. What I do in that type of situation is take virtually everything out of my suitcase and put it in my zippered tote bag. Consequently, I'm checking a virtually empty suitcase, so if they lose it it's not a huge problem.

And as unrequested aside, those last two trips have convinced me to never again fly those Delta codeshares, even though they often have really good prices from SFO.

Posted by
128 posts

I think 26 pounds is pretty generous for a carry on. I fly Condor to and from Frankfurt and their allowance is 13 pounds. I manage to pull that off.

Last year I flew Condor from Seattle to Frankfurt. My bag was slightly over the 13 pound limit. I took out my computer (a 13 inch MacBook Air). My bag was under the limit. As I walked away from the check in personnel, I tucked my computer back into the bag as I had a long, long walk to the boarding gate. They actually ran after me and demanded that I take the computer out again and carry it by hand. I took it out again, frustratedly, and walked around a corner and put it back in again. At boarding they were there waiting at the gate, weighing carry-on bags again. By this time I had shifted some items from my tiny carry-on to my handbag, and I wasn't over the 13 pound limit. I felt a little paranoid about my bag. BTW, I was flying first class.... I rarely include a laptop in my travels, but needed it for work this time.

Airline personnel can be pretty picky about the weight. I would really examine everything and decide if it is worth packing. One of my things is that I carry little in the way of toiletries. I buy what I need when I get there. If I am traveling between cities and want to keep those items, I will take along small, empty bottles and fill them for my travels, leaving the larger ones behind. I also plan on washing out something EVERY night, just another bedtime ritual like brushing my teeth.

Posted by
620 posts

OK, now I'm confused! It sounds like people are taking items out of suitcases and putting them in purses, etc. My understanding was that the combination of suitcase plus "personal item" (in my case a smallish daypack) could not weigh more than 26 pounds. Our suitcases are all weighing in at 18-20 lbs. But when we put the suitcase and the backpack together and weigh them, they are 27 lbs. So does KLM weigh only the suitcase and not the personal item? Or do they weigh both? Thanks!!

Posted by
128 posts

@Ruth, I don't know if KLM weighs your carry on and your hand item together. I have never had my hand item weighed, but I have never flown KLM. Maybe you need one of those vests with all the pockets? Does their web site give any indications? You could call the specific desk at the airport you will be embarking from. Maybe the staff there can give you some clarifications.

@ George - Yes, Condor has first class. It has a new name now, I believe. I think it is now called 'premium' or 'business' or some other name. I was in what they used to call 'comfort class.' It had fully reclining seats and tons of space. Nice for a long haul flight. There is also a class between their high end and low end tickets.

I (my body) has been weighed before getting onto planes. It was years ago when I was flying on small commercial planes frequently. They would weigh your bags and you, with your personal item. There had been a small commercial plane crash where the passengers were all heavier individuals, and it was determined the plane was overloaded, not with baggage and personal items, but with the people themselves. I don't know if they still do that. It has been many, many years since I have had to travel in that part of the world.

Posted by
1194 posts

I've never heard of a combination of carry on and personal item being weighed. You are also at a disadvantage using wheeled luggage. It is always heavier. That said, here are my tricks.
* Take less underwear and wash daily. I take 3 pairs, one to wash, one to wear, and a spare.
* Same for socks.
* Get rid of packaging. Take things out of boxes and put them in a single zip-lock, Get rid of packing cubes and use zip-locks. Some packing cubes are very heavy.
* Get rid of extra cords. Most USB electronics take either an Apple synch cord or a micro-USB cord. Share these between devices. Use the iPad wall charger (a 2.1mA charger) - a 1mA device will still charge in a 2.1 mA charger (they have current regulation)
* Put things in your coat pockets. Jewelry, books, liquids are all heavier, so these are great candidates for your coat pockets.
* Speaking of books, try to put them on your Kindle or Kindle app if possible.
* Guidebooks - break them apart and only take the needed sections.
* Wear layers. Wear your sweater during the weigh ins.

* As others said, buy toiletries at your destination if needed.
* Minimize your liquids as much as possible. Don't take the 3oz bottle if you only need 1oz of product. Use a 1 oz bottle.
* Can you take 1 less pair of pants?
* Can you take 1 less shirt?

Posted by
1068 posts

KLM was very strict on weight least when I was returning to the US from Europe last year. They did weigh all of my bags...carry on with clothes and under seat bag with electronics....and weighed them together. The bags were weighed as I was getting my boarding pass. If I wasn't bringing candy back to my family it would have been okay but I was, so I got to check my big(ger) bag. I often carry on luggage to my destination and check it coming back as: a) there may be too much liquid in my luggage now to carry on, b) it contains extra stuff from my trip so it is heavy, and c) I don't mind waiting a few days for my dirty clothing if I am at home (and the airline misplaced it.) In any event, last year, with me, KLM enforced their regulations.

I don't have any helpful ideas about packing lighter as I am guilty of taking some extra photographic gear and usually bringing a bottle of the local liquor or wine back, as well as candy and souveniers for family. But otherwise, I follow the "basic" suggestions and tips offered on numerous sites for packing light.

ps I wanted to add, this is the first and only time my bags were weighed like this

Posted by
1194 posts

I cheat on the way home. I'll take out my heavy items and souvenir liquids and ship them home flat rate shipping. I keep a couple of garments just in case I get diverted on the way home.
It was under $50 to ship from Nice to California via La Poste. The flat rate shipping worked the same as the US. Having a chip and pin card would have helped but wasn't necessary. I didn't have to worry about weight on the way home and could still carry on. The carry on bag was light and easy. I considered it money well spent.

Posted by
128 posts

I have often mailed packages home from Rome (and once from Venice). Going to the Italian poste is as very, very interesting experience. Makes me really appreciate our post office here at home.

First I brushed up on all the Italian vocabulary I needed to know: numbers, days, money, words for packing, words for tape, words for forms, etc. Then I had to get myself to the poste to first purchase boxes. You could use any box, but I bought the ones from the poste. Then, take those home, pack them, carry them back, get in line. Italian lines are an experience. Then, explaining what you want them to do with the wrapped and labeled package. Then paying. A fun morning for all. The poste in Venice was a different story; fast and efficient.

Now I buy a cheap suitcase near Termini, stuff my purchases in there, and trust to the fates and check the bag.

Posted by
1 posts

I wish I read this forum before we left for our trip to Paris. On the return home last week we were surprised that Air France (Delta) stopped us to weigh our carry on bags and back packs. My Rick Steve's Rolling Carry-on and back pack was too heavy (13 kg). Luckily we had our luggage scale in my bag so here's what we did.
1. We redistributed the weight between us (wife and 2 teens);
2. I stuffed my Scottevest with my computer and accessories.

Lesson learned: limit your computer accessories. Just bring a tablet or a very light weight computer; wear something like a Scottevest or a garment with lots of pockets. Although I fear that they may start weighing individuals or start weighing jackets or vests.

Posted by
23113 posts

Not to be overly critical, but seems like American tourists (I don't know any others) are always trying to get around the edge of the rules. Personally think it is culture thing. American culture is very oriented to customer service - customer is always right, don't offend the customer, etc. Not the same in Europe. In fact, I think in some areas is the customer is always wrong. But that is beside the point.

Airlines publish rules regarding luggage and I think we have to be prepared to follow them. We cannot always rely on someone looking the other way which tends to be the practice more so in the US than elsewhere. Several postings have suggested that European gate checks personal are more firm than US. I think that is true. Our experience supports that. Have stood in more than one Lufthansa line where the size of the carry on bag was carefully checked with no exceptions despite loud protests from American tourists. At the check Delta check in counter in Prague for a return flight to JFK, every carry on bag was weighted, checked for size, and issue a tag. Noticed one family had several carryon bags include a long duffel style bag that looked oversize and perhaps heavy. They kind of pushed the bag to the side and one of the kids stayed with it. Later in the gate area I noticed that they transferred one of their tags from a smaller carry on to the duffel bag. We were behind them when we started to board. The gate person checking the board passes stop them when they didn't have a tag on the small carry on bag. It got messy. They loudly proclaimed that the bag had been checked, same as the others, and tag. Must have just fallen off. The pretended to look around for the miss tag while holding up the whole boarding line. The gate person was unyielding. Someone else came and pulled them to to the side to re-listen to their lost tag story and then pointed the large duffel bag (with a tag) and was asking questions about the bag. Don't how it was resolved. It may have been Delta but it was not the US.

So be prepared to comply and consider yourself lucky if you do not have to meet the rules.

Posted by
19022 posts

I trust the luggage scales at the US Post Offices. Of course, there is no way to know that the KLM scales are as accurate. By the way, 12kg is 26 lb, 6.4 oz.

"... such as sports sandals for hanging out at the hotel after a long day." You don't HAVE to have sports sandals for hanging out at the hotel after a long day. You problem is simply an inability to say "no".

The trouble with wheeled bags is that they allow people to overpack, then they add another 4-5 lb for the wheels.

A few years ago, I decided I didn't want to carry my 1 lb electric razor so I learned to use a disposable to save weight. (Then, I grew a beard. Saves time, too.) Are you packing a hair dryer, straightener, curling iron? You don't really need one. I can remember when portable hair dryers hadn't been invented. People still went to Europe.

Leave some things home. Plan to buy them when you get to Europe.

Posted by
10040 posts

I don't get why so much time is spent trying to do only a carry on. It works for some people, but not everyone. If you want a pair of sandals that puts the bag at 27 lbs., just check it. Your bag probably won't get lost and by the time you go through passport control, it will be coming down the luggage chute. You have a slight chance of a slow or lost bag on the way over, but on the way home it's certainly not worth all the contortions trying to beat the system. More time is spent outfitting the vest, asking the questions, packing and repacking than waiting for the bag after the flight.

Posted by
8293 posts

I'm with Bets. Such anguish about packing light and the extra ounces a gift for Tante Marie will add. I always check my luggage and when I'm not smiling at the folks who sanitize everything in sight, I'm chuckling at those struggling to jam their carry on into the crowded overhead bins. Yes, I have to collect my baggage at the carrousel. Doesn't bother me in the least.

Posted by
19022 posts

" the time you go through passport control, it will be coming down the luggage chute."

Not necessarily.

A couple of years ago, I flew Lufthansa to Munich. I got off with my carryon, went through immigration, then down to luggage claim and customs. There was an ATM in the baggage room, and I got money. As I was ready to leave the room, I looked back and saw the woman I rode next to on the plane waiting for her checked bag. No bags had even began to show up on the carousel.

Several times I've arrived in Denver with just enough time to get to the bus stop for the bus to home. If I had had to stop at the carousel, I would have had to catch the next bus, an hour later. When you are jet-lagged an hour is an eternity. I was so glad not to have a checked bag.

I've only checked bags to Europe three times, all in the last century. The first time, in Boston, my bags were supposed to be checked through to Europe, but were mistakenly taken off and put on the carousel. I discovered it when I went with friends to the baggage claim (this was before there was security). The third trip, on a flight in Europe, my bag were not taken off the plane and almost went to South America.

A few years ago, after I started carrying on, I was on a flight with an hour connection in an eastern city. The flight was an hour late leaving Denver, so the airline met us (13 people) at the gate and took us around to the international terminal. I was sitting there with my carryon bag in my lap, but no one else had their luggage. We made the connection, but I doubt that anyone's checked luggage did. That was the last flight of the day from that city to Europe.

BTW, in the last years I have assembled a Europe "wardrobe", consisting of cotton/polyester shirts and underwear. I wash them out before I go to bed and they have never failed to dry overnight.

Posted by
5835 posts

Be grateful that KLM steerage passengers have a 12 kg carry-on combined max allowance. United's code share operator Lufthansa has an 8 kg carry-on bag limit.

Carry-on weight limits penalized the roller bags with the added mass of wheels and frame.

Posted by
1068 posts

I have to say that (IMHO) having carry on is often superior to checked baggage. When flying back to Portland from Greece I had almost a 3 hour layover in Toronto. It seems that Toronto counts as entry into the United States so everyone on the plane who was flying to the US had to go through security and customs at the Toronto airport. That meant waiting for your bag, doing security, doing customs, rechecking your bag (if you couldn't carry on) and getting to your plane. One would think 3 hours was enough time..... not so. My bag took almost 2 hours to appear at the carousel (many from my flight were also in a jam.) There were huge lines at security and customs. In the end I ran for my flight (not easy at my age) with my shoes untied and belt in hand, to be the very last person on the plane..... they literally closed the door within 5 minutes of my boarding. My normal policy was to carry on when I start the trip and buy some local libations etc. during the trip so I checked bags on the way back. But the "stop" in Toronto was unexpected and almost caused a missed flight. That was the last time I intentionally checked a bag on the return.

As an aside about 1% of luggage is delayed by airlines although only a small percentage of that is lost. There are some tips for minimizing the possibility of delayed luggage such as; make sure the destination tag put on by the airline is correct and not wrinkled, don't have loose loops/strings/ribbon which can catch on automated handlers. Of course have well labeled luggage tags both inside and out will minimize the possibility of lost (albeit not stolen) luggage. The data below are similar to data I have seen over the years about luggage:

Luggage rates by airline

Delayed vs lost luggage

Posted by
5835 posts

The primary objectives of my EU travels have all included active travel - skiing, trekking or biking. While I could have packed minimalist for the (luggage supported & rented bike) bike tours, carry-on only is not an option with ski gear and trekking poles. That said, I carry-on the essentials to the extent allowed (eg ski boots & ski clothing, bike helmet & clothing/shoes etc).

I also try to schedule two or three days of gateway city time to adjust to local time and enjoy just being a tourist. The extra days gives my checked bags time to catch up in the event of delays. Fortunately for me, the two times our ski bag was delayed on the outbound, it was delivered to my hotel the first evening of my arrival. The hidden benefit is not having to carry skis onto the train or bus to the hotel. And SAS in Oslo give us a nice delayed luggage kit saying that the Dutch (AMS) are always slow.

The one or two percent delayed luggage sounds about right. Our US ski group of the past three years has been plus our minus one hundred strong and one or two folks have had skis delayed for one to three days. So far, no truly lost skis. The airlines in all cases delivered the delayed skis even when our final destination is out in the bush. I'm talking about two plus hour drives from the airport.

Bottom line is carry-on your essentials to the extent possible, check what you must, label your bags and hope for the best.

Posted by
5697 posts

@Ray -- good point about connecting on the way home. We had a similar experience at Dulles where the checked bags took over an hour to be unloaded just to be picked up and walked over to another baggage conveyor and then the security line to board the connecting flight barely gave us time to get to the gate. This time it's DIRECT flight to SFO so the checked bags will meet us at our home airport (and if they don't, the airline can deliver and we can use the clothes in the closets at home.)

Posted by
238 posts

UPDATE...I just returned home from trip that used code sharing partners: Delta and Alitalia.

On the flight HOME (Alitalia) we had passengers who were ticketed by:
in addition to Alitalia.

Guess what? The ones ticketed by Delta and Aeromexico brought HUGE carry on bags to the gate. I was chatting with a couple who were checked in at KLM and their carry on was weighed and it was a standard, smaller hard case/lightweight. So theirs was not excessively large. All the Alitalia ticketed people I saw had much smaller bags ;-).

My carry on was indeed weighed at Alitalia but it was a small flight bag. I checked my "carry on" sized other luggage. I had a sticker slapped on it for "Approved." I saw a few others forced to gate check large bags and then others with large bags sailed right through! I think this was brought up on another forum/topic. Just my observation...and please do not flame me for saying seems like the families traveling with children and the college aged types with HUGE backpacks were given the "look away" while other types of people had theirs weighed and gate checked. There needs to be standards across the board on a code share flight.