Four weeks earlier, when we arrived in Delhi and went through our itinerary with our agent, we learned, for the first time, that our check-in/hold baggage for all internal flights was restricted to 15 Kilos per person. We had left Cyprus, checking in 45 Kilos between us. But with nine internal flights in six weeks, we had a problem, as we did not want to pay excess baggage of £2.50 per Kilo, on 15 Kilos, nine times, at a total cost of circa £340 (Rps 34,000 or USD500+).
We applied our logic (Alf) and imagination (Marilyn) and came up with three solutions.
Firstly, we put all our winter clothes in one suitcase and summer clothes in the second, as we were travelling from very cold climates to warmer ones. We left the case of summer clothes with our agent in Delhi, whilst we traveled in the North of India and our driver brought it to Agra, where we were to next meet him. This solution worked perfectly for four of the nine flights.
Secondly, we noticed that locals were travelling with enormous quantities of hand baggage – it looked like it was never weighed. It seemed that it was just the foreign tourists, who were dumb enough to pay excess baggage, including us, but we made sure that we were only stung once and for a reduced amount! We saw a student with an extra-large, fully laden and clearly very heavy rucksack as hand-baggage. We also counted that one woman had five pieces of hand-baggage. For our own hand baggage, we were travelling with two smallish rucksacks, Alf’s slim computer bag for laptop and documents, plus a handbag for Marilyn. Anyway, Marilyn came up with the idea of replacing her rucksack with a trolley bag. When we were in Jaipur, where there are some excellent shops, we bought a trolley bag. It was light weight, non-branded, regulation size for hand baggage but cavernous – of course, it was very inexpensive and would probably pay for itself in just one internal flight. When we checked in at Jaipur for our flight to Mumbai, our hold baggage was down to 38 Kilos, so we had to pay on 8 kilos excess baggage – we had put an extra 7 Kilos in our hand baggage, we were that much overweight because some clever clog had informed us “absolutely no liquids allowed in hand baggage!”. Later, we discovered that the international rule applied for liquids, i.e. 100 ml etc.
Thirdly, as we left Mumbai, we had carefully jacked up the weight of our trolley-bag. Marilyn checked that every item of toiletry 100 ml or less was carried in hand baggage, plus all shoes and other small but heavy items. We were careful not to make it look conspicuously bulky. The only practical limitation was that Alf had to be able to lift it overhead on the plane! We soon learned, by process of elimination, when they weighed our hold bags at 33 Kilos that our trolley-bag was now 12 Kilos plus Marilyn’s rather large shoulder bag and Alf’s rucksack which was now packed to capacity. Anyway, we were using a handling agent and we told him that we were very slightly overweight, “Did he think he could speak to somebody?” He knew the lady at the VIP counter, and he interacted with her rapidly in Hindi – the outcome was no excess baggage fees!
Anyhow, our two-hour flight from Mumbai to Cochin was uneventful and we were reflecting on our good fortune. At Kochi Airport, we were met by a new driver and a new handling agent! We were staying in a boutique hotel, just on the outskirts of the historical, old city of Kochi (Cochin), near the port. As our driver queued for the ferry to take us to the port, we noticed a huge demonstration, with people chanting and waving red banners, with the emblem “ICP”. Alf asked if they were Communist Party supporters? We were told that the Indian Communist Party (ICP) was very strong in Kerala, unlike other parts of India. We realized that Kerala would probably be very different and provide us with new opportunities and challenges. But surely enjoying wonderful, unusual individual experiences, in a local context, is the greatest part of travel?
The moral of the story is that if you are a foreigner, travelling on an internal flight in India to avoid excess baggage fees:
- Minimize hold baggage to 15 Kilos
- Maximize hand-baggage
- Subject to the overall constraint of not having your hand baggage weighed, with a 7 Kilo limit, and, of course, being able to lift it into an overhead locker.
This was India, after all, and whilst we could not feed the starving, we could do our bit, following the example of the locals, and offering
our thanks with small gratuities etc…