Insights to help business travellers avoid financial setbacks and travel hassles this holiday season

A business traveller pulling a light-weight suitcase at an airport. Picture: Pexels

A business traveller pulling a light-weight suitcase at an airport. Picture: Pexels

Published Dec 19, 2023


With Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) tightening its hand baggage regulations for enhanced compliance and safety during the festive season, gone are the days of breezily boarding your last Cape Town flight of the year with just your laptop and a tote overflowing with Stellenbosch wine bottles.

According to Corporate Traveller general manager Bonnie Smith, business travellers should be prepared for heightened screening of overloaded carry-ons at the gate.

With only one 7kg bag plus a slim laptop case permitted in economy cabins, the pressure of “what to pack in your carry-on” is on.

“Many South African travellers are used to flying domestically with just their carry-ons, especially as airlines started charging for checked bags. Acsa’s stricter rules may force some passengers to begrudgingly consider paying check-in fees again if they’re flying domestically.

“It’s worth weighing up an extra prepaid bag versus bulging carry-on fees. A 20kg checked bag is around R155 online, but R350 at the airport. An overweight carry-on bag penalty can be up to R250,” she warned.

The tightened domestic allowances are just one piece of the puzzle. Those hoping to take advantage of long layovers to hustle in some last-minute holiday shopping also need a clear grasp of their airline’s international baggage policies.

“Excess baggage fees could land you in a very un-festive financial situation, so adhering to them will require a touch of creativity and channelling your inner Marie Kondo to declutter your luggage.

“Rather than fork out for surprise overweight bags on-site, plan ahead,“ said Smith.

She highlighted that every kilogram over your maximum weight allowance for your class of travel could set you back between $25 and $50, so instead ask your travel manager to pre-book additional check-in baggage.

“Most airlines offer 50-60% off rather than check-in desk rates. Following this advice lets you maximise shopping opportunities without paying painful penalties,” she stressed.

And what about those little surprises for friends and family you’ve tucked into your luggage?

“You don’t want to be on the naughty list for carry-on violations. Whether flying internationally or domestically, the universally accepted liquid restrictions enforced by the US Transport and Security Administration (TSA) also apply at all South African airports,” she said.

She said these rules apply, for instance, if you have any containers over 100ml readily accessible in your transparent one-litre zip bag when going through security.

And if toy weapons, sports gear such as baseball bats, and snow globes were on anyone’s gift wish list, they’d fall foul of the rules.

Smith also advises you do not wrap gifts in luggage.

“Unwrap-on-request rules allow potentially nosy staff to inspect anything suspicious. Instead, transport goodies in handy gift bags, keep receipts visible, and declare items like alcohol,” she said.

And finally, avoid transporting gifts, treats or other packages from strangers while travelling, said Smith. At best, you’ll cause security headaches and, at worst, legal ones.