Why Virgin's cabin baggage allowance is bad for business travel

Why Virgin's cabin baggage allowance is bad for business travel

TALKING POINT | For many business travellers, flying without checked baggage saves lots of time on the road, whether by avoiding the airport check-in queues, making the most of perks like Fly Ahead to get home faster, or stepping straight out of the airport and onto the next meeting, with no bag to collect.

That makes airline cabin baggage allowances critical to business travel, but it must be said that on domestic routes, Virgin Australia’s carry-on baggage rules don’t favour the business traveller, being less generous than offered by Qantas on comparable flights.

For example, on treks between Sydney and Melbourne – and indeed, most other domestic flights – Qantas allows business class and economy passengers to bring aboard two bags of up to 7kg each: that’s 14kg in total, such as the common combo of a rollaboard bag paired with a large-style laptop bag, briefcase or backpack.

Virgin Australia passengers can also travel with two carry-on bags, but at a combined total weight of 7kg, not 7kg per bag as with Qantas.

Both airlines also permit one 'personal item' such as a handbag or laptop sleeve in addition to their published allowances, but when it comes to everything else, you'll get 14kg across two bags when flying Qantas, or 7kg across two bags when flying Virgin Australia, being only half as generous.

This distinction isn't a mere oversight by Virgin Australia – I’ve seen that 7kg weight limit strictly enforced at Virgin Australia boarding gates, with many unimpressed business travellers asked to check their larger bag in (and wait for it at the carousel after the flight), when the same luggage combination would have been A-OK when travelling on Qantas.

In more recent times, some Australian Business Traveller readers have also reported having their cabin baggage weighed at Virgin Australia Premium Entry in Sydney, and if bringing along more than 7kg in total, being directed back to the airline's check-in counters to drop off their carry-on bag as checked luggage.

So, over to you – is it time for Virgin Australia to make its domestic carry-on baggage allowance more business-friendly, or are you happy to see the existing restrictions enforced, despite being less generous than the competition? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!


  • BatteryBen


    30 Aug, 2018 09:24 am

    Chris, any reason from Virgin why the allowance is so stingy?
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    30 Aug, 2018 09:41 am

    If Virgin Australia chooses to make its carry-on baggage allowance more competitive and 'business traveller friendly', we'd certainly report it, but until then, Virgin Australia's allowance remains half as generous as Qantas provides in the same cabins on the same aircraft on the same routes.
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  • StuParr


    30 Aug, 2018 09:28 am

    I have not experienced this issue. From the bags being brought into the cabin that I have seen, they are not policing it that much.
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    30 Aug, 2018 09:43 am

    I see it happen most frequently on early morning 'triangle' flights (those between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane), but that's not to say the scales don't come out elsewhere.

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  • Medon Loupis


    30 Aug, 2018 09:37 am

    I've flown Virgin maybe 40-50 times in the past year and I've never seen their carry-on rules enforced. In fact, at times, I've seen people bringing so much carry-on onboard, to the inconvenience of other passengers, that I've wished that Virgin would be more strict than they are.
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  • sim86on


    30 Aug, 2018 11:50 am

    I concur.
    VA Gold last 4 years, never seen them weight cabin bags at premium entry, lounge or at the gate
    BUT frequently witness passengers passengers excessively abuse the limits without repercussions or even an query from VA staff.
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  • UpUpAndAway


    30 Aug, 2018 09:44 am

    Never ever had this problem with VA, and just recently I brought my sister a business class seat. When I picked her up she had 3 bags and heavy at that in business class and I explained to her she was very lucky not to be bailed up. I think your talking about Qantas were I have been checked at LA by an idiot who didn't see the guy sitting next to me with 25 kg of computer gear in one bag.

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  • Chris Chamberlin


    30 Aug, 2018 09:48 am

    No, we're clearly talking about Virgin Australia domestic flights, not Qantas in Los Angeles.
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  • Steve987


    30 Aug, 2018 09:50 am

    I do wish qantas would enforce size based limits though.
    The regular threat of having to put bags in the hold unless more bags go under people’s feet is completely avoidable.
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  • reeves35


    30 Aug, 2018 09:50 am

    I don't really have an issue with airlines being strict with carry-on bags. In fact, I find it more frustrating when they aren't. With the compression in seating in recent years, there just isn't enough space for everyone to bring on 2 7kg bags and place them all in the overhead lockers; maybe there is for J class but definitely not in Y.

    Significant amounts of carry-on also significantly slows boarding and disembarking. VA would often aim for a 40 minute turnaround with a 737 so avoiding the delays associated with trying to cope with too much cabin baggae makes sense.

    Anyone who has flown domestically in the US will know the chaos that poorly managed carry-on bags policies bring. As long as the policies are clearly available, I have no problem with Australian airlines enforcing them.
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  • Dean


    30 Aug, 2018 10:00 am

    Completely agree with your comments on sizing, but the weight of a bag generally doesn't affect its size, and to me at least, enforcing a weight limit that's far below what the competition offers just feels cheap, not to mention the inconvenience.

    If you're going to have a carryon allowance and enforce it, at least make the allowance reasonable in the first place.
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  • reeves35


    30 Aug, 2018 11:31 am

    The 7kg per item limit is understandable regardless of size. Trying to manoueuvre a heavy bag from overhead locker is potentially dangerous. I had a work colleague receive a concussion injury when someone pulled a heavy bag from the overhead locker and hit her on the head with it about 10 years ago.
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    30 Aug, 2018 11:48 am

    Hi reeves35, I also agree the weight limit per item should remain at 7kg (especially for bags stored overhead, which, as you say, could potentially cause injury) - the issue discussed in the article is that currently, when travelling with two bags on Virgin Australia, you're essentially restricted to carrying 3.5kg per bag, not 7kg, and that's the distinction between Virgin Australia's policy and Qantas' policy.
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  • Dean


    30 Aug, 2018 09:57 am

    This is actually one of the reasons I've stopped flying Virgin when I can avoid it... I regularly travel with only carryon bags and although Virgin doesn't weigh them often, when they do, it feels like I'm just flying Jetstar but paying twice the price for the privilege. I'm all for safety (which is generally the reason the airlines give for allowing only 7kg per bag), but this isn't about safety, it's about Virgin having a rubbish policy and then sporadically enforcing it so you don't know where they'll strike next.
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  • Doublecatered Johnston


    30 Aug, 2018 10:09 am

    Cabin baggage is a huge problem and I applaud Virgin for at least attempting to tackle it
    Its.a conundrum because people are increasingly squished into seats and now they are having to stow bags under the diminishing space under the seat in front.
    Until ALL carriers have a consistent policy that is enforced, then the problem won't go away any time soon
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  • Flying High

    Flying High

    30 Aug, 2018 10:11 am

    I must say I've not seen this rule enforced on VA. Not a hugely regular traveller, but when I do it's generally Mel/Syd/Bne during 'peak' business times.
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  • Tom Y

    Tom Y

    30 Aug, 2018 10:11 am

    I have experienced this before coming back from Sydney when I used to work for Defence. I tried to repack my carry on to below 8 kg and put more into the checked luggage. In the end, I gave u and just said give me the excess baggage charge as I just want to get on the flight and go home.
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    30 Aug, 2018 10:23 am

    Whilst they could could tweak the allowance up a bit I actually say good on VA for at least trying to enforce some sort of standard, I wish QF would actually police theirs a bit more after watching my Samsonite packpack get rammed and squashed yesterday by someone with 2 bags including a hard shell,large laptop bag and then trying to rearrange the whole section to fit in their box of Krispy Kreme donuts, just appalling.
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    30 Aug, 2018 10:24 am

    This is one reason I fly more often with Qantas than Virgin. I like Virgin's 'Fly Ahead' policy for flexi fares but often on my trips I need to carry some samples and a fair bit of documentation and 'leave behind' kits for clients along with the usual gear for a day trip or overnight trip, and no way will that all come in under 7kg. I won't do checked bags for a trip like this so when I am carrying anything more than a single lightweight 'day bag' I always default to Qantas because of their more generous luggage policy.
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  • humanuscomotose


    30 Aug, 2018 10:26 am

    I have been flying VA for years with work and must admit to never having had my carry-on weighed. That said, I choose to fly VA and therefore regard it as my responsibility to comply with their carry-on luggage allowance and only take 7kgs onboard (laptop excluded). On the matter of carry-on allowance restrictions more generally, my opinion (which may indeed be a minority opinion) is that if an airline has such restrictions then they should be policed and enforced, else why bother having them in the first place.
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  • Chris Lai


    30 Aug, 2018 10:48 am

    Never encountered such thing at boarding gate before and I am based in Melbourne (usually fly out between 7-9).

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  • wdeguara


    30 Aug, 2018 12:01 pm

    Something else worth a mention is that if you are a person who generally travels with a single carry-on/roll-on bag, the physical size (dimensions) of the bag allowed by Virgin Domestic is smaller than what Qantas Domestic allows:

    Virgin: max 48x34x23cm (105cm linear dimensions)
    Qantas: max 56x36x23cm (115cm linear dimensions)

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  • Traveller14


    30 Aug, 2018 12:30 pm

    Why can't all airlines just increase this to one bag maximum 10kg?

    At least one LCC has this. Provided passengers lift them in and out carefully, the chances of someone being injured are minimal, and if I recall, the bins can cope with this amount fo weight (bearing in mind at present many abuse it and bring on board luggage that must weigh 15 - 20kgs an item on occasion).
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  • Blake


    30 Aug, 2018 12:48 pm

    I wish airlines would enforce the limit, growing tired of selfish people that abuse the fact that Airlines mostly dont police the limits. Its so annoying when there is no room left for my meagre carry on.
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  • Stm Aus


    30 Aug, 2018 01:06 pm

    As a business traveller, I'm happy with the VA limit but would be happier if it was enforced consistently (ie, not just at the Premium Lounge Entry).
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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    30 Aug, 2018 01:39 pm

    BA's limit is one bag, up to 23kg in weight, and up to 125cm in total dimensions. Much more customer-friendly. The issue is SIZE, not weight, if we're trying to make sure there's sufficient room for everyone.
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  • elchriss0


    30 Aug, 2018 01:49 pm

    LOL yea i always thought that was a glitch in their website. 23kg is an absurd amount to be lifting above your head but having said that I was lifting my 23kg checked luggage above my head on the Shinkansen for multiple journeys in Japan.
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  • thelongroad


    30 Aug, 2018 02:40 pm

    Never had it happen to me.

    I did however once have my check-in bag queried. I'm Gold, wife is Platinum, travelling together on same booking. Had a single ~26kg bag between us.
    "Sorry sir, the limit per bag is 23kg".
    "We're entitled to way more than this in total, are you really going to enforce this"
    "The rule is 23kg sir"
    "OK, that's fine, go ask your boss if he can allow it, we'll wait"

    He went off to find his boss. It was 2 days before Christmas, lines were snaked out the door, even the premium line had 10+ people on it. He came back pretty quickly.

    "That's fine sir"

    LOL @ going to his boss over that, at a time like that.

    I think he was having a bad day and taking it out on customers, as the guy served before us looked very very annoyed when he walked away from the counter.

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  • mo


    30 Aug, 2018 03:31 pm

    I actually don't mind the limit, but I wish it was per volume not weight. Carry-on space is a limited resource.
    The good thing on Virgin is I reliably get space to stash my carry-on bag.
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  • rencontre


    30 Aug, 2018 05:08 pm

    180 passengers x 2 carry-on bags of 7kg each = 360 carry-on bags, to be placed where exactly?

    VA gets me home on time, if not earlier, with their current swift boarding/baggage policy. It also means that there's plenty of space for those who actually need a bit of carry-on baggage flexibility -
    parents travelling with kids, special needs passengers etc
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  • henrus


    30 Aug, 2018 05:09 pm

    Personally, I've never had a carry on bag weighed in Australia but have seen it in action:

    Jetstar in Cairns and the Gold Coast often weigh bags mainly due to both of them being leisure destinations.

    Virgin in Brisbane was weighing bags of everyone in the general boarding queue. Anyone in the premium boarding lane was exempt and didn't have a problem.

    It also helps to travel with a backpack instead of wheelie bag as the bag its self is often lighter and you're less likely to have it weighed by staff.
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  • Stephen Doggett

    Stephen D

    30 Aug, 2018 08:19 pm

    I have to admit to carrying around 20kg of sensitive camera equipment onto Business, with another bag (& about to do this again on Sunday!). Never ever been questioned or had my bag weighed. Perhaps being Platinum for 5 years has helped.
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  • Alex Arora


    31 Aug, 2018 04:35 am

    Just read an article that qantas has a new weight of 7kg
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    31 Aug, 2018 09:02 am

    Qantas’ carry-on allowance remains 7kg per bag (and up to two bags, so 14kg total), while Virgin’s remains 7kg total weight (so an average of just 3.5kg per bag if two bags are carried). That hasn’t changed.

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  • Peter Gingell


    31 Aug, 2018 12:43 pm

    The Qantas 737 overhead bins observed yesterday have a weight limit of 44KG. Airlines must be careful of overhead weight in the event of a 'very heavy' landing to ensure that the latches and the bins themselves dont fail.
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  • Ross  Anderson


    31 Aug, 2018 04:32 pm

    Chris you are perceiving the web site incorrectly.

    2 x 105cm bags up to 7Kg each are permitted.
    This is what the VA web site states (leaving garment packs out of it):
    2 pieces
    Small bag
    or briefcase
    Then to the right following a large square bracket to indicate "for each":
    48cm long x 34cm wide x 23cm deep
    Total linear dimensions: 105cm
    If the total weight of the two bags allowed was 7Kg them the total dimensions allowed with the two bags would also be an unrealistic 105cm.
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  • Chris Chamberlin


    31 Aug, 2018 04:35 pm

    The website clearly indicates 7kg total weight per passenger, not 7kg per bag: that's the issue being described here.

    "All guests travelling on our domestic network are permitted to take up to 7kg of carry-on baggage on board."

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  • Jason Hamilton


    31 Aug, 2018 06:53 pm

    Half-service airline
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  • SaulG


    31 Aug, 2018 10:43 pm

    Actually I wish they would enforce the rule every trip on every airline. Often travelling from Bali to BNE stuck trying to board behind overweight people with 2 stuffed rucksacks, a purse, a ju,ju, a wooden penis bottle opener, duty free of brandivino, giant toblerone and snotty kids with braided hair and temporary (I hope) tattoos. Indeed who hasn't seen a young Mum (bless her) struggling with a 1 year old, a snack pack, a nappy bag, a laptop, a purse and a stroller? Give me an organised business person with 2 appropriate, neat and sized bags anyday.
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  • KateD


    3 Sep, 2018 01:34 pm

    "who hasn't seen a young Mum (bless her) struggling with a 1 year old, a snack pack, a nappy bag, a laptop, a purse and a stroller?"

    How would enforcing cabin baggage limits change this? Which of the above do you suggest your patronisingly described "young Mum" could do without? Are you going to carry the baby for her?
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  • Bavarian


    31 Aug, 2018 11:55 pm

    I don't get the 7kg limit anyhow neither with Qantas nor Virgin. BA offers a generous 23 kg as long as one is able to handle them and move them into the compartment. The size is enforced however.
    Looking at the signage the overhead compartment load limit is at 73 to 78 kg, it fits roughly three of these nice trolleys. That's some 20 kgs per suitcase.
    7 kg is nonsense, the lightest full-size carry on case I know is at 2.0 kg. Leaving 5 kg for carry on. A t-shirt is at 200-300g, a pair of jeans is easily 1 kg.
    Any laptop is like 1 - 1.5 kg.
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  • Howard


    1 Sep, 2018 08:28 am

    I've been VA PLAT for several years now and it happened once at checkin... in the purple queue on a biz class flight no less!! They insisted I remove items from the back pack until that was 7kg. I had to carry my laptop in my arms plus a couole of other items. Very embarassing. Meanwhile other passengers walk past after their normal checkin with backpacks which I could only described as severely bloated!! Hhmmmmmmpppphhh
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20 Jul, 2019 07:24 am


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