As I sit at the Qantas boarding gate in Sydney, I’m thinking about the countless times I’ve made this flight. Flying to and from the island regularly is a way of life for all island families as it’s the only way for us to go on holidays, attend specialist medical appointments or visit extended family.
This return trip is my third for the year and I’ve checked in a massive amount luggage. The thrill of entering a shopping centre or even a Woolworths on the mainland leads island locals to know all the tips and tricks to maximise our luggage allowance. If you’re interested in how we do it, read on!
Firstly, the Qantas baggage allowance for Lord Howe Island is very confusing! It very clearly says on your itinerary, you are entitled to 1 bag at 23kg. However, if you read the fine print, Qantas flights operated by Dash-8 aircraft (The only aircraft which can land on Lord Howe Island due to the short length of our runway) is limited to 14kg.
In reality, Qantas will accept your bag weighing up to 23kg, but they DO NOT guarantee it will make the flight. However, they guarantee 14kg of your luggage will make it…. or so they say! If you follow my packing guide below, you will maximise your luggage allowance. This is how I packed today, and for every other flight I’ve ever taken back to the Island.
How to pack like a Lord Howe Local
Firstly, get a decent size suitcase with wheels and an over the shoulder duffel bag. You also need a regular backpack for your hand luggage.
In your backpack, put the things that you just can’t live without (either on Lord Howe Island or at home). A change of clothes, a couple of pairs of undies, your swimmers, medication, your car and house keys etc. As this bag is going with you onboard the flight, you know for sure it will arrive with you on Lord Howe! You’re allowed to bring 7kg in this bag. Unfortunately, baggage offloads on this route are common to allow additional fuel. Packing your hand luggage this way minimises any disruption to your holiday.
In your over the shoulder duffel bag, pack this full to the brim with things that would be preferable to have on Lord Howe Island – more clothes etc. Pack this bag so it weighs 14kg and no more.
Once you’ve packed it, place the duffel bag inside the suitcase. Pack other things in your suitcase around the duffel bag to bring the total weight of this bag up to 23kg.
If you don’t have 23kg of luggage, pack this way anyway!! There are many unique souvenirs for purchase on Lord Howe, some being handmade by local artists. I’ve been told countless times when volunteering at the Museum shop ‘I wish I could buy it, but I don’t have the luggage allowance or room in my bag’. Don’t miss out on that beautiful souvenir or gift and help support our local economy.
If you have more than 23kg in luggage per person, purchase an additional check-in bag. If you buy it online at least three hours before your flight it costs $50 (or $100 on the day at check-in), and you can pack up to 23kg in it. This is correct as of the 27/08/2022.
When you arrive at Sydney Airport ….
You can try to check-in on the self check-in machine if you like, but nine times out of 10 it will tell you ‘Lord Howe Island flights must be checked in at the check-in counter’. I’ve successfully checked in once on a self service machine, but then it told me to proceed to the check-in desk anyway to collect my baggage tags! I wouldn’t waste your time and head straight to a check-in counter. If there’s a Qantas staff member guarding the queue, let them know you are travelling to Lord Howe Island and special baggage rules apply.
Once you arrive at the check-in counter, the Qantas check in person will do one of two things.
If they are brand spanking new, they won’t know that Lord Howe has a weirdo baggage allowance and will just check in the 23kg bag.
If they have been at Qantas for a while, they will advise you your bag is too heavy for the flight and you only have an allowance for 14kg, or they will ask you if you’ve ‘split’ your baggage. Advise them you’ve packed your bag as one 14kg bag, and one 9kg bag to allow 23kg as per your ticketed baggage allowance.
I promise you, they will let you check in both bags. This is the way the Locals pack – I’ve done this every time I’ve flown for over 8 years.
Your 14kg bag becomes the ‘priority bag’, and your 9kg bag becomes your ‘additional bag’. The 14kg bag is guaranteed to travel (apparently!) and your 9kg will be loaded if there is space. I think I’ve taken around 30 flights since I’ve lived on Lord Howe, and my 9kg bag hasn’t been loaded twice. On both occasions it arrived the next day.
When you arrive at Lord Howe Island Airport to fly back to Sydney….
Pack your backpack with everything you can’t survive without in Sydney – especially medication, car keys, passports, as well as a change of clothes and extra undies if Sydney isn’t your final destination.
Pack everything else in your suitcase – Qantas aren’t going to make you split your bag on the return and will allow the full 23kg. On arrival at the airport, both you and the bag will be weighed to calculate the necessary fuel load.
Flights departing from Lord Howe will often take off without all the baggage to allow for extra fuel – we are a very long way from the Australian mainland, and may need to circle for some time if there is bad weather in Sydney. Passengers with Qantas flight connections get baggage loading priority. Please prepare for the possibility your bag will be offloaded, and ensure your bag is clearly labelled both inside and out so Qantas can forward it to you. Don’t give the Qantas check in staff a hard time at the airport if your bag is offloaded. They are just doing their job, and as long as you label it correctly, you’ll get it back. Better to have fuel than baggage I say!
Other useful tips!
People with specific dietary requirements should call our grocery stores; Joy’s Shop, Diamonds Store or Thompsons Store to make sure they stock the items you require. Our grocery stores receive their goods via the fortnightly freight ship from Port Macquarie and only have a limited range. You may need to bring specific food items with you.
Gluten free / other speciality bread can be baked daily at Anchorage Restaurant, but you need to order and pay for it the night before. However, they are unable to slice it for you. Anchorage isn’t open on Sundays.
Please don’t travel with a black rectangle bag, or if you do, jazz it up so it looks different to other bags. Please also make sure you have your name not only on the outside of the bag, but on the inside as well. It’s much, much easier for Qantas to find your bag if there is something distinctive about it.
If you’re planning on eating out your entire stay, make your restaurant reservations in advance. During the peak season it can be difficult to get a restaurant reservation once you reach the island. Email the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association at email@example.com for an up to date dining guide.
The packing guide above only applies to Qantas flights. If you’re flying with Eastern Air Services, contact them for more information about your baggage allowance.