Q. We are so excited about our family safari in December! But I’m concerned about the weight restriction for the small aircraft. Is this for real?
A. Yes, and here are the details. Bottom line: if you carry too much, you could lose it. Alternative: charter your own plane, or buy multiple seats.
Charter companies in East Africa presume an average tourist weight of 75 kilos per person. They know how much they as pilots weigh, how much their fuel and safety equipment weighs, and it’s a simple calculation to know how much weight is left for luggage, and that the plane can still take-off.
It’s that simple. The result is to presume the plane is fully subscribed and that leaves about 15 kilos (32-33) pounds per person for everything besides tourist bodies.
This is also the limitation that the larger commercial aircraft (ATRs, etc.) that fly between Nairobi’s Wilson airport and Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro and Mombasa’s airport. But on these flights you can bring extra luggage and pay an excess weight charge (of about $1 / pound).
But on a remote national park airstrip when your smaller Cessna 208 or such comes in to get you, there are no scales for the pilot to use. If the plane is full, and if the pilot believes you have too much, he’ll simply start taking pieces and off-loading them.
I’ve seen it happen. Not often, admittedly, but it does happen. The pilot tends to off-load luggage, understandably, from those who have the most. He gives it to the driver/guide who has brought the customer to the airstrip, and arrangements are then frantically made to somehow have the luggage catch up with the passenger.
It usually doesn’t. And it usually costs a lot.
If you’re having difficulty with this and don’t want to incur the extra costs associated with chartering your own plane or buying extra seats, then there’s only one alternative left.
Have the “extra” bag that you know might be the one held back. If you do this, don’t scimp on this bag, or the pilot won’t choose it when he begins to off-load. But in sum this is a pretty bad idea, since you just never know. Best thing to do is just off-load those hair dryers, hard cover books, extra pair of shoes and let your guide bring the first-aid!