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For most full services on EU/US airlines, the permitted weight of each of the checked baggage allowance is 32kg. It is similar for the routes operated by non-EU/US airlines, even though their overall checked baggage allowance is more than that. What are the reasons behind that?

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    $\begingroup$ Presumably it's as small as airlines can get away with. With my cynical hat on, this will increase the number of excess baggage surcharges... $\endgroup$ – IanF1 May 25 '15 at 22:02
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    $\begingroup$ For the specific value, 23 kg is 50 lbs., so it's probably something that started in the US. $\endgroup$ – cpast May 25 '15 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ I guess it's just a simple rounded imperial measurement unit of 70lbs that was chosen in the past, perhaps by some organization, and that has stuck and been accepted. IATA also follows it. $\endgroup$ – Thunderstrike May 25 '15 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Him Because 70 lbs. is a nice round number. They did not set it based on detailed analysis; they decided 70 lbs. was about right (for whatever reason), and didn't go more precise than to the nearest ten pounds because there's really not much point. $\endgroup$ – cpast May 26 '15 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ So... exactly what do you need to carry in your luggage that weighs more than 32kg? $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 May 26 '15 at 21:36
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To add to Antzi's answer it is most likely about worker safety. Your question is where do the 50lbs/23kg and 70lbs/32kg numbers come from. The current answer for US based airports would be the recommendations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here is a link to their current lifting standards. There is a neat worksheet down at the bottom for calculating the weight a worker should lift based on the types of movements they have to perform, distances traveled, angles bent. It is a system based on multipliers whose base limit on a normal lift is 51lbs/23.4kg. Then 70lbs/32kg would amount to the multipliers all working out to 1.4 which is again a nice round number.

I would also speculate that at some points these numbers made it into union contracts for ground workers but I have no actual information on that.

What I couldn't find were the OSHA regulations that were in force when IATA first enshrined 23 and 32kg into their rules. It is perhaps a bit disappointing that the current OSHA regulations to not have a "max lift" number but their interest is in reducing injury and a single very heavy lift is apparently less damaging than repetitive above average lifts.

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    $\begingroup$ Bolstering the "worker safety" aspect is the US Postal Service package weight limit (also 70lbs / 35 kilos, and imposed for the safety of mail carriers who have to haul the package around). For their part OSHA doesn't have a specific regulatory limit as far as I'm aware, but if you poke around they start making noise about lifting anything heavier than 50lbs (22.5 kilos). $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 May 26 '15 at 21:35
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Because people have to handle your luggage by hand, which is quite a hard job. Heavier luggages would pose a health threat for them, putting even more stress on their back.

I once flew with a heavier (>32kg) luggage on a Seoul-Taipei flight and the ground staff was not pleased at the checking counter...

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  • $\begingroup$ Any other reasons? $\endgroup$ – Zizouz212 May 26 '15 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is a valid reason. $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 May 26 '15 at 2:30

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