A plane can safely carry as little as 393 kg or 865 lbs to as much as 228,928 kg or 504,700 lbs, depending on the plane’s size, type, and design.

Generally, the larger the plane, the more weight it can safely carry.

So small planes can carry the smallest weight, while large commercial and cargo planes can carry the most.

The exact weight an individual plane can safely carry depends mostly on its design.

A plane that carries more than its maximum calculated weight will either not be able to take off, or if it does take off, the pilot will likely experience control difficulties.

It’s very dangerous to fly a plane above its maximum allowed weight. 

How Much Weight Planes Can Hold

Planes can hold anywhere between 393-228,928 kg or 865-504,700 lbs of cargo and passengers, depending on the plane’s type, model, and intended function.

Generally, commercial and cargo planes can carry the most weight, while small planes are able to carry the least. 

  • Small Planes

Small places like the Cessna 172 can carry up to 393 kg or 865 lbs of weight, which includes fuel, passengers, cargo, and crew. 

  • Private Jets

Private jets like the Gulfstream G550 can carry up to 19,368 kg or 42,700 lbs of fuel, passengers, cargo, and crew onboard. 

  • Commercial Airliners

The Boeing 737 can carry up to 39,000 kg or 85,980 lbs of fuel, passengers, cargo, and crew onboard. 

  • Military Planes

The F-15 Falcon can hold up to 1,907 kg of weight, consisting of the pilot, weapons, and fuel. 

  • Cargo Planes

The Boeing 747-8F can hold up to 228,928 kg or 504,700 lbs of fuel, cargo, and passengers. 

Related: How Much Do Airplanes Weigh?

Aircraft That Can Carry the Heaviest Loads

  • Commercial Airliners; The Airbus A380-800 can carry up to 290,000 kg or 639,341 lbs of passenger, cargo, fuel, and crew weight. 
  • Cargo Planes: The Antonov An-225, which was destroyed by Russian forces in 2022, could carry up to 355,000 kg or 782,641 lbs of passenger, fuel, crew, and cargo weight.
  • Military Planes: The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy can carry up to 208,653 kg or 460,000 lbs of weapons, fuel, cargo, and crew.

What Determines How Much Weight a Plane Can Hold

An aircraft’s design primarily determines its maximum weight capacity based on the amount of lift the plane’s wings or rotors provide under its intended use.

The aircraft’s structural strength also impacts what weight it can safely carry. 

What Happens if a Plane Exceeds its Maximum Weight Limit

If a plane exceeds its maximum weight limit, its structural integrity will be compromised, adversely affecting its performance.

An aircraft with excess weight is also more difficult to control for pilots.

Assuming the plane can take off with a small amount of excess weight, the plane will need more runway to take off as a precaution in case the takeoff has to be rejected.

A Plane That is Too Heavy Can’t Take Off

A plane that is too heavy can’t take off.

In fact, a plane’s maximum takeoff weight is the first thing calculated before taking off.

Everything taken on board is tallied by weight and must remain below the maximum calculated weight for a plane to be able to take off.

Maximum Weight of Luggage Passengers Can Bring Onboard

The US and EU have a maximum allowed weight of 32kg or 70 lbs for a checked-in bag.

Some countries have even lower limits, like 23 kg or 50 lbs.

The overall maximum weight of luggage passengers can bring onboard depends on the airline and seat class. 

For example, depending on the airline, passengers in Economy are normally allowed a maximum of 1 piece of hold luggage with a maximum weight of 23-32 kg or 50-70 lbs.

Most airlines also let passengers bring a maximum of between 5-12 kg or 11-24 lbs of carry-on baggage. 

Passengers also have the option of paying more to bring additional luggage with them.

You Can’t Be Forced to Be Weighed By an Airline

The FAA requires airlines to submit average passenger weight estimates instead of individual weights.

The FAA does allow airlines to individually weigh passengers, and some small airlines do it for flights in some countries, but it’s generally rare. 

Passengers are chosen at random and if they do not wish to participate, the airline is supposed to pick another traveler at random.

Related: Best Airlines for Overweight Passengers

The Weight an Aircraft Carrier Can Hold

The average aircraft carrier can hold approximately 23,000 of shipping weight, but the exact weight depends on the carrier’s class.

For instance, the USS Theodore Roosevelt can carry 23,804 lbs, which is the most weight a Nimitz class aircraft carrier can carry.

The Nimitz class is a class of ten nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in service with the United States Navy.

Related: How Much Does an Aircraft Carrier Cost?

In conclusion:

  • A plane’s weight depends on its type, design, and size.
  • Naturally, smaller planes carry the lightest loads, and large commercial and cargo planes carry the heaviest loads.
  • Planes can’t safely take off if they exceed their maximum weight capacity.
  • A plane that exceeds its maximum weight limit may not be able to take off; if it takes off, the pilot will likely have reduced control over it.
  • For that reason, most planes are not allowed to take off if they exceed the maximum weight limit.
  • This metric is so important that maximum weight is the first thing pilots calculate before taking off.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.