Airlines Refuse to Play Ball over Baggage

What two presents will make frequent flyers the happiest this Christmas? Try giving a ruler and set of scales. That way, they can never fall foul of one of the airline industry’s most pernicious systems, not standardising on the size and weight of their carry-on baggage allowances.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) tried suggesting an “optimum” for cabin luggage last year but fell foul of the, err, airlines (who they represent? Go figure) so they had to pull the idea.

They had suggested that a bag should be no bigger than 55 x 35 x 20 cm (21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches). Which would have been fine for Easyjet, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Virgin Atlantic and BA.

But guess what? Try taking that on board Whizz Air and you would have been socked an extra charge as their allowance is only a measly 42 x 32 x 25cm.

We’re very aware that the sight of other passengers lugging on board enormous bags which they then attempt to stuff into the overhead locker can make other passengers’ blood boil, but equally this lack of standardisation does nothing to lower temperatures either.

The fault lies squarely with the airlines which argue that their different plane configurations make standardisation difficult to implement. We think the real reason is more likely they are protecting a lucrative source of extra income that all these excess baggage charges represent.

For instance, it’s estimated in America these charges represent a revenue stream that accounts for approximately 20 percent of total airline ancillary earnings. One expert estimates that, as of September, airlines in the United States raked in more than $2 billion in baggage fees this year.

Whizz Air isn’t American of course, but it is the largest budget airline in central and eastern Europe and despite the huge number of conversations that its scrooge-like policy generates  in travel-related forums and social media generally, its growing popularity means passengers are not going to boycott it any day soon. Just travel very light, that’s all.



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