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BA's new baggage policy

8/3/2006

Airlines are stupid. Any frequent flier knows this. But once in a while they do something smart, and this is one of those events.

I cannot credit British Airways for this idea though. In fact another airline did it first about six months ago. If I recall correctly it was discount airline EasyJet. In fact thats not unusual. Airlines can learn a lot from the discount airlines such as EasyJet (Europe), RyanAir (Europe), Southwest (USA), and JetBlue (USA).

For years airlines have been becoming ridiculous about restricting carry on bags. US airlines are generally pretty lenient but in other parts of the world, especially in Europe there is some competition to see who can prevent the most bags from being carried on. Many European airlines limit you to one bag with a maximum weight of 7.5 kilograms (about 18 pounds). Once in Canada they told me my limit was 5 kilograms! (about 12 pounds). After a long argument I finally got my 7 kilogram bag with me. I have had argument after argument with check in clerks over 10 and even 8 kilogram bags. Not only is this frustrating for us fliers, but the policy is bad for the airlines. Limiting size and number of bags makes sense. But if my bag is not going to put a hole in the overhead bin (and certainly even 15 kilograms will not) why should the airline care? But here is why it is truly stupid. The more bags we check, the more it costs the airline. With airlines charging for drinks and serving us cold meals (if any) why do they insist on not checking bags? I suspect they will eliminate toilet paper from the lavatories next to save costs.

Lost bags

Airlines would like us to believe they rarely lose bags. But I can tell you that delayed and lost bags are fairly frequent. The statistics they publish are the ones the governments publish but are based on complaints to the departments of transportation. And most people do not report such items, especially delayed bags to the government. But every time a bag is delayed or lost the airline has to incur time in finding it, and costs in delivering it to you, and especially in Europe they have to compensate you with money in many cases.

Baggage Handling

For each bag the airport charges the airline to move your bag about. And if you have transfers, they can be charged yet again for each transfer. These charges per passenger can easily add up.

More bags = more time

Each person is going to their own destination. Loading, unloading and sorting bags takes a lot of time. Often when planes leave late it is because it is waiting for bags to be loaded, or a late passenger. In many cases a bag gets loaded but a passenger misses the plane and the plane must wait for the bag to be found and unloaded for security reasons. I have been on many flights that this has happened, and it takes a long time.

Conclusion

Allowing more carry on makes a lot of sense. In fact EasyJet promotes you to carry  your bag on by charging you for each item that you check in (Approximately $10 per bag). It's good for them, and it's good for us. I hope more airlines will follow this example. For more information, you can see the details on BA's web site.

 

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