Flybe has become the first UK budget airline to charge passengers for checked luggage.
Starting next February (the exact date has yet to be confirmed) the Exeter-based airline will charge passengers £4 for every piece of checked luggage up to 25kg, or £2 for passengers who book in their bags in advance at flybe.com.
At the same time it will soften the blow by doubling the cabin baggage allowance to 10kg so that passengers intending to take light luggage have an alternative.
What Flybe is doing shouldn’t come as a surprise. Former US no-frills carrier People Express (which served domestic and transatlantic routes) instigated charges for checked baggage over 20 years ago. The system worked well even in the days of handwritten tickets and less automated check-in.
People Express is no longer in business, but with all airlines looking at cost-saving opportunities it seems that baggage is the next “free” service to be scrutinised.
Recently Jorgen Lindegaard, the president and CEO of Scandinavia’s SAS, told Business Traveller: “We are looking at whether we can unbundle benefits like fast-track and baggage handling and charge extra for them.”
Meanwhile airlines are making baggage economies in other areas. Since last summer the major US carriers have cut their free international baggage allowance from 32kg to 23kg although passengers are still allowed to check two pieces. American Airlines says: “The main reason is health and safety. We have to put special handling in place when bags weigh 32kg so the lower limit helps us to recover our costs.”
Report by Alex McWhirter