KLM to charge for checked baggage

Until now Europe’s traditional airlines such as Air France, British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa have prided themselves on not burdening passengers with ancillary charges as do the budget carriers.

But Dutch carrier KLM is the first to break ranks. Reports today in the Dutch media, now confirmed by KLM, state that starting in April KLM will charge short-haul passengers fees of either €15 (when paid in advance) or €30 (when paid at the airport) for pieces of checked baggage.

Hand luggage will remain free and the charges will not apply to passengers flying long-haul. All members of KLM’s Flying Blue loyalty scheme will also escape the new fees.

At the same time, it’s understood KLM will strictly enforce rules for hand baggage. According to the reports, any bag which doesn’t meet KLM’s 55x25x35 cm, 12 kilos allowance will be placed in the hold and the unlucky passenger will be charged €30 at the gate.

In its defence KLM says that 60 to 70 per cent of its short-haul passengers carry only hand luggage. The airline says that passengers would prefer to pay less for their flights and that is why it has decided to bring in the fee.

Most large airlines lose money flying within Europe yet cannot charge profitable prices because of fierce competition from budget carriers, surface transport and so on. 

Ancillary fees (like the checked baggage charge) are one way of raising extra cash without hiking the headline price.

KLM says it is adapting its product to “behavioural changes” by passengers. It says that the new paid baggage option is part of its ‘Choice and Control’ service for passengers.

The fees take effect for bookings made on or after April 22. Passengers can avoid them by booking flights before that date.

For more information visit klm.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

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  • A few errors in the article:

    – the fees apply to new bookings made on or after April 22 (not all flights after April 3)
    – ALL members (not just certain members) of Flying Blue can get their first bag checked for free – at least for now.

  • A correction on your report – ALL members of Flying Blue, including the lowest tier, will be able to check a bag for free. Higher-tier members will no longer be able to check a second bag for free.

  • Thank you for your comments. We pride ourselves on our accuracy so I would like to provide some background to yesterday’s news item.

    The news broke in the Dutch media in the morning but the information was scant. In the absence of any official announcement to the UK media from KLM we decided to run with the story at lunchtime as we always seek to inform our readers of important developments as soon as we can.

    We had already contacted KLM’s UK publicity office at noon for comment. We were told that an official press release would be issued to the UK media at 1400. We then decided to publish the story with the information already known.

    At 1400 we received the press release from KLM’s UK publicity office only to find that almost all the important information was absent. The publicity talked almost exclusively about UK sales promotions.

    The fact that KLM would charge for checked baggage was buried inside the release. Crucially there was no mention of when the charges would be introduced, what the charges would be or what exemptions would be granted. No information was provided about whether or not Flying Blue members would have to pay. Neither was there any mention of a start date.

    We already knew from Dutch media reports that Flying Blue members would escape the fees. So I assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that the exemption would be granted only to higher tier members as is the practise with Star and Oneworld.

    We can now confirm that all Flying Blue members will not have to pay the fee.

    We also asked KLM for a start date and were told it would be April 3. That sounded logical as it was near the time of the summer timetable change.

    But we were misinformed. We have now been told by KLM’s UK publicity office that the start date for the fees will be April 22.

    We have amended the original article to reflect this.

    Alex McWhirter

  • >>KLM says it is adapting its product to “behavioural changes” by passengers.<< Yes, that behaviour that causes passengers to beg to be allowed pay for things that used to be part of the minimum level of service we were already paying for. I have nothing but contempt for companies who speak to their customers with BS like this. As KLM seems to have a similar amount of contempt for me, I guess we're equal. (and well done on the clarification BT)

  • I have not used KLM for a long time now. But it will be Never Again, now that they charge for bags on short haul. Soon, some enlightened airline will realise that competing with budget backpackers’ airlines is missing the market of people who want a more civilised travel experience AND are prepared to pay for it.

    We are also similarly cursed with the advent of “easy hotels”, formica crash rooms and pod hotels with WiFi and streaming facilities but no staff and ATM check-in/out machines. Ugh.

  • shame on KLM, why keep taking the airline industry to the levels enjoyed by Ryanair.

    Another airline to cross off the list

  • I love the expression “behavioural changes”, as the introduction of these baggage charges actually creates a behavioural change. What exactly are these ‘changes’? If more people are taking carry-on luggage, where’s the justification to charge a reducing number of passengers for checked-in luggage? Let’s face it – it’s just yet another money-making exercise, or a way to encourage Flying Blue membership. Today’s passengers aren’t stupid, but do have the ability to switch carriers.

  • I fly to hannover on a regular basis with KLM via amsterdam, so on a return ticket thats four flights i have to take because KLM do not fly direct from newcastle to hannover. Four flights means another FOUR CHARGES when this price hike comes into force. Therefore shouldnt KLM start to offer direct flights instead of having to catch connecting flghts, after all its only uk to germany i fly..

  • I am very disappointed in this decision, as this further diminishes the already thin difference in quality of service between KLM and most low-cost companies. Why exactly would I ever book a ticket through KLM instead of, say, easyJet, considering the price is usually double without any obvious benefits?
    I will avoid flying with KLM in the future and I am extremely disappointing I had to find out one day before the flight that a major airline which I frequently used had made a significant reduction in the baggage allowance without making this obvious at ticket purchase or at least reducing ticket prices. Shameful…
    First low-cost airline without low-costs! Brilliant market strategy!

  • I stopped using KLM 18 months ago, having been either gold or platinum with them for 10 years or so. several years ago they were competitively priced and gave good service on both short and long haul. Unfortunately that has changed in recent years. They are now nothing more than a no frills airline but charging higher than most full service airlines. I have had to start using them again (purely out of convenience) as they fly out of Humberside. Luckily I am only flying short haul in to Europe because I would never ever choose them to fly long haul. They must have the worst seats, food and entrainment system of any FS carrier.

    To now begin charging for bags on short haul is nothing short of scandalous and in my opinion this is the beginning of the end for KLM

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