KLM 'to hike baggage fees by 25 per cent'

13 Mar 2015 by Alex McWhirter

KLM intends to hike its checked baggage fees by 25 per cent, according to reports.

The Dutch carrier was the first conventional airline to introduce the charge for short-haul passengers two years ago (see news, February 2013).

Full details of the rise are still awaited, but understanding KLM's current baggage fees is not for the faint-hearted. Visit the airline's website and you'll see what I mean.

It is believed the new fees, which will apply to passengers flying within Europe who purchase tickets on or after April 1, will see the lowest charge rising from €15 to €20 per piece.

Charges may be higher if fees are paid at the airport rather than in advance, and KLM may make some exceptions if you are travelling on a full fare ticket or have high frequent flyer status.

As at present, the fees are unlikely to apply if you are connecting between short- and long-haul flights or vice versa.

KLM's introduction of such fees in 2013 was followed by British Airways. The difference is that BA was cleverer in marketing these tariffs as "hand baggage only" fares.

But KLM and BA are not alone. From this autumn, the Lufthansa Group, namely Lufthansa itself plus Austrian and Swiss, will introduce similar hand baggage only fares.

Indeed, Brussels Airlines (another Lufthansa subsidiary) has been offering similar fares since September to "respond to consumer demand" and Swiss has been selling these tariffs for its Geneva flights.

Lufthansa announced its new tariffs would be applied across the board at the ITB trade show in Berlin last week and yesterday Swiss followed suit. We now await official confirmation from Austrian Airlines.

KLM's move, if it goes ahead as planned, shows that once such a fee has been introduced there is nothing to stop a carrier from changing its price or conditions.

For example, as we reported last week (see news, March 2), BA will no longer provide advance seat selection to Executive Club members travelling on hand baggage tariffs.

All European carriers either lose money or just break even on their short flights (because short flights are mainly intended to feed long-haul services rather than carry point-to-point passengers).

So, ancillary fees such as these are a perfect way to raise revenue without increasing the headline price and so they can better compete with budget carriers.

Alex McWhirter

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