Going Economy? Travel Light Or Put It All In Your Pockets:

Scenario: You are at StanstedAirportand heading for the Gate announced for your flight. Suddenly a uniformed Ryanair employee blocks your way and insists on weighing your hand luggage. Although it meets the airline’s specification of no more than 55cm x40cm x 20cm, it’s slightly over the permitted 10 kilos. Why? Because you’ve just bought a few small presents at the Duty Free plus a couple of panini and a bottle of mineral water at Pret-A-Manger. The Ryanair “small print” states that shop purchases, handbags, briefcases, laptops, cameras,”etc” must be carried within the one piece of permitted cabin baggage. You are left with one of two options: Either throw away the items you have just bought, eat the panini & drink the water, or pay an extra £40 for the case to be checked in. Even if you avoid being intercepted, the worst may not yet be over. You could be challenged again before boarding. As the “Travel Insider” and “Aviator” websites point out, you might unluckily be instructed to place your bag into the “unforgiving luggage template” positioned by the Gate. If it’s an “unusual shape” (even though under 10 kilos) or over-sized by a few millimetres, it won’t fit and you’ll be forced to make the additional payment. Some of the passengers who’ve scrupulously abided by all the restrictions but were at the back of the queue, could get onto the plane and then find there’s nowhere to put their luggage: All the available space has been taken. Once again it has to go into the hold. They pay up for fear that it’ll otherwise be abandoned on the tarmac.

In the opinion of Travel Insider/Aviator, the enforcement of baggage allowance policies is extremely “uneven” – an important factor to consider when choosing your airline. They are also critical of luggage stores and manufacturers who “don’t always tell their customers whether a bag is legally-sized or not”, give the measurements for the inside only, forget that the external pockets will eventually be “stuffed full of things” and “ignore any external framing such as wheels & carry handle (which can add another couple of inches)”. At Ely’s Department Store inWimbledon, South-West London, the luggage section staff phone round the main UK-based airlines at the beginning of each year for the latest weight & size information, but are still uncertain when asked for advice. Permitted  carry-on luggage height, it seems, can range from 20-25 cms, width 36-45cms and length 55-56 – so even if your bag meets Ryanair requirements, it might be too big for a different company. The maximum length if you are flying with Thomas Cook, for example, is 43 cms. Ely’s also say the authorized maximum number of kilos varies considerably: A generous 18 with Continental Airlines, 5 with Monarch , First Choice, Thomson and Thomas Cook, 6 with Virgin, 8 Lufthansa, while for British Airways, American & Easyjet it has to be “ within reason and you should be able to lift it into the locker unaided”.  According to a “Daily Telegraph” survey, BA allows 23kg free for checked-in luggage, but charges £28 for each additional bag booked online & £35 at the airport. Easyjet: £11 per bag each way when paid online, total weight limit 20kg, £10 per kg for excess baggage. Thomas Cook: One free item, 15kg limit but “up to £70 each way for up to 10kg extra for excess baggage”. Thomson: One free item, £20kg limit, up to £15 per kilo for excess baggage at the airport, 50% cheaper online.

Ryanair have introduced a two-tiered system whereby travellers can check in a 20kg suitcase for £50 per return flight, but luggage weighing up to 15kg still costs £30 per return flight. These fees “only apply to passengers checking in luggage online. Travellers who check in luggage at the airport must pay £70 per bag per return flight (up to 15 kg) or £90 return for bags weighing up to 20kg. A £20 per kilo excess baggage fee remains in place”. The ‘Spanish-Fiestas’ website points out that this doesn’t mean that a couple can check in one bag of 20kg and another of 10kg: The Ryanair rule is that “All baggage allowances are personal and cannot be combined”. If a “large passenger” has purchased an extra seat for reasons of “comfort”, they can still only take on board one item of carry-on luggage, not two. Easyjet, by contrast, state that “If you are travelling in a group of two or more, you may spread the weight of your luggage across the bags. If you wish to put 18kg in one and 22kg in the other, that’s ok with us.” In May, the Daily Telegraph noted that Ryanair’s latest additional charge – a £2 fee that it says will go towards compensation it has paid for flight delays and cancellations – could earn it up to £150 million in a year. The Telegraph also published a ‘cost comparison’ for a family of four travelling from London to Madrid in August: Total amount (including online check-in, delay/cancellation levy, “administration fee”, two checked bags, golf clubs, travel cot) with British Airways: £479.20, Ryanair £563 (plus £32 for “priority boarding”), Easyjet £387.17 (plus £80 for “speedy boarding”).

A separate calculation suggests that a London-Barcelona return flight with BA in September could be as low as £147.90, but £177.66 with Easyjet and £157.70  with Ryanair £157.70, to Girona, 70 miles fromBarcelona).  Ryanair is frequently disparaged for “commonly flying to airports that are in various cases far away from the cities they claim to serve”. Passengers going toOslo(Norway) who are taken instead toTorpAirport, a distance of 130 kilometres from their intended destination, are among the examples cited on “Wikibin.org”. Research by the insurance company LV and the AEA (Association of European Airlines) – rejected as “complete rubbish” by BA – has intimated that British Airways are the worst airline in Europe for losing luggage, followed by Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, EasyJet and Ryanair”. Meanwhile, the “Daily Mail” has highlighted the case of an enterprising British traveller who has “beaten Ryanair at their own game”  by wearing a hunting jacket with 17 pockets,  into which he puts all his possessions (weighing  11.8kg). Landmark Stores, who retail the “Royal Robbins Field Guide Vest” for £65 in their Marlborough and Worcestershire outlets, have confirmed that there has been a definite increase in interest since the story was published.



Filed under: Society | Posted on June 7th, 2011 by Colin D Gordon

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