Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BA's New Way to Put off Customers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BA's New Way to Put off Customers

Article excerpt

JUST HOW many customers is British Airways trying to lose? After the recent threat of strike action by cabin staff, the unnecessary row about an employee wearing a small cross, the mayhem that followed foggy weather at Christmas and the all-out chaos after last year's terrorism alert, the company has produced a policy on baggage that is guaranteed to alienate passengers.

From next week, most travellers will be allowed to put up to 32 kilos into the hold - but only in a single item of luggage. Anyone who spreads the weight over more than one bag will be charged [pounds sterling]120 for each extra bag for a short-haul return flight - in some cases, more than the cost of the ticket - and for long-haul returns, [pounds sterling]240 per extra bag. From September, the allowance will be reduced to 23 kilos.

This would be bad enough if the company had gone out of its way to advertise the news. But those passengers who booked flights over the phone will not have been told about the swingeing new charge unless they asked. Only those diligent enough to check BA's baggage restrictions on its internet site will be prepared for the worst.

Of course the policy has a rationale - to cut the substantial cost to the airline of carrying extra baggage. One reason for Ryanair's substantial profits is that it passes those costs on to the customers, though its charge of [pounds sterling]7 per bag is considerably less than BA's. But British Airways is not, yet, a low-cost carrier.

Passengers' expectations include the reasonable assumption that they will have a fair luggage allowance for the price of their ticket - especially after the new security restrictions on items in cabin bags - and that this allowance can be divided up conveniently. Old and infirm people will find it particularly difficult to carry all their baggage in a single case, but the same is true, to a lesser extent, of most other passengers.

This policy should be urgently reconsidered, if BA is not to witness unpleasant scenes at check-in desks next week and mass defections to other airlines thereafter.

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