Airlines have been cleared by Europe’s Court of Justice to continue with baggage charges.
Charging separately for baggage keeps headline prices down – the key to attracting passengers in the first place. But the price can rocket when passengers are charged to check-in a bag.
Many airlines charge increasingly high fees to check-in a bag. Ryanair, easyJet and Vueling are well known for these charges but more traditional carriers are now charging baggage fees as well.
These include British Airways and KLM although they phrase things a little differently. British Airways, for example, uses the terms ‘Hand baggage only’ and ‘With checked bag’.
The practice of charging extra for baggage has been challenged in Europe’s courts and has now been declared legal by the highest court in the EU.
EU Court of Justice ruling
The EU’s Luxembourg-based Court of Justice said that fees levied for checking in luggage were justified, overruling a Spanish ruling that had upheld a complaint against low-cost airline Vueling, part of IAG.
“Spanish law requiring airlines to carry checked-in baggage without a surcharge infringes EU law,” the ECJ said, adding there were grounds for such fees.
“The processing and storing of checked-in baggage is likely to lead to additional costs for the airline, which is not the case for carrying hand-baggage. Furthermore, the extent of the liability of the carrier for damage to baggage is greater when baggage is checked in than when it is not.”
The Vueling case had been brought by a Spanish woman who complained about a EUR€40 charge for two pieces of luggage on a trip between La Coruna and Amsterdam four years ago.
The Galician Consumer’s Institution sided with the complainant and fined Vueling EUR€3,000, but a Spanish court subsequently asked the ECJ whether the Spanish law complied with EU legislation.
Additional charges for checked-in luggage, overweight bags, allocated seating and priority boarding contribute a significant and growing proportion of ancillary revenue for many carriers but have been criticised by consumers.
Earlier this week Canadian carriers Westjet and Air Canada starting adding charges for baggage on certain routes and fairs.
American carriers almost always charge for baggage with the exception of Southwest.
Fees vary a great deal depending on multiple factors but a rule of thumb is that a first checked bag costs about USD 25.