Sweeping changes to British Airways' rules on checked-in baggage have been defended by the airline. From next Tuesday, 13 February, BA will start charging economy passengers who check in more than one bag (except on transatlantic and Nigerian flights, where two are allowed).
Excess baggage is no longer computed as a fraction of the first-class fare, but is calculated on a flat rate per piece: £30 on each domestic flight, £60 for European destinations and £120 worldwide. An introductory 30 per cent discount is offered to travellers who pay the fee in advance online at www.ba.com.
The airline says the point of the changes is to simplify and standardise the excess baggage policy. "In the vast majority of instances, the new policy will be cheaper or comparable for customers who wish to fly with excess baggage on top of their free allowances."
BA says only two per cent of travellers exceed the check-in limit - though this number may rise because of the new policy. The airline also says it will allow less able travellers to check in one or more additional bags, provided the total weight is 23 kg or less.
Premium passengers will see their allowances increase, but from October the maximum weight of any bag falls from 32kg to 23kg.
Passengers in World Traveller Plus (BA's premium economy) and Club Europe are entitled to two 23kg bags, while First Class and Club World travellers may check in three.
Remarkably, "sporting equipment" is permittedin addition to a passenger's normal baggage allowance: a surfboard, bicycle or pair of skis incurs no extra charge. This contrasts with most airlines. It represents a saving of up to £60 on a return trip to Europe. BA also has a more generous bag allowance than most: 23kg, compared with 20kg on many carriers and just 15kg on Europe's bigget low-cost airline, Ryanair.
Even so, BA's lowest price for an extra case on a European flight, £42 for 23kg, compares poorly with the Irish airline's flat rate of £3.50 per 15kg bag per flight when booked online.