It has recently emerged that one of the UK’s leading budget airlines may been unfairly charging passengers for oversized hand luggage, due to its measuring devices being too small.
Customers flying on Bmibaby flights are requested to place their hand luggage in a metal cage to ensure that it meets the airlines regulations, however it has come to light that some of these cages may actually have been too small.
The problem appears to have come to light when an irate businessman complained at being charged on a flight from East Midlands to Amsterdam earlier this year. He was told he would have to put his luggage in the hold and had no option but to pay. Upon arrival in Amsterdam, he put his bag into one of the airlines gauges in the arrivals hall and was annoyed to see that it fit with room to spare. It appears that the gauges at departure gates are different in size to those scattered around the airport buildings.
Astonishingly it is believed that Bmibaby has known of this problem for some time. A company insider suggested that staff knew that some gauges were too small and had reported the fact to line managers who were believed to have passed the problem on to a higher level.
Most airline staff receive a pay bonus for the amount of excess baggage fees that they collect, however they stated it does not apply to charges linked to oversized hand luggage.
The airline refused to be drawn into admitting exactly how much they had made from the unfair charges and blamed the mistake on a flaw in the design of some of the gauges. Some curve slightly on the top edge limiting the capacity slightly, resulting in thousands of passengers paying unnecessary fees over the last few years. They have agreed to replace all inaccurate gauges.
Head of research for Which? Holiday, Rochelle Turner, stated: “If airlines choose to charge passengers who exceed baggage allowances, they have an obligation to make sure their scales and gauges are correct.” She also commented that the company should compensate those customers who have been overcharged.
The size limits and penalty fees on hand luggage for airlines varies greatly according to the airline themselves. Ryanair charge £70 per bag for a return journey, Easyjet charge £36 whilst BA and Thomson are free.
Ryanair, Easyjet and Flybe all insisted that their own individual hand luggage gauges were accurately sized.