In a survey of more than 3,000 budget air travellers conducted by global flight search engine, WhichBudget, the respondents overwhelmingly voted that they would like to see an end to checked bag fees. A constant minefield for passengers on cheap flights, checked bag fees have increased during the past few years, hand-in-hand with stringent size and weight regulations for hold bags and penalty charges of up to £20 per kilo for passengers found at check-in to be carrying excess weight.
Between June 2011 and June 2012, users of WhichBudget were asked “what part of the flying process (outside of the fare itself) would you like to see fee-free?” Out of 3,265 responses, approximately 20% of which came from the UK, the overwhelming choice was “checked bags”, with 65% of respondents wanting hold bag fees to disappear. “Credit and debit card charges” – a recent focus of the European Union, which decided they must be capped - came in second place, earning 42% of votes, followed by “booking / admin fee”, with 37% of votes. “Date and name changes” received 24% of votes; “choosing seats / priority boarding” received 24% and in-flight “food and drinks” attracted just 21% of votes, showing that passengers are more concerned about travel logistics than food and beverages.
On the back of these results, a new survey designed to assess passengers’ opinions about various elements of cheap flights and elicit the most ridiculous “tales from the baggage hall” is being launched by WhichBudget, in conjunction with Budget Airline Watch, a new consumer-interest website for air travellers. With its “eye on the skies”, Budget Airline Watch provides people using UK budget airlines with information on everything from baggage rules to hidden and extra charges and travelling with children. It also includes product reviews.
The new survey from WhichBudget and Budget Airline Watch is located at www.whichbudget.com/budget_airlines_survey.php.
Respondents who complete it before 31 August, 2012, and also register with Budget Airline Watch, will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three Rufus Roo big pocket travel jackets: two adult-sized and one child-sized. The Rufus Roo enables up to 10kg of extra weight to be worn through airport check-in without being placed on the luggage scales.
Martino Matijevic, co-founder of WhichBudget, says: “The results of our survey prove that, out of all the hidden and extra charges that are now associated with cheap flights, the fees relating to checked bags are the most unpopular. With 65% of respondents wanting to see an end to these fees, there could be an opportunity for the more customer-focused budget airlines to take the lead in listening to the wishes of the travelling public and emphasise the fact that ‘20kg of luggage is now included in the fare’, as a unique selling point.”
He adds: “This comes on the heels of Ryanair’s unpopular ‘one bag rule’ for carry-on luggage being addressed by the European Parliament, which has voted in favour of legislation against airlines insisting that duty fee purchases fit in a single bag, or charging 50 Euros to put the bag in the hold.”
Jo Chipchase, short-haul air traveller and founder of Budget Airline Watch, says: “Charging passengers for checked bags, excess weight and ‘borderline’ cabin bags has become an overriding obsession with budget airlines, to the detriment of ‘service with a smile’. Unsuspecting passengers who don’t pre-book their hold bags may find themselves paying up to a whopping £150 for a 15kg bag* at the airport, making their cheap flight not so cheap. Meanwhile, those who turn up with a few sundresses or beach towels too many are forced to bin the excess weight or pay up to £20 per extra kilo to check the bag into the hold. Rather disturbingly, luggage scales in airports aren’t regularly calibrated because there’s no legal requirement to do so. No wonder passengers dislike the baggage part of the flight experience. It is time for airlines to take notice before passengers start voting – with their seats.”