21 JANUARY 2019


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Article from BTNews 21 JANUARY 2019

COMMENT: The priority paradox

Like many travellers, BTN is fed up with the growing confusion over bag policies and priority boarding.

The seemingly-innocuous ‘See Terms & Conditions’ injunction attached to bookings – or anything else these days – grows ever more intricate, to no-one’s credit. Passengers are annoyed by the lack of clarity. Airlines lose credibility by being seen to be trying to avoid responsibility for anything, including compensation claims.

Last week Airport Parking & Hotels (APH), the airport parking place company, renowned for its useful travel surveys, produced a welcome new review on the matter, highlighting that Ryanair had recently reduced the amount of baggage non-priority travellers can take on board to just one small personal bag.

APH said the airline promised a decrease in boarding delays as a consequence but a £25 fee if passengers brought a second bag to the gate. Passengers could avoid this fee by previously paying £6 for the benefits of priority boarding, which also allows a second bag on board.

There is, unhappily, another ‘but’, APH added. “With priority boarders now accounting for more than half of the total passengers on board Ryanair flights, many travellers may be left asking if ‘priority’ has now become the majority,” the company said. BTN has in recent weeks experienced serious congestion at the boarding gate. Thankfully unreserved seats are a thing of the past. Providing your hand baggage can go under the seat, why rush?

In an attempt to cut through the confusion, APH has now put together a table to help travellers plan ahead and avoid unexpected baggage fees at the airport. The document compares the priority passes and luggage allowance policies of 10 airlines including easyJet, Ryanair and Flybe and is available on the ‘Know Before You Go’ www.aph.com/community/know-before-you-go section of the company website.

The research compares the size and weight allowances of luggage permitted for priority and non-priority customers. Also listed are the benefits of paying extra for priority boarding and the costs for checking-in luggage before and after the initial time of booking.

Of the 10 airlines researched, two, Ryanair and Wizz Air, demanded that non-priority passengers board an aircraft with one personal bag only. The personal bag must fit under the seat in front – examples include a handbag, small backpack or laptop bag.

For those travelling for longer than a few days, four airlines including Eurowings and Norwegian Air allow non-priority passengers to board an aircraft with one personal bag and one cabin bag as standard. Jet2 and easyJet were found to offer the largest allowance for a cabin bag, with maximum dimensions of 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, the Luton-based airline having no weight limit.

APH said over-packers should make a note to weigh their hand luggage before travelling, since although the majority of airlines provide a weight limit of 10kg, passengers flying with TUI Airways who have not booked a package holiday are limited to carrying just 5kg of hand luggage.

APH also noted travellers who wished to travel with numerous liquids or larger luggage should consider paying the extra fee for hold luggage at the time of booking, since the price of checking-in luggage increases greatly once a flight booking is confirmed. For example, Eurowings doubles the cost for checking-in luggage from £13 to £26 for those who have already confirmed their booking.

easyJet Plus members who pay an annual fee of £199 are permitted to travel with an extra small personal bag and take advantage of priority boarding and seat selection. This includes the various examples of speedy security.

Similarly, along with a fast-track security pass and priority boarding, Thomas Cook Airlines’ Priority Package for £10 ensures priority bags are unloaded first on to the baggage belt at the destination airport.

Are you confused? We are! Visit the APH website.

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Barry Graham, Washington, DC

If there are too many priority passengers then it's not expensive enough.

Michael Preston, Weybridge/CPT

I have frequently written to easyJet, for whose Plus cards we pay £199 p.a, to complain about lack of control during boarding, where non-priority passengers are often not segregated . I don't know how other LCCs manage this but depending on the airport, with EZY it varies from very good to non-existent. I choose front rows, but often find that people who have shoved ahead have stowed their cabin bags in the front row bins and then moved further down the aircraft. This is inconvenient, annoying, and selfish behaviour which needs to be controlled by cabin crew as it slows down both boarding and disembarcation.

Simon Grigor, Harrow

Another factor to take into account is which airport you are flying from. If you are going to board from a jetty, then there might (!) be a benefit from priority boarding. But if you're going to get on a coach to go out to the airliner, then the poor bu**ers who've bought priority seats board the coach first, have to move into the middle away from the doors, and then the non-priority folk, last on the coach, are first off it and up the aircraft steps. Krakow (Wizz and Ryanair) is a good example.