Malaysia Airlines barred passengers from checking in baggage on flights to Paris and Amsterdam on Tuesday and Wednesday due to “unseasonably strong headwinds” on a longer flight path it is taking.
The move has baffled passengers, who slammed the airline on social media.
The airline said it now operates a long route to Europe via Egyptian airspace for safety reasons. It didn’t elaborate on the reason behind the new route, but a Malaysia Airlines jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a missile in eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
Malaysia Airlines said the longer flight path consumes more fuel and this, combined with “temporary unseasonably strong headwinds, is limiting the airlines’ ability to carry baggage in cargo.”
It said on Facebook that economy-class passengers can only carry a cabin bag up to 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds) while those in business and first class are allowed two pieces totaling 14 kilograms (30.8 pounds). The flights use Boeing 777 aircraft.
The baggage limit does not affect flights from those cities heading to Malaysia. The airline said it will continue to assess the situation.
Many passengers left angry comments on the airline’s Facebook page, slamming it for being the only airline to impose such a rule. Some of them said the airline should have sold lesser tickets, limited the number of passengers and rejected freight instead. Others asked for a refund of their tickets.
The airline said no compensation would be given but passengers could reschedule with no extra cost.
Losses of two flights in 2014 hit the finances of already struggling Malaysia Airlines. One flight heading to Beijing disappeared and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean, months before another jet was shot down over Ukraine.
Last year, the airline appointed its first foreign CEO, Christoph Mueller, the former head of Ireland’s Aer Lingus, to oversee a major restructuring. Mueller has said the airline can break even by 2018 after cutting 6,000 staff, selling surplus aircraft and refurbishing its international fleet.
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) has imposed a temporary limitation on check-in baggage on its routes to Europe starting from tonight, citing safety and a need to conserve jet fuel due to “unseasonably strong head winds” as its reasons.
Until further notice, the national airline will only allow cabin baggage up to 7kg, with Economy Class passengers allowed to bring one piece up to that weight, while Business and First Class passengers allowed to bring two pieces totaling 14kg.
“In the interest of safety, Malaysia Airlines currently operates a long route to Europe, which combined with temporary unseasonably strong head winds, is limiting the airlines’ ability to carry baggage in cargo,” the airline said in a travel advisory posted on its website today.
“This longer flight path consumes more jet fuel and for safety reasons, Malaysia Airlines has had to impose temporary limitation on checked in baggage allowance.
“Passengers who wish to check in their luggage will be able to do so, however their baggage will only arrive later,” it added.
It is unknown how many flights and passengers will be affected by this directive today.
The restriction also applies on connecting passengers on codesharing airlines from the OneWorld affiliate programmes, and their baggage will also be offloaded.
MAB said it will continue to assess the changing situation over the region, and passengers will be updated when operations return to normal.
In response, flight tracking website Flightradar24 commented on its Twitter account that an Airbus A380 operated by MAB has a flying range of roughly 8,200 miles (13,200 km) while a Boeing B772ER has a range of 8,900 miles (14,300 km).
It compared this to the length of MAB flights from Kuala Lumpur, which are all well below such range: 6,400 miles (10,300 km) to Amsterdam, Netherlands, 6,500 miles (10,500 km) to Paris, France, and 6,600 miles (10,600 km) to London, United Kingdom.
Late last month, a MAB flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur unexpectedly began travelling south and surprised pilots who were expecting a northerly route during a Christmas Day flight.
The pilot of flight MH132 noticed that the Airbus A330’s strange path soon after takeoff, and immediately contacted Auckland Oceanic’s air traffic controllers, according to a New Zealand Herald report.
Malay Mail Online