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SAS Makes a Strong Case for Simplifying Baggage Fees

Apr 28, 2014 9:00 am

Skift Take

Passengers are happier when they have a good idea what they’ll spend before they show up at the airport. SAS can charge a bit more, and still make people happy.

— Marisa Garcia

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Lynne Sladky  / Associated Press

Passengers with their baggage at Miami airport. Lynne Sladky / Associated Press


Even as many airlines find different methods to “unbundle” their fares and charge for services used as separate items, leading to complex pricing models which make calculating the total cost of airfare a challenge, SAS announced today that it has decided to simplify their extra baggage fees.

The airline has chosen to go for a fixed-price by weight model, rather than charging a complex combination of size, type, weight and other factors for which many airlines add fees.

The new discounted pricing will be available to customers who opt for self-service bookings either online or by using the ticketing kiosks at the airport. The airline already has a free allowance for bags up to 23 kg in Y and 32 kg in J, as a standard, but it has now indicated that passengers traveling with special baggage such as skis, surfboards, golf clubs, bicycles, even fishing equipment and musical instruments can all check their luggage for free as a single bag or for a simplified fee as a second bag.

The airline has also reduced their baggage fees and broken them down into three simple tiers:

  • Domestic: 25 Euros – a 38% reduction.
  • Europe: 45 Euros – a 31% reduction.
  • Intercontinental: 75 Euros – a 25% reduction.

EuroBonus Silver, Gold, and Diamond members all get two extra free bags included with their tickets purchased in advance via self-serve.

Charges for special manual-handling baggage, such as pets, will still be charged separately.

So how does this compare with what their partners and competitors are doing?

Star Alliance Partner Lufthansa also allows passengers in Economy Class one free bag up to 23 Kg and those in Business one bag up to 32K. However, the additional bag is charged based on a combination of size and weight, and fees can range from 75 Euros for a second 23 kgs bag with a maximum dimension of 158 cm to 225 Euros for a bag as heavy as 32 kg with a maximum dimension of 159 cm in Economy.

Pricing for Business extra baggage ranges from 75 Euros to 175 Euros, within the same size and weight limitations. Lufthansa treats most sporting equipment as standard baggage, but does charge separately for bikes and musical instruments.

Oneworld Alliance Member British Airways charges a range between 20 GBP to 120 GBP for additional bags purchased in advance, and also judges fees by weight not type of luggage, allowing surfboards, skis, etc. to be counted as a bag; just as SAS does.

Star Alliance Member KLM’s charges are much harder to pin down. Furthermore, the airline has opted for the Low-Cost Model of Baggage and Seat Selection on ticket sales through their website, and many discount offers for tickets are for the flight only, with additional fees for checking in luggage and picking a seat.

With this pricing model, final ticket prices can be around 50% higher than the published economy price, once you add seat selection and book luggage.

As low-cost European Carriers go, pricing, even for luggage booked in advance, is a complex jumble. Fees are based on type of baggage, route and weight, even season. The range for a second standard bag can be as low as 7 GBP for one bag on direct flights with Norwegian (10 GBP for two bags) to as high as 45 GBP on Ryanair for a single bag booked during the high season.

Note that Ryanair states their online fee may be higher if the bag allowance is purchased online after the booking is completed. Ryanair also defies the financial world by valuing the British Pound Sterling equal to the Euro. If you book online in the Continent, you will only pay 45 Euros for the very same bag.

By applying this simplified pricing model to self-service bookings, SAS further motivates its passengers to use a self-service platform — which already has an uptake of 80% as they revealed to Skift.

“We are making flying cheaper and simpler for everyone traveling with extra baggage,” says SAS Product Manager, Snorre Andresen. “We have listened to what our customers want and are delighted to now offer what is probably the simplest pricing model for all types of baggage in the airline industry.”

Though, depending on the particular combination of route, season, weight, type of luggage, and fare-tier it may or may not be the cheapest, it is simple. Passengers who are suspicious of complex pricing models, or just confused by them, may opt to fly SAS if for no other reason than they know what they’re getting for their money up-front.

Marisa Garcia has worked in aviation since 1994, spending 16 years on the design and manufacturing of cabin interiors and cabin safety equipment. She shares insights gained from this experience on Flight Chic and Tweets as @designerjet.

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