KLM is following the lead of budget airlines by announcing plans to charge short-haul passengers to check in luggage.
Travellers making new bookings on or after April 22 will be charged €15 (£13) to check in a suitcase online or €30 (£26) at the airport (one way).
Long-haul passengers, members of KLM’s Flying Blue loyalty scheme and those with fully flexible tickets on flights within Europe will escape the charges.
Hand luggage will remain free on all flights, as long as passengers travel light enough.
In economy class the airline permits one piece of hand luggage, measuring no more than 55cm x 25cm x 35cm and one “accessory” such as a briefcase, handbag or small laptop. The items must weigh no more than 12kgs between them.
KLM defends its decision to introduce checked bag fees as a response to changing passenger behaviour. According to a spokesperson, between 60 to 70 percent of its short-haul passengers carry only hand luggage.
Fighting budget airlines
The big ‘network’ carriers in Europe are feeling sharp pressure to keep costs down in the face of competition from Europe’s budget airlines, with many adapting to appeal more to business travellers by ramping up their schedules and offering allocated seating.
Charging for checked bags is not completely new territory for traditional carriers. In the States it’s become standard practice on domestic flights, with the exception of a few airlines including Southwest and JetBlue.
While budget airlines are trying to close the gap on air travel for short trips, big network carriers like KLM still rely on their main drawcards: frequent flyer schemes, connections to long-haul flights and being part of alliances.