Wizz Air new baggage policy will help ‘ease’ the boarding process for passengers, says airline, but is it simply all about the money?

We may have all come to terms with what we can and can’t take into the cabin of an aircraft, but hand baggage rules about the number and size of bags and ticketing restrictions on baggage allowance remains a very confusing area, with very different rules from one airline to another. Even the most regular of air travellers can fall foul of the rules, especially on multi-airline itineraries.


Summary:

  • Wizz Air has announced changes to its baggage policy in reaction to developing traveller habits;
  • Its revised policy will permit all passengers to bring one free small carry-on bag into the aircraft cabin on all its flights from 01-Nov-2018;
  • To bring a larger trolley bag into the cabin, passengers will be required to purchase WIZZ Priority, which also provides priority check in and priority boarding;
  • The airline’s new checked bag policy will have three tiers depending on bag weight, comprising up to 10kg, 10kg – 20kg and 20kg – 32kg.

The move to an unbundled offering has been at the heart of the low cost airline model and the adoption of similar practices by the legacy operators has meant hand baggage allowance has actually become a true differentiator between airlines. As the LCCs grow more into the corporate sector – in the short-haul market at least – it could increasingly become a key driver in the decision-making process, especially with growing costs to check bags into aircraft holds.

From being permitted two carry-on bags with almost unlimited weight restrictions to only being allowed a small cabin bag that must be placed under the seat in front, airlines have vastly varying policies. It is clear that charges for hold bags has meant overhead capacity is at a premium and the promise that space will be guaranteed for bags in the cabin has now actually become a selling point for premium ancillary options from some airlines.

Many claim variety is the spice of life, but most travellers want to know what they are getting and don’t want to be faced with having to squeeze their laptop bag or handbag into their larger bag to meet an airline’s more restrictive baggage policy.

Recently Ryanair made changes to its carry-on rules, and now this week Wizz Air has announced changes to its own baggage policy. The Central and Eastern European specialist says the changes are in reaction to developing traveller habits, with research of its own internal data showing that over the past five years the average length of stay at a destination has been continuously declining.

“Now every third Wizz Air traveller books trips for three days or less,” it explains. “Every third passenger purchased a checked in bag while only every seventh passenger opted for the Trolley bag, which could be brought on board.”

Its revised policy will permit all passengers to bring one free carry-on bag into the aircraft cabin on all its flights from 01-Nov-2018. This will be guaranteed to be allowed into the cabin, but restricted in size (40x30x20 cm). To also be allowed a larger trolley bag (55x40x23 cm) in the cabin, passengers will be required to purchase WIZZ Priority, which also provides priority check in and priority boarding.

Also, to encourage passengers to perhaps check-in their bag and to meet the changing traveller patterns, Wizz Air is also introducing a reduced checked baggage charge of from EUR7 for bags weighing less than 10kg.

Wizz Air believes that this “transparent and clear approach to baggage policy” will contribute to a more comfortable and quicker boarding, a better customer experience and at the same time enhance the airline’s on time departure performance. With more certainty that a bag can fit on board, and a new, wider selection of baggage size and weight options, the airline says its new “clear and fair baggage policy” delivers a “policy of choices” for passengers with a menu of “more than 50 carry-on and checked in baggage variations” based on their individual preferences.

It is clear Wizz Air’s customers now have an extended assortment of combinations to choose from. Providing customer choice is obviously an important option in today’s changing travel environment, but is the airline simply adding more complexity with its ‘50 carry-on and checked in baggage variations’?

Johan Eidhagen, Wizz Air’s chief marketing officer, says that by unbundling products and services, the airline “democratises the way of travelling and allows for a pay-per-need offer.” He adds: “We are convinced that our versatile offer will address the needs of our customers in a personalised manner and our passengers will continue to pay only for those services they want to use.”

Alongside delivering more choice to the passenger, the airline is also hopeful the new rules will also help the airline’s own performance – it acknowledges the airline’s own historic data shows that more than 10,000 flights per year are affected by baggage-related delays.

While clear hand baggage rules are great, and an extended menu of choices meets the need for increased personalisation, you can’t help but think Wizz Air’s changes are more about pushing passengers to its Priority product than simply supporting changing consumer needs.