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Malaysia Airlines Checked Baggage Restriction Raises Questions

Malaysia Airlines has announced restrictions on checked luggage for flights destined for European capitals from Kuala-Lumpur between 5 January and 7 January 2016, only allowing limited cabin baggage.

On its Travel Advisory, the airline cited “safety and a need to conserve jet fuel due to ‘unseasonably strong head winds’”.

“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,” Malaysia Airlines stated on its website earlier today.

“Passengers who wish to check in their luggage will be able to do so, however their baggage will only arrive later,” the airline added.

These restrictions have raised questions, notably from aircraft tracking site Flightradar24, which has pointed out that the flight paths to these destinations are well within the operating limits of the aircraft, allowing for some flight deviation. However, commenters have pointed out that MAS might have set a longer flight path to avoid conflict zones.

While safety is of the utmost importance, this is an uncommon restriction.

The confusion caused to travellers is perhaps aggravated by the airline’s decision to adhere to its voluntary change policies for any passengers who would prefer to delay their departure after this announcement.

“For Europe bound customers booked to travel between 5 Jan 2016 and 7 Jan 2016 and wish to reschedule their travel, the following voluntary change policies apply,” the airline states in its Travel Advisory. The applicable change policies follow:

Impacted Travel Dates: 5 until 7 Jan 2016.

“Tickets needs to be reissued on or before: 14 Jan 2016.

“Rebooked travel must begin before: 1 February 2016 for MH16 KUL/AMS, MH20 KUL/CDG. Guests on MH16 and MH20 who wish to defer their travel plans beyond 25 Jan 2016 may choose to travel via London.

“When rescheduled travel occurs beyond 1 Feb 2016 the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply. If travel is not able to be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket towards the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance.”

“Applicable change fee and fare difference will apply for new travel dates. Final travel must be completed by the end of the ticket’s validity.

“Economy Class passengers are allowed one piece of cabin luggage up to 7 Kg, and Business and First Class passengers are allowed up to two carryon bags totalling 14 Kg.”

The airline has since updated the Travel Advisory on its site to indicate that normal baggage allowances on its flights to London, operated on A380 aircraft, were restored with immediate effect.

However, baggage limitations still apply to flights destined for Amsterdam and Paris on January 5-6.

The airline has advised that passengers check travel advisory updates on its site for any further changes. Malaysia is also issuing regular updates on social media.

In light of the sensitive nature of aviation safety and security, any inconvenience caused by these restrictions is likely warranted and passengers are best advised to exercise patience and closely follow these regular updates from the airline.

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