Fly-cruising could get more expensive this autumn thanks to charges being brought in by major airlines for checking in more than one piece of luggage per person.
From October 7, British Airways is reducing its allowance for checked luggage in Euro Traveller or World Traveller class to one bag only, with a maximum weight of 23kg. A second bag costs £28 if you check in online, or £35 at the airport on European and UK flights; and £32 for online check in or £40 at the airport for all other flights.
British Airways is not the only airline to sting economy class passengers for checking in more than one bag. Continental Airlines allows one bag to be checked free of charge on flights between Europe and the U.S., the Caribbean and Canada, but from September 15 will charge $45 for a second piece of luggage if it's checked in online and $50 if it's checked in at the airport.
Delta has been charging $50 for a second checked bag from July 1, while American Airlines brings in its own $50 levy from September 14.
Virgin is changing its policy, too. On flights to the U.S. and the Caribbean, you will still be able to check in two pieces of luggage weighing up to 23kg each. However, on other international flights, including those to Australia, Dubai and Singapore, all destinations from which cruises depart, there's a restriction of one checked bag per person. A second bag will cost a whopping £90 to check in. The new rules kick in on September 23.
These charges could be seen as another desperate attempt by airlines to raise revenue in the face of one massive loss after another; British Airways alone made a pre-tax loss of £401 million in the 2009 financial year and in July announced it would no longer serve meals to passengers in economy class on flight of under two and a half hours as a cost-cutting measure.
Holidaymakers are likely to be the worst affected by the new charges as they are more likely than business travellers to travel in economy class and tend to carry more luggage, particularly on the way home.
So how can you get round the charges? Sadly, the most obvious answer is to spend more money. Premium Economy passengers on BA and full fare economy passengers on some of the U.S airlines will still be able to check in two bags. But do check the status of any frequent flyer scheme you belong to, as well; Gold and Silver members of BA's Executive Club, for example, still get a two-bag allowance on long-haul flights, regardless of their class of travel.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor