The Court of Justice of the European Union’s recent ruling (18 September 2014) that airlines can charge extra for the carriage of check-in luggage is good news for travel companies and carriers based in the EU, whose pricing model is based on this principle.
The ruling stems from a case that was brought in Spain in 2010 when Vueling Airlines added €40 to the base price of four plane tickets for a journey between Spain and the Netherlands. The passenger complained and the case was brought to the Court of Justice by the airline, which had been fined €3,000 by the Instituto Galego de Consumo de la Xunta (The Galician Consumer Institution).
The Court of Justice held that EU Law precludes legislation such as Spanish Law that required air carriers to carry in all circumstances not only the passenger but also baggage checked in by them for the price of the plane ticket, without any supplement.
The price paid for the carriage of baggage checked-in by air passengers is not an unavoidable and foreseeable item of the price of the air service, but may be within the meaning of EU Law, an optional price supplement in respect of a complementary service.
Whilst hand baggage that is not checked in must be considered a necessary item for the carriage of passengers, this cannot be made subject to a price supplement, provided that it meets with reasonable requirements of weight, size and security. The service of checked-in baggage and its processing and storage leads to additional costs for the airline, as does the liability of the carrier for damage for checked-in bags.
Lewis Solomon at Adams & Remers comments: “This is essentially good news for airlines and travel companies because it confirms and recognises their right to charge extra for services beyond what is unavoidable and foreseeable. For those with a business model based on this approach it means customers have the option to only pay for the services they use and if the airlines’ terms & conditions are clearly set out for passengers then there should be fewer legal challenges on this area.”
“Given this ruling it would be wise for airlines and travel companies to review their terms & conditions to ensure they are clear and consistent with its wording. This may mean that passengers should pay particular attention to the airline’s policy on hand luggage from now on as I suspect they are likely to be more strict in interpreting the rules of what is or isn’t allowed.”