Swings and carousels for easyJet


easyJet’s £4 charge for stowing hand luggage in the hold is brazen, but it seems the public are falling for it.

VICTIMS of their own success at deterring passengers from checking in cases, the low-cost airlines have long been taking hand luggage from passengers at the gate to sling in the belly of the plane. The overhead lockers are no longer big enough.

I’ve always resisted attempts to relieve me of my bag. Aside from cost, avoiding the rigmarole of check in and being able to stroll past baggage reclaim are the chief benefits of taking hand luggage only. I’m not lugging my own stuff all the way through security, the Wetherspoons and the Toblerone shop if it’s still going to be slung around by baggage handlers only to appear, inevitably, last and lonely, on the carousel.

Asking for £4 to check in your hand luggage seems like a cheeky move. But it’s exactly what easyJet have just announced they will do.

They call this the “hands free” option and they’ve already tried it out in France. Amazingly, the public seem to have fallen for it.

Andrew Middleton, easyJet’s man in charge of squeezing the last possible penny from customers, said: “We’ve seen a fantastic response from customers upgrading to the 'Hands Free' experience and we’re confident once you go 'Hands Free' you’ll never want to drag cabin baggage through the airport again.”

He says 90,000 people paid the fee during the trial. Allowing for a £10 group bundle for six people the airline has already magicked £150,000 - £360,000 from thin air by finding a way to charge people to do its work for it.

Earlier this his week easyJet admitted claiming a plane was cancelled due to an air traffic control strike – a strike that never happened.

When challenged easyJet said the claim was an “administrative error” and that the plane was grounded because of a “technical” problem.  Coincidentally airlines must pay each passenger £230 compensation if a flight’s cancellation is their fault. A non-fictional air traffic control strike would not trigger this – conclude from that what you like.

It’s been a mixed week of PR for them. They started with an inadequate explanation for some very ropey-looking behaviour. Then ended it with the launch of a new scheme to squeeze more money from passengers that shows every sign of working.

Rivals Ryanair, which have managed to sustain an almost unbroken two-year charm offensive, will be watching all this very closely.

easyJet’s week of ups and downs will have done nothing to delay the day it takes Ryanair’s crown as the nation’s most hated airline.

Pete Bell