Malaysia Airlines, this week, announced it was temporarily banning checked luggage from flights on January 5 and 6 due to “unreasonably strong headwinds” limiting the airlines’ ability to safely carry baggage in cargo on its Europe flights.
Passengers who wish to check luggage at the airport were told it’d be shipped to them on a later flight.
On Wednesday morning the airline updated its travel advisory saying checked-in baggage would again be allowed on all flights as per the normal allowance.
“The headwinds over the last four days were in excess of 200 knots, which can add up to 15% fuel burn on a B777-200 aircraft,” said the airline in a statement.
“Based on its current risk assessment, done on a daily basis, the airline is now able to take a shorter route on European flights.”
Strong headwinds cause flights to burn more fuel than normal and lightening the load reduces the speed of the burn.
Aviation expert Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent for “Orient Aviation” magazine, said that he’s never heard of an airline taking such measures.
“Normally, if there’s an issue with range because of headwinds, a carrier would reduce the passenger load overall,” said Ballantyne.
“Obviously that would also reduce the revenue an airline is making from that particular flight, but it’s not as if a headwind issue is a permanent situation.
“It probably arises only a handful of days over a year. And clearly, no other carriers flying nonstop from Asia to Europe are taking similar measures.”
Mohsin Aziz, an aviation analyst at Maybank, based in Kuala Lumpur, said that Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ER, which the company uses for its Paris and Amsterdam routes, is an old aircraft that’s been around for 17 years and can fly only 14 hours on a full tank.
Newer engines can last up to 17 hours.
Flights from Kuala Lumpur to Paris and Amsterdam take about 12 hours — so there’s little leeway with the older jet, he said.
Malaysia Airlines uses an Airbus A380 on its Kuala Lumpur to London route.
On Twitter, responses to the airline’s January 4 announcement of the temporary restrictions ranged from bafflement to anger, with many questioning why other airlines weren’t imposing similar bans despite facing the same weather conditions.
Malaysia Airlines responded that each airline conducts its own risk assessments and the safety of their passengers is of the utmost importance.