What a clever and creative way to bring holiday cheer to an airport. Santa’s elves took over an airBaltic plane in Riga airport.
Flying around Europe on low-cost airlines over the last few months has taught me a few things. Among the most useful lessons I’ve picked up: Baggage and check-in fees and charges are enforced quite unevenly.
European low-cost carriers present their customers with a frightening thicket of charges and fees. These charges, which serve as a revenue stream for the airlines, are less readily enforced by contract agents who are not direct employees of the airlines in question, though bona fide airline employees also appear to enforce them inconsistently.
Some anecdotes from the last few months follow.
In Tel Aviv in March I tried to inform the easyJet check-in agent–clearly not an employee of easyJet–that, having failed to pay to check a bag online, I would need to cough up some shekels to do so. Not only did she refuse to take money to check my duffel bag but she clearly had no idea that I was supposed to be charged to check by bag in the first place.
Flying airBaltic between London and Finland last month, I was made to weigh my carry-on en route to Finland by an airBaltic agent. Returning, the contract employee in Oulu didn’t ask me to weigh my bag, which, at 9 kilos, was right at the weight limit.
Three events, arguably, serve as a representative sample. I flew WizzAir last week to and from the Balkans. WizzAir demands that its customers’ carry-on bags not exceed ten kilos, but neither the agent at Luton nor the at Dubrovnik on my return weighed my bag to see if it had exceeded the limit. In both cases I was very likely just over the baggage weight limit.
This is a case not so much of lessons learned than of a pattern observed. Contract check-in agents don’t appear to have been taught about the intricacies of their employers’ rules and regulations, first off. Secondly, and just possibly, if your carry-on bag looks diminutive, you may be able to get away with a few extra kilos.
That said, this is not an official Gadling recommendation to start to think of these charges and fees as inconsequential. They’re imposed to make money and they succeed in doing so for their airlines. To some degree, I’m sure I was simply lucky in these instances. But clearly the fees and charges are not being enforced as fully as they were designed to be.
[Image: Flickr | jenny-bee]
Yesterday, Latvian airline AirBaltic launched two new routes: Riga-Madrid and Riga-Beirut.
Riga-based AirBaltic is an airline to watch. Little known in North America, the airline is notable for its low starting fares and the inclusion of most of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations on its route map. But what really sets the airline apart from the pack is its range of underserved destinations across Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the Nordic countries.
These less well-served destinations include Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan in the Caucasus; Almaty, Dushanbe, and Tashkent in Central Asia; Amman, Beirut, Dubai, and Tel Aviv in the Middle East; and destinations like Kuopio, Tromsø, and Visby across Nordic Europe.
The catch is that most routes fly in and out of Riga, a beautiful city that is sadly not exactly top-of-mind among most visitors to Europe. While AirBaltic’s fabulous range of destinations can best be accessed from a starting-point in the Baltics or the Nordic countries, the airline’s fares for connecting flights from cities across Western Europe can also be quite competitive.
In anticipation, no doubt, of the summer traffic to come, AirBaltic also upgraded its site yesterday. The visual changes are minimal, but they go some way toward making the site more streamlined and enjoyable to peruse.