Airline extra baggage fee range is vast, mysterious
For inbound and outbound flights on the same route and airline, extra charges can be as much as three times more.
The consumer agency surveyed excess baggage charges on the six most popular Incheon routes, which carry a combined 15 million passengers annually. The routes were from Seoul to Tokyo, Beijing, Los Angeles, Bangkok, Manila and Paris.
For 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of checked baggage, the highest extra charge was 6.2 times more expensive than the lowest, and the difference could be hundreds of thousands of won on the same route.
The free baggage allowance varies slightly by airline, though it is about 20 kilograms, meaning any fees in the consumer agency’s comparison are for 10 additional kilograms.
On flights from Tokyo, Japan Airlines allows up to 30 kilograms of luggage, while Jeju Air charges 190,917 won ($185).
Business Air’s inbound flights from Bangkok charged 47,535 won for 30 kilograms, while on Thai Airways it was 254,675 won.
On flights from Manila, passengers of Cebu Pacific Air paid 33,000 won for 30 kilograms, compared to 203,740 won on Asiana Airlines.
According to the survey, the amount of charges also differed on outbound and inbound flights of the same airline.
For instance, passengers of Asiana Airlines paid 50,000 won for 30 kilograms of baggage on flights to Tokyo, but 162,922 won for the return to Incheon.
There also was a 300 percent difference on Jeju Air flights on the Seoul-Tokyo route.
Likewise, the charge for 30 kilograms on Asiana Airlines Beijing-Seoul flights was double that of Seoul-Beijing flights.
“It is because Asiana Airlines charges 5,000 won for one extra kilogram of baggage for the outbound flight, while it charges $16 for the inbound flight in the Incheon-Beijing route,” said a spokesman for the carrier. “The difference comes from different charging standards.”
The Korea Consumer Agency blamed the wide discrepancy in extra baggage charges on a lack of regulation that allows airlines to set their prices autonomously.
However, the agency added, passengers can easily be led to believe extra baggage charges will be the same on each leg of round-trip flights.
“Airline companies must notify consumers about different charges for inbound and outbound flights so that they can make informed decisions and prepare for extra charges,” said an agency spokesman.
In addition, most airlines allow groups of two or more passengers to combine their baggage allowances. However, the consumer agency said airlines do not state such information on their websites or in any advance baggage notices.
The agency said it plans to encourage airlines to inform passengers of excess baggage charges and regulations applying to groups at the time tickets are purchased.
BY KIM JUNG-YOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]