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Malaysia Airlines Not Accepting Checked Bags for Some Flights to Europe

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Embattled Malaysia Airlines has spent an afternoon throwing uncertainty at its remaining long-haul passengers with an on-again, off-again ban on checked luggage for its London Heathrow (LHR), Amsterdam (AMS) and Paris (CDG) flights. Malaysia promised to send the baggage on, although it would only specify that the luggage would arrive “later.”

Passengers affected are entitled to change their flights without a penalty fee or connect in London, where the ban has just been lifted — an opportunity for the Malaysia Airlines mileage runner, perhaps?

MAS' current policy allows a London connection for affected passengers.
Malaysia’s current policy allows a London connection for affected passengers.

As of this writing, passengers on the airline’s Amsterdam and Paris flights are still banned from checking baggage, while the ban itself has been relaxed for London Heathrow passengers. Still, smart travelers will try to avoid checking anything on these Malaysia Airlines routes for the foreseeable future.

The reason for the ban — which does not affect other airlines flying to Kuala Lumpur from these airports — is officially because “In the interest of safety, Malaysia Airlines currently operates a long route to Europe, which combined with temporary unseasonably strong head winds, is limiting the airlines’ ability to carry baggage in cargo.”

This Great Circle Map routing from gcmap.com shows that the shortest route between Europe and Malaysia overflies Russia.
This Great Circle Map routing from gcmap.com shows that the shortest route between Europe and Malaysia overflies Russia.

It would seem that the airline’s Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, which have a range of nearly 9,000 miles, and which the airline and Boeing once touted as record-breaking “Super Ranger” jets, can’t make the sub-6,600 mile journey between Kuala Lumpur and Europe without cutting weight to improve fuel efficiency.

Malaysia Airlines’ flights are indeed taking longer routes these days, as FlightRadar24 shows.

Malaysia’s argument about unseasonably strong headwinds doesn’t seem to add up though. Other airlines — with a significantly more impressive safety record than Malaysia Airlines’ — do not seem to be requiring roundabout routes on similar flights, and, of course, the planes aren’t even full.

So, what’s the deal? It’s hard to blame an airline for being “too safe,” but Malaysia’s one-sided route decision does seem to reinforce the need for some kind of overflight safety clearing house. And a skeptical industry observer might suggest that the airline has lucrative cargo contracts that it values more than delivering its passengers’ luggage on a timely basis.

Whatever the real reason behind the move, one thing is clear: make sure you don’t check anything on Malaysia Airlines that you might need on arrival at your destination.

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