Lonely Planet Writer

Baggage charges lead to reduced flight delays say airlines

At this stage, most travellers have come to terms with having to pay to check in their luggage and see it is a necessary evil for budget flying.

Airlines say baggage charges lead to reduced delays.
Airlines say baggage charges lead to reduced delays. Image by Dennis Kitchen

The move towards charging for checked bags may have had another less obvious impact though in improving punctuality when it comes to flights departing. A major study by US researchers found that not only had it boosted revenue for airlines, but had a small but consistent impact on departure times.

The research found that airlines – who introduced charges for checked bags – reduced departure delays by between one and two minutes for each flight.It also discovered that airplanes were likely to depart between three and four minutes earlier after the charges began to become widespread.

Mazhar Arikan, an assistant professor at the University of Kansas, explained: “Because passengers changed their behaviour, less weight went into the plane below the cabin … and it helped airlines improve their on-time departure performance.”

The study looked at all US flights in a period between May of 2007 and May of 2009, with 2008 the year that check-in bag charges became commonplace around the world. Researchers say that this move towards charging has created a “cultural shift” among passengers forcing them to travel with far less baggage.

Loading luggage at Bodo Airport, Norway. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto)
Loading luggage at Bodo Airport, Norway. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto) Image by Getty Images

That had reduced the need for labour intensive work in airports for baggage handling and security scanning for checked bags. “A drop in total baggage volume benefits not only the airlines that charge baggage fees but also those [airlines] that do not,” the report concluded.

The effects on punctuality were felt most strongly at major hub airports where less checked bags had eased logjams in dealing daily with tens of thousands of suitcases. Baggage-related complaints also dropped according to the research, for the obvious reason that most people’s luggage now barely leaves their sight.