A heavy price to pay

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From Bill O’Brien.

CONGRATULATIONS to Ray McCredie for highlighting charges imposed by airlines operating out of Jersey (JEP, 9 February).

An online booking for a single journey had been made for my daughter to travel to Gatwick on 10 February on Flybe’s early flight. It was known by her family that as she was travelling onward to New Zealand to start a five-year study programme, the weight of her personal belongings would far exceed her baggage allowance at a rate of £10 per kilo.

It was also understood that, had she upgraded to travel on a premium economy ticket rather than the basic economy ticket, her baggage allowance would have increased from 20 to 30 kilos, thus reducing the excess baggage charge.

At check-in, it was established that she needed to pay an excess baggage charge of £210 as the weight for her hold baggage was 21 kilos over the allowance.

Several passengers on this particular flight did not check in baggage for the hold of the aircraft, and others, who in comparison to my daughter were about 50 per cent heavier, did not have to pay an ‘excess weight’ levy.

On reflection, it would have been cheaper for someone to have travelled to Gatwick with my daughter, but on a return flight, having packed some of the baggage himself (of course) to satisfy the usual questions asked and to comply with airline security; then only pay for the excess baggage, amounting to one kilo.

Added to that, I wonder whe-ther our Customs officers would have minded the additional traveller making legitimate purchases within the Airport duty-free area at Gatwick prior to the return flight to Jersey. If so, this could have been a saving of sorts, or seen as an early investment for this year’s Christmas presents.

Since paying this totally exorbitant levy, I have researched the excess baggage charges applied by Flybe’s competitor on the route.

In my opinion, the baggage allowance provided by that carrier is not only higher, but had my daughter travelled with them and checked in a second bag for the hold of the aircraft they operated, the total charge applied would have been considerably less than that charged by Flybe.

I have travelled with Flybe by choice on an average of six occasions each year. To say that a lesson has been learned as a result of this experience is an understatement. While competition provides us all with a choice in many areas of our lives, there needs to be more transparency applied.

By this, I mean that at the time of making a booking, would-be passengers should be advised of the potential additional charges in bold writing, not in some obscure paragraph contained within the conditions of the agreement entered into, which in all cases is written in small type and not easily accessed.

My daughter will need to travel between Jersey and Gatwick on several occasions over the next few years, and I feel that Flybe will not always be the airline of choice for either my daughter, myself or other passengers if this outrageous practice is allowed to continue.

Perhaps it would have been cheaper to have bought a ticket for the excess baggage, so that it could have occupied a seat alongside my daughter, provided of course it was suitably sealed prior to, or at the check-in, or even paying a £5 charge to the security officers to seal the bag prior to boarding the aircraft.

In essence, it is costlier to place 21 kilos of excess luggage in the hold of a Flybe flight and for it to be handled by groundstaff than for a passenger to travel to and from Jersey to Gatwick.

Address withheld.

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