Malaysia Airlines under fire again over confusing luggage ban

Airline issued statement banning checked luggage on flights to Europe, then scrapped the move the next morning

Beleaguered carrier Malaysia Airlines has found itself in the midst of another PR storm following an announcement that it would not being taking checked luggage on flights to Europe, only to reverse its position in a matter of hours.

On Tuesday evening a statement appeared on the airline’s website saying flights to London, Amsterdam and Paris would not be taking checked baggage because of "unseasonable strong headwinds" and longer flight paths.

"This longer flight path consumes more jet fuel and for safety reasons, Malaysia Airlines has had to impose temporary limitation on checked-in baggage allowance," the statement said.

However, by Wednesday morning the statement had been removed and replaced by a new one saying the luggage ban had been lifted and normal service has resumed on all flights.

"The airline has recently had to operate a longer route to Europe, which combined with strong head winds, limited the airlines' ability to carry baggage and cargo. The head winds over the last four days were in excess of 200knots which can add up to 15% fuel burn on a B777-200 aircraft," the new statement said.

"All baggage is being shipped to affected customers in Europe. Based on its current risk assessment, done on a daily basis, the airline is now able to take a shorter route on European flights."

The issue has caused bemusement among industry experts and consumers alike, with the main contention being that other Southeast Asian airlines flying similar routes have not taken a similar stance. 

— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) January 5, 2016

Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst with Endau Analytics, told AFP: "It's highly unusual and bizarre but that's what we've got used to from Malaysia Airlines. By their reasoning all other carriers in Southeast Asia heading to Europe would not be able to check in luggage, too, if indeed what they claim is true."

The airline was trending on Twitter, with customers taking to social media to vent their frustration.

Alex Ooi, at Roots PR, said while Malaysia Airlines’ reasoning may be legitimate, the carrier’s customer service strategy has been found wanting.

"MAS could have provided clear alternative options for the passengers to transport their luggage and not just a reversal of its decision. In the court of public opinion, this certainly does not look good," he told PRWeek Asia.

"However, there could be myriad of reasons on why this was done and security could be one of them. Again, this shows timing and speed of communication in today's world plays such a pivotal role in determining brand reputation. Anticipation is key here and I hope MAS has learned something from this."

Malaysia Airlines has struggled hugely since the disappearance of flight MH370 and shooting down of flight MH17 last year. 

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