CJEU: Airlines are allowed to charge baggage fees
The Court of Justice of the European Union has decided that baggage fees of airlines are legitimate. This is valid only for check-in luggage, not hand luggage. And: Consumers need to be informed about such fees during the booking process.
A trial in Spain was the initial point for the new decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU): A woman flew from Coruna (Spain) to Amsterdam (Netherlands) with Vueling Airlines. For her two suitcases, the airline charged a fee of 40 Euro additional to the basic price of 241,48 Euro. The woman filed a complaint against the airline. An administrative penalty of 3000 Euro was imposed on Vueling.
Spanish legislation infringes EU law
According to Spanish law, airlines are prohibited to charge additional fees for checking in baggage of passengers. The Court for Contentious Administrative Proceedings No 1, Ourense in Spain took the above described case as an opportunity to ask the CJEU if the Spanish legislation was an obstacle to the European law, which enholds the principle of pricing freedom. This principle states that airlines can generate their prices for carrying passengers as well as the conditions under which those prices apply.
Many low cost carriers offer cheap transportation but charge additional for check-in luggage. According to CJEU, passengers can decide if they want to check in luggage or not, in order to pay less for their flight. Therefore, “the service of carriage of checked-in baggage cannot be considered to be compulsory or necessary for the carriage of passengers.” But airlines may have additional costs due to transporting checked-in baggage and therefore should be allowed to charge extra fees for this service.
This does not apply to hand luggage which is a necessity for air passengers and does not require special services from the airlines. As a consequence, airlines cannot charge extra fees for hand luggage.
For the decision of passengers regarding their luggage, it is necessary that airlines transparently and clearly inform consumers about all fees when they start the booking process. According to CJEU, national authorities need to check if the airlines stick to these requirements.