Malaysia Airlines lifts baggage ban on Europe flights

6 January 2016
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Malaysia Airlines said Wednesday it has lifted a ban on check-in baggage on flights to Paris and Amsterdam, after the move angered many passengers who slammed the airline on social media.

The U-turn came less than 24 hours after the airline announced that passengers cannot check-in baggage for Tuesday and Wednesday flights to the two European cities due to “unseasonably strong headwinds” on a longer flight path it is taking.

The airline said it recently had to operate a longer route to Europe, via Egyptian airspace, for safety reasons. It said strong headwinds over the past four days were in excess of 200 knots, which can add up to 15 percent to fuel burn on its Boeing 777 aircraft.

“Based on its current risk assessment, done on a daily basis, the airline is now able to take a shorter route on European flights. Malaysia Airlines maintains that safety is of utmost priority in its operations and will not hesitate to adjust its flight path based on its daily risk assessment,” it said in a brief statement.

It didn’t elaborate on the change in route, and airline officials could not be reached immediately for comment. A Malaysia Airlines jet flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a missile in eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

Many passengers left angry comments on the airline’s Facebook page, slamming it for being the only airline to impose such a ban. Some of them said the airline should have limited the number of passengers and rejected freight instead. Others asked for a refund of their tickets.

Losses of two flights in 2014 hit the finances of already struggling Malaysia Airlines. One flight heading to Beijing disappeared and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean. That tragedy was followed months later by the Ukraine disaster.

Last year, the airline appointed its first foreign CEO, Christoph Mueller, the former head of Ireland’s Aer Lingus, to oversee a major restructuring. Mueller has said the airline can break even by 2018 after cutting 6,000 staff, selling surplus aircraft and refurbishing its international fleet.

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