Would you pay to have your hand baggage put in the cargo hold of your flight? EasyJet thinks so. The British low-cost carrier (LCC) is offering a new hand luggage check-in service for £4, or about USD$5, per person per flight. A group bundle can be purchased for £10 per flight. The initiative aims to encourage passengers to check in their bags at the airport bag drop desk.
“For the price of 4 per person, or £10 for a group bundle per flight, EasyJet gives passengers a stress-free experience, as they do not need to take baggage through security or carry it through the airport,” the airline said in a statement.
Bags checked with the new program will be marked as priority and looked after through to the arrival airport. It will be one of the first to be delivered to the bag claim carousels, according to EasyJet.
Passengers who purchase the option will also be allowed to board first after passengers with speedy boarding passes. This perk can be especially helpful for passengers who didn’t pay extra to choose a seat during check-in.
The system is being introduced to airports across the EasyJet network except for Gatwick. EasyJet tested the program in France, and it has been used by over 9,000 passengers in four weeks.
“We’ve seen a fantastic response from customers upgrading to the ‘hands free’ experience, and we’re confident once you go ‘hands free’ you’ll never want to drag cabin baggage through the airport again,” said Andrew Middleton, EasyJet’s Chief Revenue Officer. “Alongside low fares and friendly customer service, our customers tell us that the airport experience is a hugely important part of their flying experience.”
Passengers who do choose to purchase the ‘hands free’ experience will be given small plastic bags to carry essentials onboard. They are also free to take any items purchased at the airport on board with them.
EasyJet says that the program will free up space in overhead bins, which will allow the boarding process to go more smoothly and will prevent passengers from shuffling the bags of other passengers around to fit their own bags in the bins.
There are some downsides to this program. Passengers who try to check full-size luggage with this program will still be asked to pay full bag check price of £13-30, which increases to £35 at the bag drop desk. The maximum size of a hands-free bag is 56cm x 45cm x 25cm.
In addition, laptops presumably won’t fit in the plastic bags, and will need to be left in the checked bags.
EasyJet strictly enforces one carry-on limit, but Speedy Boarding passengers are allowed a second, small item. The LCC’s flights often run full, and passengers may be asked to give up policy-compliant carry on bags for no additional fee. Purchasing the new experience could eliminate the hassle of checking a bag at the gate.
Despite apparent good results in EasyJet’s trial, the idea of paying to have your hand bags put out of reach seems counter-intuitive to some, including Adam Ewart, founder of SendMyBag, a door-to-door luggage delivery service.
“EasyJet’s hands Free service may market itself as a stress-free experience, but in reality, it will offer little help. Most that choose to travel with hand luggage do so to avoid lengthy drop-off queues and time waiting at baggage reclaim,” he said. “By using this new service, one of the only advantages of traveling with hand luggage is lost.”
On the flip side, passengers who don’t want to check bags often use the largest possible suitcase within carry-on rules. This means that passengers and cabin crew have to struggle to fit all of the bags into the overhead bins, wasting time that the aircraft could be in the air. Checking these bags with the new hands-on experience could solve this issue. In addition, the new option could let passengers avoid 100ml liquid rules at security, allowing them to keep the toothpaste, perfume, or water that they packed.