Beleaguered Malaysia Airlines, whose reputation and financial wellbeing have been undermined by two recent air disasters (the still-missing flight MH370, presumed crashed in the Indian Ocean, and flight MH17, shot down over the Ukraine) and a Christmas-day mishap in which an Auckland-departing plane deviated wildly from its prescribed flight path, is once again raising eyebrows in the travel and business communities.
Currently displayed on the airline’s website is the following message: “Travel Advisory: Temporary limitation on checked in baggage allowance for Kuala Lumpur-Europe sector.” Given recent political events, one might assume that the policy was in response to a viable threat of terrorism.
As reported in the Singapore-based Straits Times, however, the airline has an altogether different rationale for the move. Citing “unseasonably strong headwinds,” the airline explained that “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.”
That sounds reasonable at first blush. But this is hardly the first time that strong headwinds have been part of the flight calculation. And if headwinds were truly a pressing concern, other airlines operating long-haul flights between Southeast Asia and Europe would be expected to impose similar restrictions. And they’re not.
In short, Malaysia Airlines’ official explanation fails to hold up to scrutiny. At the risk of conspiracy-theorizing, a more likely scenario is that the airline was indeed made aware of a terrorist threat, and chose to sugar-coat its response in order to prevent mass cancellations by spooked travelers.
As things stand today, the checked-bag restriction applies to Malaysia Airlines’ flights between its Kuala Lumpur hub and both Paris and Amsterdam, and only for two days, January 5 and 6. But that’s subject to change. You know, headwinds.
Reader Reality Check
Care to venture a guess as to what’s really going on here?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.