Malaysia Airlines Goes Carry-on Only for Longest Routes


Headed to Europe from southeast Asia this week? If flying on Malaysia Airlines don’t expect your bags to come along for the ride. The carrier has issued a statement that, effective 5 January 2016 and until further notice passengers headed to London, Paris and Amsterdam will not have checked baggage carried with them on the planes. Cabin baggage will be accepted with a 7 kilogram limit for economy class passengers and 14 kg limit for premium cabin travelers. The company cites “temporary unseasonably strong head winds” as the cause for this policy, noting that bags may be checked but “baggage will only arrive later” with no further details. Also of note is that through-checked bags from other partner airlines may be offloaded as part of the effort.

UPDATE: Took a couple hours but the A380 flights to LHR have had the policy rolled back; AMS/CDG are still affected. 

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These routes are not incredibly long and other carriers (namely BA to LHR and KLM to AMS) are doing just fine with carrying checked baggage en route. So what gives? It appears this is a carryover from the loss of MH17 over Crimea. The carrier is avoiding not only Ukraine but also Russia overflight paths which means trips significantly longer than what BA or KLM are running. KLM and BA are avoiding Ukraine but happily flying over Russia today. The westbound Heathrow sector clocks in at more than two hours longer for KLM than for British Airways, flying for fifteen and a half hours rather than just over thirteen. And that extra flight duration adds up to more fuel required and lower cargo capacity. Seems the company knows it cannot deliver the bags and the people so it is notifying them in advance.

BA-kul-lhr-flightaware
BA’s flight path KUL-LHR: Notably shorter but crossing Russia
MAS-kul-lhr-flightaware
The much longer MAS flight path for the same city pair. In reality it flies much further south even than this shows. Combined with headwinds that makes for a mighty long trip.

Decent chance that Malaysian still has some cargo contracts which are more critical than passenger baggage. And it is likely that some baggage will be carried. Just not all of it. MAS is obviously going to stay within operational spec’s for the planes. These 15+ hour flights are also longer than what the carrier had been seeing in late 2015 on similar flight paths by an hour or two, contributing to the fuel challenges. All that adds up to a carry-on only approach, at least for the time being.

h/t @ThatJohn

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

8 Comments

    1. My guess is that a fuel stop is untenable with crew timing and delays and would be significantly more expensive.

  1. I sure hope they are offering refunds to people who don’t want to fly this way. 7kg? That’s nothing. What’s the point of arriving with nothing but a heavy purse. And in winter for Europe?

  2. There is going to be so much chaos at KLIA tonight. Can you imagine starting a Europe holiday and being told your bags will only arrive maybe perhaps sometime later?

  3. It’s interesting that the MAS flight path avoids Russia and Ukraine, but travels over northern Iraq and Syria and southern Turkey. The route over Russia seems safer.

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