[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia Airlines took the unlikely step of telling long-haul passengers that they should fly without checked luggage, saying unusually intense headwinds are jeopardising the ability of aircraft to reach European cities even with a full load of kerosene.
Any luggage that is checked in will "arrive later," while customers connecting with Malaysian flights via other members of the Oneworld alliance may have their bags offloaded, the company said in an advisory bulletin on its website.
The Asian carrier is struggling to reach Western Europe as a result of "unseasonably strong headwinds" combined with longer flight paths adopted "in the interest of safety," it said. Routings were modified after the downing of one of its jets over a war-zone in Ukraine in 2014 killed all 298 people aboard.
"Malaysia Airlines regrets the inconvenience caused to passengers and will deliver stranded baggage as soon as the situation permits," the carrier said in the bulletin, adding that it would "continue to assess the changing situation."
The Kuala Lumpur-based company initially advised people flying to Europe that the new rule would apply from Tuesday night local time until further notice, before issuing a further advisory suggesting that restrictions will be limited to flights to Paris and Amsterdam operated by Boeing 777 aircraft on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Services to London using long-range Airbus Group SE A380 superjumbos can operate as normal using a shorter route after the airline updated a "risk-assessment matrix" with new data, it said.
Passengers affected by the moratorium on checked-luggage will be limited to a single carry-on bag weighing no more than 7 kilogrammes (15 pounds) in coach and two pieces totaling as much as 14 kilograms in business class and first.
Malaysian is acutely conscious of safety issues after the deaths on Flight MH17 in Ukraine followed months after the loss of another plane that had departed Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Investigators say the aircraft, which was carrying 239 people, appears to have reversed its route and flown south over the Indian Ocean before crashing.
Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller, who took over last March, has said he intends to take a less "kangaroo-route- centric" approach, referring to the traditional model of linking Europe with Australia via Southeast Asia. The carrier will instead build Kuala Lumpur into a hub for flights to other cities in the region and in China, he says.