Hold baggage is a different issue, because there is no way for a passenger to access their luggage during the flight. Picture: Jennifer Bruce

Johannesburg - Following a letter from a reader last week about SAA’s new free baggage policy (which comes into operation on September 5), it seems that even the airline is confused about what is and what is not permitted.

Late last month, SAA issued a statement saying it was “introducing a new check-in baggage policy in response to varying customer requirements in each of its markets”.

It added: “The policy aligns with most of the larger Star Alliance member carriers ensuring a transparent and consistent set of rules across SAA and other Star Alliance network.”

The new policy policy restricts the number of pieces of baggage a passenger may check in, rather than the total weight of the passenger’s checked baggage. Each of these pieces will be subject to weight and size restrictions.

Excess baggage – additional items, or where the baggage exceeds the weight and or size allowance – will be charged at a flat rate for each piece of luggage. This is a change from the policy where excess baggage is charged by the kilogram.

In addition, and to comply with airport loading equipment limits, SAA cannot accept any check-in items weighing more than 32kg. Any items exceeding this limit will have to be repacked into separate bags or checked in at the SAA Cargo counter and flown at cargo rates.

The airline said the new policy, “which contains simple explanations and identifies routes where variations are applicable”, could be viewed online at www.flysaa.com.

The problem, as we discovered this week, is that in one critical area – maximum dimensions of baggage – two different sizes are stipulated on the flysaa.com website.

On the site, a new item about the baggage policy (which starts on September 5) states that “an excess baggage charge will apply for each piece of baggage that exceeds the maximum dimensions as stipulated in SAA’s baggage policy. The maximum dimensions are 80 cm x 60 cm x 18 cm = 158 cm (62 inches).”

There is no explanation of how the figure of 158cm is calculated and a number of our readers have pointed out that the height maximum – 18cm – is ridiculously small.

However, in another section on the site, which deals with “baggage policies”, and which refers to tickets bought before and after September 5, the maximum dimensions of any piece of luggage are given as: length 900mm, width 450mm, height 720mm. Maximum weight for each piece is stipulated as 32kg.

This seems to us to be the correct set of dimensions, because SAA states on the website that these sizes are related to the capacity of luggage handling equipment at facilities run by Airports Company SA.

SAA also clearly states on the website that, in economy class on overseas flights, free baggage weights are restricted in some cases to 23kg per piece and one piece per passenger.

We asked SAA for official comment, but by the time of going to print, we had heard nothing from them.

We phoned SAA’s Customer Care centre, but had not been contacted by the time of going to press. - Saturday Star