Social networks have been abuzz after travellers discovered that now duty-free goods purchased at the airport stores after passing through check-in and security are counted as hand luggage and therefore are subject to penalties if the extra goods purchased take a bag over the agreed 8 kilo weight limit per passenger.
The outrage is that the cabin baggage has already been weighed once at check-in and found to comply with the rules. However, it is now also weighed again at embarkation, meaning passengers will have to consider very carefully whether airport purchases will save them money or cost them a hefty fine.
Last week, budget airline Ryanair was fined in a Spanish court for what was deemed an "excessive" 20 euro fine for a hand luggage infringement by one of its passengers. airBaltic's fine for similar breaches of the terms and conditions is three times higher at 60 euros.
Some passengers consider that sufficient information on these conditions has not been made available in advance, though the airline states that such information is provided at all stages of the ticket purchase process. The Consumer Rights Protection Center (PTAC) recommends that travellers read the terms and conditions of their tickets more closely.
One recent passenger, Diāna Špura, says that the most surprising thing is that the total weight also includes the goods bought at the airport's duty-free shops.
"For every kilo, even if it's not a full kilo, but just a few grams, they'll take 60 euros. In fact, they even said this is a pretty unpleasant way. We had a couple in front of us who were outraged [about the penalty] and they were told - you need to think quick about what to do or the plane will leave without you," said the passenger.
Beāte Valdmane, who went to Portugal with her husband, has also had an unpleasant experience when the goods she bought before boarding took her baggage allowance over the limit. She believes that such diligent checks are made to make extra profit for the airline.
"Everyone was asked to pay 60 euros. We started complaining. Then I said that all the items were mine alone and we put them al together and I paid... When we flew back from Portugal we wondered if it would be the same. But as far as I understand, there are different staff at each end and in Portugal there were no weighed bags or people being made to pay," said Beāte.
Passengers agree that more information should be provided on the fact that what is bought at the airport is also included. In addition, staff should be friendlier in cases of overweight bags and penalties, they say.
Ilva Priedniece, a spokeswoman for the airline's communications department, said that information on what counts as hand luggage is sufficient. What's more, the airline offers a new service whereby for an extra 12 euros, hand luggage can weigh up to 12 kilos.
Latvian Radio also addressed the Consumer Rights Protection Center. This year, a total of 537 complaints were received against airBaltic. These were mainly about canceled flights, delays or being denied boarding. 309 of these have been positive, meaning that the consumer has been compensated and the dispute is resolved.
"There were 34 complaints about luggage last year. This year we have 25 complaints. We can't conclude very much about this. If now on social networks passengers are expressing dissatisfaction with luggage issues with airBaltic then it should be taken into account that the airline has its own rules that apply, and passengers should be aware of these rules when using the airline's services," said Santa Zarāne of PTAC.
For anyone wanting to double-check their baggage allowances ahead of an airBaltic flight, the airline's baggage rules are available at its website.
"On airBaltic flights, each Economy class passenger is allowed to carry on board 1 cabin bag (55x40x23 cm) + 1 personal item (30x40x10 cm) in total weight of 8 kilograms unless you have upgraded your cabin baggage allowance up to 12 kilograms," the airline says.
"Please note that personal item (tax-free bag included) is considered as your cabin baggage and its weight combined with your cabin bag cannot exceed the maximum weight limits."