What is Ryanair doing?
As of November 1, passengers will only be permitted to travel with one small bag (35cm x 20cm x 20cm) free of charge.
Previously, the airline permitted all customers to travel with two items of hand luggage: one small bag and one large bag (no bigger than 55x40x20cm and no heavier than 10kg). However, if they were “Non-Priority”, the larger bag was taken at the gate and put in the hold free of charge.
Now, however, passengers are faced with a decision. Travel with just a small bag; pay the Priority fee (which costs £6 per person per flight at the time of booking or £8 during online check-in); or pay £8 per person per flight to check their 10kg bag into the hold.
If they turn up at the gate with a bag bigger than 35cm x 20cm x 20cm, and have not paid extra, they face a £25 charge.
Why are they doing it?
Despite reporting “a steep decline in baggage revenue” last summer, the airline claims the changes are not about making money, but about speeding up the boarding process and reducing delays.
It also insists that only 40 per cent of its passengers will be affected, as 30 per cent already pay the “Priority” fee, and a further 30 per cent already travel with just a small bag.
“Ryanair has claimed that 60 per cent of its customers will be unaffected by these changes, but it looks as though the remaining 40 per cent will either have to dramatically reduce the amount of luggage they travel with, or pay £12-16 extra on a return fare,” said Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s consumer expert.
“Given that Ryanair says its average fare is about £71 return, that represents an increase of 17-22.5 per cent for many of its passengers.”
I want to travel with a 10kg bag – which fee should I pay?
Should you prefer to travel with a larger carry-on case, the best course of action is pretty obvious. Pay the Priority fee. It costs less (£6 vs £8) and you won’t be delayed queueing at Ryanair’s bag drop desk before you go through security. Furthermore, if your luggage has slipped over the 10kg limit, there’s a good chance it will be spotted at the bag drop desk (and you’ll be charged extra).
However, Priority tickets will be capped at 95 per flight, roughly half the capacity of a typical Ryanair flight, so you might want to pay the fee sooner rather than later.
How strict will Ryanair be – and can I get away with a backpack?
How strict will Ryanair be when it comes to enforcing the 35cm x 20cm x 20cm limit for smaller items of luggage? It remains to be seen, but Telegraph Travel will be monitoring the situation closely and has sent a reporter to Stansted today to investigate.
I usually travel with a backpack that exceeds these dimensions, but have always been allowed to take it on board despite never paying the Priority fee. I’ve not recently seen any measuring devices at the gate, and staff appear to allow a bit of wiggle room when it comes to rucksacks and small holdalls, focusing their attention on wheelie bags, but will they become more attentive now the new rules are in effect? It’s certainly a risky business for travellers. As mentioned above, if their bag is deemed too big at the gate, they will be forced to pay a whopping fine of £25.
It seems likely that there will be some confusion when the new rules come into effect. Having changed its baggage rules several times in the last few years, passengers could well be caught unawares, raising the prospect of arguments at the gate – and the sort of delays that Ryanair is apparently so keen to eliminate.
It all sounds overcomplicated
As I argued recently, Ryanair’s baggage and boarding policies have become increasingly baffling over the last year or two. Its passengers could once travel safely in the knowledge that, so long as their cabin bag was the right size and weight, they wouldn’t be stung by any extra fees. Now, unless you fancy a long weekend with just the tiniest amount of luggage, and don’t mind being split up from your travelling companions because you haven’t paid for allocated seating, its “optional” charges are unavoidable.
Why doesn’t Ryanair just install bigger overhead bins?
It will be – but not until next year. Boeing offers “Space Bins” on its new 737 MAX aircraft, which are designed to provide 50 per cent more storage space, holding up to six standard size cabin bags – two more than usual. Ryanair is waiting on more than 100 737 MAXs, the first of which will be delivered in early 2019. Not that this will necessarily trigger a baggage policy rethink.
Is Wizz Air changing its bag policy too?
Correct. Wizz Air used to charge for hand luggage, but scrapped the fee in 2017. Now, as of November 1, it has very similar rules to Ryanair. Its passengers are allowed one small bag on board free of charge (40cm x 30cm x 20cm, so a tad more generous than Ryanair), but only Wizz Priority customers will be permitted to travel with their standard carry-on case (up to 55cm x 40cm x 23cm). The options? Travel with a small bag, pay the Priority fee (between €5 and €12), or check your larger 10kg “carry-on” case into the hold at a cost of €7 per person per flight.
Just like Ryanair, it says the new “clear and fair” policy is an attempt to cut down on baggage-related delays and enhance the passenger experience. “Passengers want unbundled products and that is at the heart of Wizz Air’s ultra-low-cost model,” said Johan Eidhagen, the airline’s chief marketing officer. “We want to offer our customers the lowest possible fares as well as a transparent view of ticket pricing.
“We are delighted to introduce our new, transparent and fair-for-all baggage policy which offers the widest selection of baggage choices for our customers while allowing a free carry-on bag for every passenger.
Fifty baggage options? Is that strictly necessary?
Apparently dazzling customers with choice is the new ethos of low-cost airlines. Quite how Wizz worked out that passengers now have 50 options we’re not certain, but on top of of the 40cm x 30cm x 20cm free carry-on, passengers can check a larger bag (55cm x 40cm x 23cm) and up to six big cases weighing a maximum of 20kg (or for an extra fee, up to 32kg). A mathematician must have totted up every conceivable option to deliver the final tally.
Is this the end of freehand luggage?
North America’s low-cost carriers have been charging for hand luggage for years. Florida-based Spirit Airlines, for example, which bills itself as an “ultra-low-cost” carrier, permits a small bag (handbag or laptop bag) on board at no extra cost. Larger hand luggage costs a remarkable $39 per person per flight (£30) at the time of booking, or $59 (£45) during online check-in, or $69 (£53) at the airport. That’s as much are £424 on hand luggage for return flights for a family of four. Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines and Canada’s Flair Airlines have similarly swingeing fees, while another Canadian carrier Swoop, which launched last year, charges more for hand luggage (from $36.75) than it does for checked luggage.
Even some traditional US carriers now have de facto carry-on bag fees, thanks to the widespread introduction of “basic economy” fares. United’s cheapest fares permit just a single small item of hand luggage (up to 23cm x 25cm x 43cm). Anyone who wants a larger allowance must pay extra. “Basic economy” on American Airlines comes with similar restrictions, and amounts to a charge for larger items hand luggage.
This tiered fare structure introduced by US carriers is certainly catching on around the world. British Airways, Delta, Alitalia, Aer Lingus, SAS, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Austrian, Brussels, KLM and Air France are among those to have adopted it, with the bottom tier variously described as “light”, “economy light” and “basic”. However, they all currently include hand luggage.
Is there any benefit to a charge for carry-on luggage?
Convincing travellers to abandon their love of the carry-on, and embrace checked luggage, could be positive. It reduces the clutter of bags in the cabin, which has a safety benefit, especially in the event of an emergency evacuation.
Furthermore, Devin Liddell, principal strategist at Teague, a design consultancy that specialises in aviation and counts Boeing among its clients, believes if all carry-on bags were banished to the hold the boarding process would be sped up by 80 per cent
“One provocative option is to ban all large carry-ons, and outfit the aircraft with far slimmer bins meant solely for small bags,” he told Telegraph Travel last year. “Limiting cabin bags to computer bags, purses, jackets and the like eliminates the chronic Tetris game we’re playing with larger roll-aboard bags. Another idea is to reward passengers who aren’t bringing those large bags aboard through faster screening, reduced fares, preferred seats or even free drinks.”