Ryanair passengers say they are ‘held to ransom’ by new cabin-baggage rules

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Ryanair’s latest change to its cabin-bag policy has triggered fury among passengers, with one saying he feels “held to ransom” by the airline. But Europe’s biggest budget carrier insists the policy will benefit travellers.

The allowance of free bags remains the same: a large case no more than 10kg and 55 x 40 x 20cm, plus a smaller bag no bigger than 35 x 20 x 20cm. 

Travellers take these through security to the departure gate. 

But unless the passenger pays extra for priority boarding, the larger case will be removed at the aircraft gate and placed in the hold. At the destination airport, the bag will be unloaded into the luggage system, appearing on the baggage carousel. 

The change was announced last summer. It was initially planned to be introduced on 1 November, but was postponed until 15 January as the airline sorted out the problems with pilot rostering which led to mass flight cancellations.

At the same time, the airline has cut fees for some checked-in bags and increased the weight limit from 15 to 20kg. A checked bag on an off-peak flight will cost £25, down from £35, except “during peak travel periods (Christmas/Easter/Summer) and on selected routes”.

Many Ryanair passengers have contacted The Independent about the changes. Robin Griggs, a frequent flyer between Manchester and Carcassonne in south-west France, said:  “Frequent flyers do not like waiting at the arrival hall to pick up their bags, it add 20-30 minutes to the journey time.

“Effectively you need to pay more. How can they do this on existing bookings? I feel I am being held to ransom.”

Others appear to have misinterpreted the rules, with one saying “He [sic] has changed the hand luggage sizes”. Another called the change “baffling”, asking: “Is this the dreaded ban of wheelie cabin bags we have heard rumours of?”

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James Robertson asked: “Can the company change the terms like this on flights already booked?” It can, because passengers accepted, when buying the ticket, that the bag might be placed in the hold. This has now changed from a possibility to a certainty — unless the passenger pays £5 for priority boarding.

Another passenger, Elizabeth Thompson, asked: “Is this just another Ryanair way of making more money?”

In fact, say the airline, the package of changes will cost it €50m (£45m). The airline’s director of marketing, Kenny Jacobs, told The Independent it was “the most-flagged policy change ever”.

He said that when the two-bag policy was launched, the airline’s load factor — the proportion of occupied seats — was 81 per cent, leaving 34 seats empty on a typical flight. It has since increased to 96 per cent.

“It’s simply physics that you can’t have 185 people on an aircraft with a wheelie bag and a rucksack,” said Mr Jacobs.

“Too many people were coming to the airport with too much stuff. We were keen to protect the two-bag rule.

“So we asked ‘How do we protect the punctuality?’ What we’ve got is an elegant and fair solution for customers.”

As Ryanair’s terms and conditions make clear, paying extra is not an absolute guarantee that a large case can be carried into the cabin: “Passengers who have purchased Priority Boarding will not be asked to place their cabin bag in the aircraft hold, unless necessary due to operational reasons.”

The airline warns passengers: “Failure to comply [with cabin baggage rules] will result in a charge of £50 per item at the departure gate.”

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