Ryanair will no longer let passengers take a small suitcase on its planes for free, with charges for a 10kg case to be introduced in November.
Overhead locker space has failed to match demand, with an increasing number of passengers adapting their packing habits to escape baggage charges on budget carriers.
Passengers will still be allowed to carry on one small bag that can fit under a seat in front, free of charge. A limited number of passengers who book priority boarding – which costs £6 or €6 per flight – will be able to take on a small case as hand luggage.
However, Ryanair is introducing a lower rate for smaller, checked-in baggage. Passengers will pay £8 – rather than £25 – for any case weighing less than 10kg.
The airline said most of its customers would be unaffected by the bag policy change, saying that 30% already buy priority boarding and another 30% already travel with only one small carry-on bag.
Ryanair said the change would be revenue neutral, as many people would switch to checking in a cheaper, smaller suitcase, and was aimed purely at reducing delays to flights caused by too much luggage at the boarding gate.
Kenny Jacobs, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, said: “This new policy will speed up the boarding and cut flight delays. 60% of customers will be unaffected by these changes and we expect that the other 40% will either choose to buy priority boarding or a 10kg check bag, or will choose to travel with only one free small bag.”
The overhead lockers on Ryanair’s Boeing 737 fleet can accommodate about 100 suitcases, while the number of priority tickets sold will be capped at 95 – roughly half the maximum passengers per flight. The size limit of the small, free bag has also been slightly increased, but anyone who fails to fit that bag in the sizer at the airport will be charged £25 or €25 and have the bag put in the hold.
Ryanair has long grappled to find the best solution to its baggage issues. Its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, imposed high checked-in baggage fees for many years in an effort to keep down handling costs, claiming to be doing customers and the environment a favour by encouraging passengers to travel light.
The first change imposed in January saw small carry-on cases taken at the gate and put in the aircraft hold for free, with only passengers who had booked priority boarding, then £5, allowed to put cases in the cabin’s overhead lockers. The move was accepted with equanimity by passengers but did not solve the gate delays.