Ryanair’s Unusual Baggage Policy Changes

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Lately we’ve seen airlines around the world make changes to their carry-on policies. Even here in the US we’ve seen airlines cut free carry-ons on basic economy fares. One common justification for such a policy change is that people are carrying on too many bags, and it’s causing delays.

Well, Ryanair is making changes to their carry-on policy to “eliminate boarding delays,” which they seem to suggest will lose them money. I’m suspicious.

To encourage more customers to check-in some bags and reduce the volume of carry-ons, Ryanair is introducing the following policy changes as of November 1, 2017:

  • The check-in bag allowance will increase from 15kg to 20kg for all bags
  • The standard check-in bag fee will be cut from €/£35 to €/£25 for this 20kg bag
  • Only Priority Boarding customers (including Plus, Flexi Plus & Family Plus) will be allowed to bring two carry-on bags on the aircraft
  • All other (i.e. non-priority) customers will only be allowed to bring one smaller carry-on bag on board the aircraft, while their second (bigger) wheelie bag must be placed in the hold (free of charge) at the boarding gate

So going forward, non-priority passengers can only bring a small personal item on the plane, no larger than 35cm x 20cm x 20cm (roughly 14in x 8in x 8in).

Here’s how Ryanair’s chief marketing officer describes the policy change:

“These bag policy changes will cost Ryanair over €50m p.a. in reduced checked bag fees. However, we believe offering bigger bags at reduced fees will encourage more customers to consider checking-in a bag, which will reduce the high volume of customers we have with 2 carry-on bags at the boarding gates, which is causing flight delays due to large numbers of gate bag and cabin bag offloads.

We hope that by restricting non-priority customers to one small carry-on bag – their  wheelie bag must be placed in the hold, free of charge at the boarding gate – this will speed up the boarding of flights and eliminate flight delays being caused by not having sufficient overhead cabin space on busy flights to accommodate over 360 (182 customers x 2 bags) carry-on bags.

While he claims that the airline will lose €50 million annually in checked bag fees, presumably the airline hopes that more people will pay for checked bags, and that more people will pay for priority boarding, which costs €/£5. Who knows, maybe everyone will purchase priority boarding, like in this “Come Fly With Me” scene:

All that being said, I still find this to be an odd solution for an airline like Ryanair. So you’re going to have passengers drag their bags all the way through security, and then gate check 100+ bags? Does that really speed things up by much? I think Ryanair’s hope is that passengers elect to pay for a checked bag fee again, though I can’t imagine a majority of customers will just throw that money out the window.

Given that Ryanair is a true ultra low cost carrier, I’m surprised they haven’t changed their model so that they’re charging for carry-ons altogether, rather than checking full size carry-ons for free, and just hoping it will encourage people to pay to check them.

So I guess I find this policy change oddly generous and sort of irrational, but maybe I’m missing something.

What do you make of Ryanair’s cary-on policy change?

  1. Having flown Ryanair recently they make many (most) passengers put their wheelie bags in the hold (for free) at the gate. They just tag them while you queue at the gate. You then take it out to the aircraft and hand to a baggage handler, who then puts it in the hold. A pretty simple solution.

    Flown MAN-DUB / LPL-DUB a few times and every time had to board the aircraft via steps and have had to “check” my bag at the gate, so their system seems to work quite smoothly already.

  2. The question is whether they are really truly aiming for a marginal increase in profits (i.e. a back handed way to get people to buy more space in the hold) or are trying to address a real and legitimate on-board logistics complaint. I’ve never worked at an airline, but I am an operations guy so I can understand work flow. Airlines don’t want planes parked at the gate any longer than necessary. Planes sitting around cost the company money and loss of productivity. As opposed to everything that goes on inside the terminal which is a sunk cost. Better to waste time inside than outside if that makes sense.

    As for me personally, I don’t fly a lot maybe once every other month and usually for business. Thus I check everything and carry almost nothing on except something that can fit under the seat or keep on my lap. I hate digging for luggage in the overheads. Originally I assume charging for checked baggage was both a profit center and a way to control payloads since people would be more efficient about their packing. However, for many people, most in many instances, carryons became the defacto cargo hold and it became and is a hassle for boarding and deboarding. So if the change in policy had a material effect on that hassle I would be all for it. Although I have never flown Ryan which is mostly an intra-continental European low cost carrier.

  3. They are improving security. Even the terrorists don’t want to bother boarding the plane to blow it up anymore.

    Incidentally, that is the same security arrangement that trumps republicans are making. Be such scumbags that even terrorists think blowing you up will make the rest of the world happy, defeating the whole purpose.

  4. Charging for carry on luggage is a US concept. No european airline does this, and thus passengers would not be familiar with it.

    Ryanair in the past took a lot of heat for mercilessly enforcing their “1-bag” policy, with especially women (carry on + handbag) being turned off by it. Many simply refused to even consider booking Ryanair, it cost them business and customer goodwill, this is why they originally changed it to “one bag + small personal item”.

    It has gotten out of hand however, as gate agents seem to have been told not to strongly enforce the size limits either with their “softer” approach. Thus people are trying to smuggle in bigger and bigger bags + quite often an additional duty free bag.

    Since Ryanair operates with low fares + high load factor formula, they regularly had to place a certain amount of carry on bags into the hold anyway. So these processes are already established.

  5. Carry-ons are just plain stupid to the airline economics: you’re holding $120m worth of airplane and paying a dozen between gate, ground and flight personnel while waiting for people to slowly get their carry-ons then wait some more as the boarding passengers fight over overhead space. If you don’t believe just board a flight in Asia (no to small carry-ons) followed by one in the US (large to many carry-ons) and time how long it takes for either.

    Of course Ryanair is the first one to do something about it, while US airlines’ solution is to increase stress by barking orders from the overhead at boarding passengers.

  6. I think this might work. Sounds like an innovative solution, and FR are not known for making too many poor business decisions. Sure they could have went the Spirit route and just charge for all carry-on, but that is counter to the new ‘nice’ Ryanair strategy that has been driving their profits recently.

  7. Something I’ve never understood about Ryanair even after reading in depth interviews with their CEO, is who their target customer is.

    Is it:
    – the clueless first timer who books late, pays a fortune, tries to bring on a cabin bag that is far too bit so has to pay an oversize fee, doesn’t print their boarding pass so is charged another fee and buys junk f&b on-board, and spends say £200 total for a one hour flight but probably wastes so much money that they swear to never fly Ryanair again;

    Or is it
    – the savvy frequent flyer who waits until they see a sale fare, knows the rules, never checks luggage, preprints boaridng pass at home, carries the maximum hand luggage wihin the limits, has a PP membership so eats beforehand, never buys f&b on-board and only spends £20 in total but will happily fly Ryanair again.

    This change suggests it’s the second as they are trying to squeeze every cent from their low value pax.

  8. @Lucky as someone suggested, nobody charges for carry ons in Europe, and with the recent moves by the LCCs it seems like it’s gonna stay that way.
    Legroom is also (in general) far more generous than US ULCCs.
    EU regulations also mandate minimum customer service levels which are quite good, so flying LCCs in Europe is much more comfortable even IRROPS wise.

  9. Will this change mean that liquids (over 100g) and scissors etc can be put in small cases now as they are put in the hold instead of in the plane with you? Hope so as this will stop the plastic bag fiasco at security.

  10. I flew many times on Europe budget airlines in 2015, sometimes with as many as 6 people in our group. Since we were non-European, we always had to go to the ticket counter first for passport control. And we found that, if we asked nicely, they would check our larger carry-ons for free every single time.

    As for Ryanair, we were so pleasantly surprised after all the horror stories we’d heard, at how pleasant flying with them was. And I found that, if you paid extra for priority boarding, they didn’t look too closely at the size of your bags. Especially if you also paid for a premium seat. Our suitcases were actually the correct sizes, but they were stuffed full and slightly past the allowed measurements.

    Now, they did always weigh the larger bag at the counter, but they even let me board if the weight was slightly off, as well. But that may have been because I’m such a small person, and they maybe figured it evened out.

    However, I will be traveling extensively in Europe again within the next several months, and I’m going ultralight this time. It’s just so much easier when you aren’t bogged down with heavy luggage, flying or taking the train – which is my preference. In any case, both of my bags will actually be underseat models. Hopefully, they won’t mind letting me take up space in the overhead bin under those circumstances, because I really don’t want to let either one out of my sight for so much as an instant. They will literally be all I have.

  11. So Ryanair currently only allow the first ninety people in the boarding queue to take their carry-on into the cabin, the rest are put in the hold at the aircraft stairs. Their new policy appears to be that you can only carry-on the carry-on if you pay for priority boarding. With my experience based on eight sectors with them in the past year virtually no-one pays for priority boarding at the moment so I can see them making more money there.

    On the other hand they have very short turnaround times (their 737s have the built in forward stairs and they use them to get passengers movings ASAP something I don’t see anyone else doing) and even a few minutes delay is a significant fraction of their turnaround at the gate so there might be something in what they say.

  12. This may be somewhat related to Wizz Air dropping their large carry-on fee this November. They were the only European airline to actually charge for rollaboard bags, but with steeper competition, even this restriction is going away. What Ryanair does here is perfectly reasonable.

  13. I’m sorry, and this sounds incredibly snobby, but I will not ever fly a budget airline. If I am that short of money, then I won’t travel.*

    *Please note: famous last words.

  14. As a regular Ryanair passenger, I have a holiday home in Lanzarote, so fly BRS to ACE about eight times a year.
    The real problem is that Ryanir have adopted a new policy, they deny it, but it is true, of splitting passengers booking together into different rows, initially the middle seat, this is causing them substantial delays in boarding, on the last three flights I reckon this adds between 20-30mins of extra boarding time, and again ‘luggage not at hand’ when leaving aircraft makes for more delays.They have also added 20mins to the ‘flight time’ presumably to keep their ‘on time record’.This particular flight can be between 3 hours and 4hrs.20 due to the effect of winds on this route, thus cancelling out any advantage or disadvantage on the first flight, so the extra time can only be to allow for boarding problems.
    Ryanair staff refer to passengers as SLF, ‘self loading freight’, now not only do we have to do the admin, we apparently have to do their job of getting the luggage to the plane as well.
    Ryanair are a despicable airline, they will obviously do business with people for whom price is everything, but when travel is for pleasure, they will obviously lose out. They lost my business 5 flights ago, I’ve found more ‘comfortable’ arrangements for not much more money, as people become experienced travellers they require ‘better’. If there are enough naive newcomers they may well succeed, but when they run out, RyanAir are gone, and it cannot happen soon enough.

  15. So now we have to wait at baggage reclaim after the flight rather than being able to leave the airport quickly! This will add up to half an hour to the flight time and risk the loss/damage/theft that goes with baggage handling, and Ryanair will have to pay for that baggage handling. How will this save anybody time and money?

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