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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Ryanair faces backlash over new luggage charges

Carry-on bags must now fit in the tiny space under the seat in front of travellers, a reduction in the free allowance

Ryanair has now had three luggage policies over the last year. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo
Ryanair has now had three luggage policies over the last year. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Budget airline Ryanair is facing a revolt from passengers after slashing free carry-on bag limits.

Luggage must now fit in the tiny space under the seat in front of travellers, a two-thirds reduction in the free allowance.

The European airline was facing a customer backlash on Friday as it rolled out new rules to charge customers at least £8 (Dh38.3) if their carry-on bag does not fit underneath the seat in front of them.

Items of luggage such as large bags and wheelie suitcases – which could previously be taken on board for free – may also be subject to a higher charge of £25 (Dh119.70) if they are not travelling in one of the limited number of priority boarding slots that cost £6 (Dh28.7) a flight.

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Despite being announced in August, many travellers who arrived at British airports on November 1, the first day of the new scheme, were clueless about the new measures.

In Italy the charge – and a similar one introduced by Wizz Air – has been challenged by the competition watchdog, which has told the low-cost airlines to suspend it.

“Asking more for an essential element of the air transport contract, carry-on baggage, is a fallacious representation of the ticket’s true price and harms cost comparison among carriers, which misleads consumers,” the Antitrust Authority said in a statement.

“We will immediately appeal this decision," a Ryanair spokeswoman told AFP.

“There is no basis for a competition authority to issue a decision that relates to air safety or punctuality,” said the Ryanair spokeswoman. “This policy is transparent and beneficial to consumers.”

Ryanair has now had three luggage policies over the last year. In January, they changed the previous unlimited-bag policy to one that allowed passengers to take two items of luggage for free onto the plane with them, with the larger item being left at the boarding gate and stored in the plane’s hold.

The latest policy change was announced by Ryanair in August, with the aim of reducing boarding delays caused by too many passengers leaving their bags at the gate. At Stansted airport, its London hub, many people had the levy waived by Ryanair staff.

Passengers caught up in the confusion this week went on social media to air their frustration.

Jen Allison, a writer, tweeted that: “Ryanair’s new baggage policy is so bad, I cannot believe it. It kicks in from 1st Nov so for my flight tomorrow I can take a suitcase and it’ll be checked into the hold for free. For my flight back on Sunday that same suitcase will cost £25 unless I upgrade to priority boarding?!”

IT manager James ranted about the “first day of @Ryanair‘s new baggage policy. And already screwed over with the allowance. [Expletive deleted] ridiculous in the middle of a packed airport. One of very many.”

Other users pointed out the ridiculousness of the priority boarding system: “Everyone on this flight has a priority ticket due to @Ryanair new baggage rules. Makes a mockery of ‘priority tickets’! #Malta” wrote Tom Pettitt.

Meanwhile the Daily Mail reported that a disabled woman who had been travelling with the airline to Morocco from London Stansted had missed her flight after collapsing at the check-in gate amid the confusion over the new system.

Mrs Ben Haj Fraj told the newspaper that: “'I'm really ill – I have disability letters from the hospital, I collapsed at the gate and staff just walked past me. This will be the last time I travel with Ryanair. Their new policy is complicated.

“They should be telling staff about this new policy, Ryanair staff at the airport weren't properly informed. I'm really not happy about this and I'm going to sue the company.”