LOW-COST carrier Ryanair has threatened to change its hand-luggage policy due to so many passengers dramatically exceeding the requisite size for their second and supplementary bags – a move that could affect many of the quarter of a million Brits living in Spain.
The Irish airline's new customer-focused stance means 'main' hand-luggage bags are no longer routinely measured at departure gates, although where the plane is full, those which fall within the required size may have to travel in the hold, albeit free of charge.
Ryanair extended its allowance to include a second bag of around half the size, or a duty-free shopping bag – but not both – with the idea being that this smaller case would travel under the seat in front of the passenger.
This has made Ryanair among the most generous budget airlines in terms of hand-luggage – nearly all the others limit their allowance to just one bag, but Ryanair has now gained extra customers because they know they can take more with them without having to pay for a suitcase and, for the last few years, have been spared the additional stress in the departure queue of worrying their bag will be a couple of centimetres too large and cost them an impromptu €50 in cash to check in.
The main hand-luggage bag must measure a maximum of 55 x 40 x 20 centimetres and weigh no more than 10 kilos, so that each passenger is able to lift it him- or herself into the overhead luggage rack.
A second bag measuring 35 x 20 x 20 centimetres – which can be a handbag, laptop case or small sports bag – or a duty-free shopping bag means travellers can increase the amount of clothing and personal effects they take with them by nearly 50% without penalty.
Children aged between eight days old and 23 months, as they travel free of charge on their parents' laps, are not allowed hand luggage, but their accompanying adult can take a bag weighing up to five kilos in addition to their own hand-baggage allowance.
Ryanair says oversized hand-baggage cases are causing long delays in take-off, and this in turn costs the airline money, since they take up runway space for longer and it has a knock-on effect on the rest of the day's flights.
Already, with the larger bags, overhead locker space is at a premium, particularly as passengers often place their coats and scarves in scattered heaps next to their bags – taking up double the amount of room – and leads to many travellers having to stow their cases halfway down the plane from where they are sitting, delaying their exit from the craft upon landing.
Those who then stash their smaller hand-luggage bags in the overhead compartments, too, take up space that others need for their main cases.
And those whose second bag is larger than the airline stipulates – meaning it will not fit under the seat in front – have no choice but to stow it above their heads, again taking up space other passengers need.
“For now, the company is appealing to passengers to be understanding of the situation and to respect the rules of the second bag and its maximum measurements,” said a spokesperson for the airline.
“But if the situation continues, and oversized hand-luggage bags carry on causing take-off delays, we will have to change our policies and apply restrictions.”
Ryanair warns this could mean the valuable addition of a second bag being eliminated, just as passengers have started to get used to their newly-acquired freedom to take a significant amount of extra luggage.
Although Ryanair has not mentioned as such, it could even mean a return to all bags being measured upon embarking, reviving the headaches and nervousness travellers left behind some years back.
British expats living in Spain, and Brits with holiday homes in the country, make up a significant number of Ryanair's western European passengers and are those who are more likely to need extra carry-on bag space as their stays will be longer than those travelling across the continent on holidays or weekend breaks.
To this end, expats who regularly 'country-hop' are urged to try their best to stick within Ryanair's baggage size guidelines to avoid the company tightening up on its allowance, to the detriment of the majority.