Italy opens probe into Ryanair hand lug­gage charges

The Malta Business Weekly - - NEWS -

Italy's com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog has opened an in­quiry into Ryanair's de­ci­sion to add new hand lug­gage charges.

From Novem­ber, Ital­ian pas­sen­gers wish­ing to take two bags on board will pay €6 for pri­or­ity board­ing.

Those that do not will only be able to take on one bag that fits un­der the seat in front, with the sec­ond bag checked in at a cost of €8.

An­titrust said hand lug­gage was "an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of trans­port" and should be in­cluded in the ticket price.

Some trav­ellers only carry their 10kg stan­dard "wheely" bag.

Ryanair spokesman Kenny Ja­cobs said: "We look for­ward to co-op­er­at­ing with this Ital­ian in­quiry. All Ryanair cus­tomers are free to bring one piece of carry-on bag on­board. But no air­line cus­tomer has a right to un­lim­ited carry-on bags."

UK rules ap­plied by Ryanair al­low pas­sen­gers to take two pieces of hand lug­gage into the air­craft if they have paid £5 for pri­or­ity board­ing.

If they have not paid that charge, the sec­ond bag is put into the hold - al­beit with­out be­ing charged as checked lug­gage.

An­titrust said Ryanair's new Ital­ian pol­icy could amount to un­fair com­mer­cial prac­tice in that it dis­torts the fi­nal price of the ticket and does not al­low a true com­par­i­son with other air­lines' prices.

Ital­ian con­sumer as­so­ci­a­tions had com­plained to An­titrust about the Ryanair de­ci­sion.

"If its un­fair com­mer­cial prac­tice on hand lug­gage is con­firmed, Ryanair... should re­im­burse all its cus­tomers who suf­fer un­fair ad­di­tional costs," the as­so­ci­a­tion Co­da­cons said, promis­ing to take the mat­ter to court if nec­es­sary.

In Au­gust, Ryanair said the pol­icy was not aimed at mak­ing money but in­tended to "im­prove punc­tu­al­ity and re­duce board­ing gate de­lays".

How­ever, re­search by US travel con­sul­tancy IdeaWorks sug­gests the air­line made £1.7bn from charges for add-ons such as checked bag­gage and se­lected seats in the last 12 months.

That meant al­most a third of the com­pany's prof­its came from so- called "an­cil­lary rev­enue".

The Ital­ian in­quiry cre­ates more bad pub­lic­ity for the air­line as it faces wide­spread strikes by staff across Europe.

Share­hold­ers also de­liv­ered a blow to the air­line on Thurs­day af­ter many de­clined to vote for the re-elec­tion of the com­pany's chair­man at its gen­eral meet­ing.

David Bon­der­man was re-elected but only with 70.5% of share­holder's sup­port - a drop from last year's meet­ing where he gained 89.1%.

Aberdeen Stan­dard In­vest­ments, which owns a 0.9% stake in the air­line, said it wanted to see "clear progress" on the suc­ces­sion of Mr Bon­der­man and se­nior in­de­pen­dent direc­tor Kyran Mclaugh­lin by this time next year.

"The length of time both have been on the board sug­gests a lack of fo­cus on board suc­ces­sion plan­ning," ASI said.

"Ex­ces­sive ten­ure also calls into ques­tion an in­di­vid­ual's in­de­pen­dence and ob­jec­tiv­ity and our en­gage­ment on gov­er­nance mat­ters sug­gests that the board is not lis­ten­ing care­fully enough to share­hold­ers' views."

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