Hand lug­gage charge chal­lenged

Con­sumer rights groups are tak­ing le­gal steps to chal­lenge the new hand lug­gage charge of be­tween €/£6 to €/£10 an­nounced by Ryanair last Fri­day.

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - jparkes@cb­news.es By James Parkes

CON­SUMER rights groups in Spain have an­nounced le­gal ac­tion against low­cost air­line Ryanair af­ter it an­nounced last Fri­day that it would be charg­ing for large hand lug­gage from Novem­ber 1.

Con­sumer rights as­so­ci­a­tion Facua has warned all air­lines that ar­ti­cle 97 of Span­ish air travel leg­is­la­tion (Ley de Nave­gación Aerea) specif­i­cally states the obli­ga­tion air­lines have to carry pas­sen­gers’ hand lug­gage free of charge.

The only ex­cep­tion be­ing al­lowed for se­cu­rity rea­sons re­lated to the lug­gage size or weight of the air­crafts spec­i­fi­ca­tions ­ but cer­tainly not to 'speed­up' a board­ing process.

An­other Con­sumers group, OCU, has also de­manded the min­istry of pub­lic works and trans­port opens an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Ryanair's new rules that vi­o­late na­tional laws.

How­ever, Ryanair has an­swered that these state­ments are false and that ' no air­line cur­rently al­lows pas­sen­gers to bring all their items of lug­gage on­board'.

The con­tro­versy comes af­ter Ryanair an­nounced last Fri­day that it would be chang­ing its hand­lug­gage pol­icy and charg­ing for 'large hand lug­gage items'.

The air­line, which has the largest num­ber of flights from Ali­cante/Elche air­port to the UK, will be charg­ing be­tween €6 and €10 for what un­til now has been free hand lug­gage of up to 10­ki­los taken on­board.

The new pol­icy will al­low pas­sen­gers to carry on­board only a small per­sonal bag that can be stored un­der the seat. Only pas­sen­gers who have 'pri­or­ity' tick­ets, charged with an ex­tra cost of €6 at the time of book­ing, will be al­lowed to take on their 10­kilo hand lug­gage 'free­of­charge'.

So for flights from Novem­ber 1, all Ryanair pas­sen­gers (in­clud­ing those who have al­ready booked), have a 'choice' to make their book­ing 'pri­or­ity' for €/£6 or pay €/£10 for their 10­kilo hand lug­gage.

How­ever, as we read the small print, we have dis­cov­ered this will not be a choice all pas­sen­gers will have. Ryanair's web­site says pri­or­ity passes are capped at 95 seats per flight (50%) of the usual air­craft ca­pac­ity ­ so only half the air­craft pas­sen­gers will be able to ac­cess the cheaper ex­tra fare, the rest will only have the op­tion to pay €/£10 for their larger hand lug­gage.

The ex­cuse given by Ryanair is to ac­cel­er­ate board­ing pro­ceed­ings, as they claim tag­ging hand lug­gage at the gate and find­ing space for items in over­head lock­ers de­lays take­offs and jeop­ar­dises their tight sched­ules, and thus their chances of of­fer­ing lower fares (and their prof­its for those read­ing be­tween the lines).

On its cor­po­rate web­site Ryanair claims '60% of all Ryanair cus­tomer are not af­fected' by these new rules. The com­pany reaches that con­clu­sion by say­ing 30% al­ready book pri­or­ity board­ing and a fur­ther 30% only travel with a small hand­bag any­way ­ the pos­si­bil­ity of these two op­tions over­lap­ping and re­ duc­ing the per­cent­ages does not seem to be con­tem­plated in the air­lines' sta­tis­tics.

From ear­lier this year and un­til Novem­ber 1, non­pri­or­ity pas­sen­gers are al­lowed one small bag and one larger (wheelie) bag free of charge. The larger bag is tagged at the gate and put in the hold for free. The com­pany has now de­cided with was not a good idea as it claims it gen­er­ates the tag­ging of up to 120 free gate bags with a de­lay of 25 min­utes in turn­arounds at air­ports.

So what hap­pens if you've al­ready booked a flight for af­ter Novem­ber 1? Those booked be­fore Septem­ber 1 will be given the choice of adding pri­or­ity board­ing (if still avail­able) to their book­ing for €/£8 or a 10kg bag for €/£10 ­ or they may can­cel their book­ing with a full re­fund says Ryanair web­site.

The new small bag pol­icy is ex­pected to re­lease con­sid­er­able space in the over­head lock­ers, as these bags must be able to fit un­der the seat in front of you. Ryanair says ap­prox­i­mately 100 wheelie bags for pri­or­ity pas­sen­gers will fit in the lock­ers com­fort­ably.

New bag sizes

The ' small' bag size that Ryanair will only al­low free­of­charge has been in­creased slightly from 35x20x20cm (cur­rent) to 40x20x25cm (from Novem­ber 1). This will be the only item of hand lug­gage al­lowed on­board for free.

The ac­tual 'siz­ers' placed at gates will mea­sure 42x20x30cm.

Read­ers are warned that this size is smaller than the usual 'cabin­lug­gageap­proved' wheel­ies cases cur­rently on sale at ma­jor out­lets. So please check your cur­rent cabin­size suit­cases be­fore go­ing to the air­port or pur­chas­ing a new one if you wish to use it on a Ryanair flight.

And what will hap­pen if your small bag does not fit in the sizer? No sur­prise here. Ryanair will charge you a gate bag fee of €25 for your bag to be tagged and placed in the hold.

This is why con­sumers' as­so­ci­a­tions only see more un­der­cover ex­tra charges as the real rea­son be­cause prac­ti­cally ev­ery pas­sen­ger will need to have at least their hand lug­gage in­stead of just a small 'per­sonal items' bag ­ es­pe­cially when trav­el­ling abroad.

So far, the cost of pri­or­ity board­ing has not changed ­ but pas­sen­gers fear this will be the next move.

Ryanair's cor­po­rate web­site ad­mits: "We also be­lieve that big­ger bags is a ser­vice cus­tomers should pay for when our av­er­age fare in un­der €40."

And goes on to say: "All op­tional ex­tras are vis­i­ble and trans­par­ent on our web­site. Ryanair has no hid­den ex­tras ­ all op­tional ser­vices/fees are brought to cus­tomers’ at­ten­tion and agreed prior to book­ing."

'Yet an­other rip­off'

We asked air­craft pas­sen­gers from north to south of the Costa Blanca and the ma­jor­ity re­garded these changes as 'yet an­other rip­off' by the air­line.

Sarah Sach, a hair­dresser, from Ben­i­tachell: “It’s an ab­so­lutely aw­ful change and yet an­other rip off by Ryanair to make them more money. Pas­sen­gers are be­ing hit once again.”

Chris Hack­ett, from Pego and owner of the Jazz Bar, Jávea:

“I can’t to get rid of my case as quickly as pos­si­ble when I’m fly­ing, but I thought they wanted to get rid of queues at air­port check in desks – the best thing they did was al­low­ing peo­ple to check in on­line and go straight through with a carry on case; now there will be chaos, frus­tra­tion and long queues at the air­port desks.

“The dif­fer­ent add­on fees are all very con­fus­ing but charg­ing peo­ple for their cabin­sized bags is ob­vi­ously go­ing to make them a for­tune – I think peo­ple will sim­ply choose not to book with Ryanair.”

Fre­quent flyer Brett Hawthorne, from Jávea was not too un­happy with the change in pol­icy: “Peo­ple will need to book ‘ pri­or­ity’ tick­ets early to get cabin bags on board; I could see this com­ing; you see peo­ple get­ting on board with over­sized lug­gage and a ruck­sack or huge travel bag – then watch them strug­gle to get them into lock­ers and get them out again – it holds everyone up.

“I keep clothes in the UK and in Spain and just travel with a small bag; it lets me get on and off a plane as quickly as pos­si­ble and I just hope there’s no hold up at pass­port con­trol, which can be a night­mare both in the UK and in Spain.”

Last year, EasyJet low­ered charges sig­nif­i­cantly for smaller checked­in bags, weigh­ing un­der 15ki­los and went on to launch its op­tional “hands free” ser­vice to en­cour­age pas­sen­gers al­ready at the air­port to check in small cases rather than tak­ing them on the plane, for a £5 charge.

Stan­dard 'cabin­size' wheelie­bags will no longer be al­lowed on­board free­of­charge

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