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.
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