My thoughts on Ryanair’s new hand luggage policy

  Expect to get one of these bright yellow tags if you haven't purchased priority boarding.

Expect to get one of these bright yellow tags if you haven't purchased priority boarding.

A couple of months ago Ryanair introduced new hand baggage rules, allowing customers to take just one item of hand luggage onboard the plane, as opposed to the two that were allowed prior to its 15 January introduction date.

Passengers would still be allowed two pieces of hand luggage, but the larger one would have to be placed in the hold for the duration of the flight instead of being allowed into the cabin with the passenger – unless, of course, they paid a fee. The prices start at £5 one way, and can be slightly higher on certain flights, but Ryanair attributed the decision to avoid delays in boarding and deplaning.

Originally, Ryanair had been set to make the changes in November but postponed it until the New Year. I’ve had the chance to fly with Ryanair six times since the new regulations were brought in, so I’ve had a good deal of experience with and exposure to how it all works. So, here’s what I thought of the non-priority, one bag

The good

  One of the perks of Ryanair's new hand baggage policy - watching other people queue.

One of the perks of Ryanair's new hand baggage policy - watching other people queue.

One of the most frustrating things about flying with Ryanair is having to rush to get near the front of the queue if you want your larger cabin bag on board. Ryanair’s planes only have space for approximately 90 wheelie bags to fit in the overhead compartments, and with almost 200 seats, some are automatically assigned to the hold. It also meant standing in a queue for long periods of time before the plane even gets to your gate, sometimes for up to an hour, and it’s not really the most comfortable way to spend your time in the airport.

What the new baggage rules do is eliminate that waiting around. I’m usually one of the last five people on the plane now because I know that my bag is going in the hold regardless and I don’t need to scour the cabin to find overhead locker space. Instead, I can essentially get on the plane at my own leisure, making the whole airport process a lot more relaxing and straightforward. It’s also helped me slip through the net when I was flying back home from Nuremberg, meaning I got my bag on the plane for free and had plenty of lockers to choose from.

  People part with their bags on the tarmac now thanks to Ryanair's new rules.

People part with their bags on the tarmac now thanks to Ryanair's new rules.

One of the reasons I originally wanted to get my bag on the plane was so that I didn’t have to wait at the other end for any luggage. But so far, so good on that front. I’ve had to collect my hand luggage on five out of six flights and each time it’s been less than a five-minute wait, keeping any knock-on effect to a minimum.

With the lack of bags overhead, getting off the plane is a whole lot easier. They’re still full of coats and smaller bags, but less people are struggling with big, bulky items, meaning that disembarkation is definitely a quicker process.

The bad

  Waiting for your hand luggage to arrive can be a pain.

Waiting for your hand luggage to arrive can be a pain.

You can never rely on flight times, because planes rarely land at the exact time stated on the booking and there are the external factors such as queueing at passport control, and the size of the airport itself. But with the added time of waiting for hand luggage, it can make a difference when it comes to catching transfers – especially if it’s a late flight and you’re rushing for the last bus or train.

In trying to avoid delays, Ryanair are pushing the time savings onto customers and aren’t really saving that much overall, or at least that’s how it feels. Thanks to a lack of clarity and understanding around their baggage rules, confused customers and bag taggers seem to tack on the time before the flight has even taken off and, aside from getting off the plane a bit quicker, I haven’t noticed much of a difference. In fact, since it was all introduced, two out of my six Ryanair flights have been delayed, which is above the average I’ve experienced when flying with them.

But the worst thing about Ryanair’s new baggage rules is that even though you aren’t allowed to take your large bag on the plane unless you pay, there is no facility for checking it in free of charge prior to going through security. Passengers are essentially carting their luggage around departure lounges for no reason other than because Ryanair want to pressure them into paying the extra fee for priority boarding, thus permitting their second bag in the cabin.

Summary

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While Ryanair tried to play this off as some sort of delay avoidance scheme, I believe that the Irish airline is employing an extra low-risk revenue stream. It doesn’t bother me in that sense, but I would rather they were more up-front and honest about it if that is indeed the case.

Having said that, overall, it’s a thumbs-up from me. Getting both bags on a plane used to mean sacrificing comfort and rushing to get to the gate. Now my mind has been made up for me by Ryanair, I have no need to worry or go on a mad dash. It’s actually creates a more pleasant flight experience, and all at the expense of about five minutes at the other end.