Ryanair to save £50m a year by phasing out hold luggage

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Ryanair IS to discourage passengers from putting suitcases in the hold of its aeroplanes as part of a crackdown on costs.

The Dublin-based no-frills carrier intends to start charging for each item of check-in luggage and offer discounts for passengers with just hand luggage. Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, said the aim was to phase out hold luggage altogether within three or four years. He estimated the move would save £50m a year, to be passed back to passengers in the shape of lower fares.

Ryanair already has the strictest hold luggage policy of any airline. Earlier this year, it reduced the allowance per passenger from 20kg to 15kg and increased the charge for every kilogram above the weight limit from £4 to £4.50. At the same time, it has increased the hand baggage limit from 5kg to 10kg.

A spokesman said the charge for hold luggage might start at £5 for the first suitcase and £10 for the second, while passengers arriving with only cabin baggage would get £5 discounts.

Mr O'Leary conceded that Ryanair's hold-luggage policy would alienate some passengers but predicted even cheaper fares would appeal to many more. He said that less than half of the 24 million passengers Ryanair flies each year checked luggage into the hold.

The cost of check-in desks and baggage handling is estimated by Ryanair at €200m (£130m). Mr O'Leary said that the airline could reduce that by a third if all passengers were to check-in online.

But a spokesman for the Air Transport Users Council said: "This does not sound like a good idea for families or people going on long holidays. Their choice of airline is going to be cut drastically, forcing them to travel on high-cost airlines."