Airport workers caught allowing customers to "share" the weight of their luggage with fellow passengers - thus keeping it below the limit - have been disciplined and issued with warnings that they face dismissal for using their "discretion".
Recently the low-cost airline increased its levy on overweight luggage from £4.50 to £5.50 - a jump of 22 per cent. Ryanair is being accused of levying what amounts to a "stealth tax" on travellers. Staff at Manchester airport have been told they will be carpeted by management unless they meet an average target of €1 (67p) per passenger, although the target applies to Ryanair flights from all airports, said the union.
Check-in staff said the airline allows those who book as groups to "share" their baggage, but individuals are not allowed the same concession. One union member at Manchester argued Ryanair did not "go out of its way" to publicise the fact.
Passengers are allowed 10kg hand luggage and 15kg for baggage in the hold. If either is overweight they are charged excess. They are not allowed to add them together. Kevin Egan, regional officer of Amicus, has called for a meeting with Ryanair and Servisair/ GlobeGround, which employs the check-in staff.
He said: "We are appalled at what's been going on. Basically Ryanair is bullying the check-in contractor, which in turn bullies its employees. Other airlines allow staff to use their discretion when it comes to excess baggage, but 'discretion' is clearly not a word Ryanair understands." One union member at Manchester said: "Ryanair makes a lot of money out of excess baggage payments. They are levying what amounts to a stealth tax on unsuspecting passengers. The airline handles more than 30 million passengers a year, that means €30m - or £20m. Other companies such as Aer Lingus and Lufthansa allow a certain amount of discretion on this."
A Ryanair spokesman said the rules on baggage are made clear. He said the dispute with workers at Manchester airport was a matter for their employer, Servisair/GlobeGround.
A spokesman for Servisair/Globeground said: "It is common practice with the majority of airlines to impose a baggage maximum weight limit and Servisair/Globeground, as handling agent, has to ensure that it conforms with all customer airline requirements."
Last month, Ryanair ended restrictions on the number of blind or partially sighted passengers on its flights, after being criticised for removing nine visually impaired passengers on a plane to Italy from London.