Ryanair and Wizz Air hand luggage changes: Everything you need to know

Ryanair and Wizz Air are sharply reducing the amount passengers can carry without paying extra

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 31 October 2018 13:49 GMT
Simon Calder explains Ryanair and Wizz Air hand luggage rule change

From Thursday 1 November, Ryanair’s hand luggage rules change again – for the second time in a year.

The airline is cutting the volume of cabin baggage you can take on board without paying extra by two-thirds. Its rival, Wizz Air, is doing something similar.

Their strict new rules have been called the “Cliff Richard policy”, after his 1963 hit, Travelling Light: “No comb and no toothbrush/I’ve got nothing to haul/I’m carrying only/A pocket full of dreams/A heart full of love/And they weigh nothing at all.”

What are the rules, and which are the best and worst airlines? Here is what you need to know.

What is changing?

Ryanair and Wizz Air are changing their cabin-baggage policies – dramatically reducing the amount passengers can carry without paying extra.

For Ryanair flights up to 31 October, the rule was that passengers could take one large and one small cabin bag through the security checkpoint to the departure gate without paying. But from November, the limit is cut to one midsize bag.

The maximum dimensions are 40x25x20cm. The overall volume allowed without paying falls by almost two-thirds from 58 litres to 20 litres.

Passengers will be allowed a bit of “wriggle room” in terms of their free bag; the gauge deployed at the departure gate to check the dimensions is 25 per cent bigger than the maximum size.

Ryanair claims that only 40 per cent of passengers will be affected, since 30 per cent already buy Priority Boarding and 30 per cent currently travel with one bag which complies with the new dimensions.

What are my options with Ryanair?

  1. Bring the single bag measuring 40x25x20cm and make do with that.
  2. Pay for Priority Boarding and take a second bag (measuring 55x40x20cm, weight no more than 10kg) on board. The cost will be £6 if you buy at the time of booking, or £8 if you book later. Note that the number of passengers allowed to choose priority boarding will be capped at 95 – half the capacity of Ryanair’s Boeing 737s.
  3. Check in a bag weighing up to 10kg for £8 or £10, again depending on when you choose this option.

What if I just try to wing it?

The airline warns that if you bring a second bag to the gate or if your small bag is too big to fit under the seat in front of you, you’ll be charged a fee of £25.

Why is this happening?

Ryanair insists the move is not aimed to make more money, but purely to improve timekeeping.

Passengers have only been getting used to the airline’s latest cabin-baggage policy since January.

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“Punctuality has been a challenge this year,” said Kenny Jacobs, the airline’s chief marketing officer.

“We’ve flagged for a while that while we love offering two cabin bags, it was creating a problem at the boarding gates. We want to protect our punctuality.”

The policy is designed to eliminate the need to remove cabin bags at the departure gate and check them into the hold.

What is Wizz Air doing?

The Hungarian-based budget airline has copied Ryanair’s new policy, with some small differences in dimensions. The free cabin bag can be 40x30x20cm, and if you pay for Priority Boarding (between €5 and €15) the larger cabin bag can be 55x40x23cm.

A 10kg checked bag with Wizz Air costs between €7 and €12.

How do these policies compare with other big airlines?

Ryanair’s leading rival, easyJet, currently allows one piece of cabin baggage with no weight limit and a volume of 63 litres.

British Airways has the most generous cabin-baggage allowance in Europe, permitting two bags – one measuring 56x45x25cm and the other up to 40x30x15cm, with a maximum weight of 23kg each.

The meanest limits are on Thomas Cook Airlines (6kg) and TUI (5kg or 7kg, depending on aircraft/holiday type).

These airlines and others will be looking closely at the effect of the new rules and gauging the reaction of passengers before making their next moves.

Why do the rules keep changing?

The frequent changes of policy, particularly by Ryanair and Wizz Air, are frustrating and confusing. But the two airlines are trying to tune their regulations to maximise efficient turnarounds of aircraft, while offering a policy attractive to (or at least tolerated by) passengers and extracting some revenue from the process.

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