Ryanair: Stansted opens early to cope with new cabin-baggage rules

Italian competition authority order low-cost airlines to suspend new hand-luggage policy

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 01 November 2018 08:24
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Standsted opens early to cope with new cabin-baggage rules

Starting on 1 November, Europe’s biggest low-cost airline has cut the volume of hand luggage travellers can take to the departure gate by two-thirds.

Passengers who choose not to pay extra for either Priority Boarding or to check baggage in are now restricted to a single case measuring 40x25x20cm – a volume of 20 litres, compared with the previous limit of 58 litres in two bags.

The airline says that the change will enhance punctuality, and that it is not intended to increase revenue. A new, cheaper category for checked baggage weighing up to 10kg has been introduced on the same day.

Around 30,000 Ryanair passengers are expected to depart from Stansted Airport – the main base for the giant low-cost airline – on the first day of the new rules.

To cope with the change, the Essex airport opened its security lanes early, at 2.30am, and provided extra check-in facilities.

The new regulations may not be enforced rigorously from day one. Passengers will be allowed some “wriggle room” in terms of their free bag; the gauge deployed at the departure gate to check size is 25 per cent bigger than the stipulated dimensions.

In addition, it is not clear if the airline has all the necessary payment infrastructure and staff capacity at departure gates to process the fees.

Wizz Air, the Hungarian rival to Ryanair, has chosen the same day to bring in very similar rules on cabin baggage.

But the Italian competition and markets authority, known as the AGCM, has ordered both airlines to suspend the new policy on flights to and from Italy.

The authority contends that the free bag is not sufficient for a typical passenger’s needs. Because many travellers will be obliged to pay extra, argues the AGCM, they cannot easily make fare comparisons with rival airlines.

The Italian national airline, Alitalia, allows one bag measuring 55x35x25cm – over twice as big as Ryanair and Wizz Air. But it can weigh only 8kg, compared with 10kg on the two budget rivals.

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The other big airline operating in Italy, easyJet, allows an even bigger volume – 56x45x25cm – and has no weight limit.

Ryanair says it will appeal the decision, because the authority cannot dictate on issues that affect airline punctuality. It contends that a large piece of cabin baggage is not an essential element of the transport contract.

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