One thing Ryanair got right - charging extra for needless hand luggage

We know what a trip on Ryanair means: cheap and not very cheerful. But why do people now take huge bags on the flight instead of checking them in?

Simon Kelner
Thursday 01 August 2013 15:43
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I have spent rather a lot of time on aeroplanes recently. I am ashamed to admit that my carbon footprint will be more like a Yeti's after all the travelling I've done in the past few weeks. I've gone short haul, long haul, budget and full service, Europe and America, and I've eaten more complimentary bags of nuts ("may contain nuts", according to the packet) than is good for me. I've not been on a flight that wasn't completely full (even from Inverness to Luton on a Thursday morning) and I have met some interesting people, including a stewardess who recognised me from my picture by-line and is an i devotee.

The one thing I haven't done is give Michael O'Leary any of my money. Not that I have anything against him, it's just that I try to avoid flying Ryanair if at all possible. I am not one of those people who books Ryanair, knowing full well that they charge extra for everything from a boarding pass to an item of luggage, and then is outraged when I'm charged for my boarding pass. Flying is a contract into which we enter willingly, and we know what a trip on Ryanair means: cheap and not very cheerful. In fact, in my experience, they're not very cheap either, but that's another story.

Anyway, O'Leary, the chief executive of the airline and one of the more controversial/visionary/dastardly (delete to suit) men in the business, has been at it again, announcing a series of measures designed to squeeze more money out of his customers. The one which particularly attracted my attention was the plan to charge passengers for hand luggage (the lighter a plane's load, the less fuel it uses, and the more profitable the journey). It sounds like reasonable from a business perspective, but any man who launches a crusade against hand baggage is a hero in my book.

I remember a time when hand baggage was just that: a handbag, or a briefcase, or maybe a small holdall. Now, it's just luggage, nothing handy about it at all. People walk on to a plane with medium-sized suitcases, huge canvas bags, and a whole range of items should unquestionably be in the hold. It's not as if you have to wait very long for your bags these days, and they hardly ever get lost, either. It all feeds into the modern sense of self-importance: I'm so busy that I simply cannot afford those five minutes I may spend at the baggage carousel.

I am rather old-fashioned air passenger. I always check my bag in, but that means I have to sit there while everyone else on the plane struggles to squeeze their ridiculously-sized piece of luggage into the overhead lockers. Not only that, but spare a thought for the poor cabin staff, who now spend half of their time arguing with passengers or trying to force a Samsonite quart into a plastic pint.

Perhaps O'Leary should remove the overhead lockers from his fleet: that would really inspire the sort of behavioural change he seeks from his passengers. I'm not saying it would make me fly Ryanair, but I applaud his ballsiness in trying end what is, literally, an awful carry on.

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