A carry-on bag fee by any other name: Ryanair’s latest ancillary changes

Too many passengers are bringing bags on board and there’s no room to put them all. Like many airlines, Ryanair struggles with this problem and the carry-over impact it has on flight delays. Effective with flights from 1 November 2017 the carrier is cutting its carry-on bag allowance and checked bag fees in an effort to change passenger behavior and get flights back closer to on time.

The policy changes are threefold:

  1. The basic checked bag can now weigh 20kg, up from 15kg.
  2. The fee for the first checked bag drops from €/£ 35 to €/£ 25.
  3. Most passengers will no longer be able to bring a second carry-on bag on board; that benefit is now reserved for Priority Boarding customers in the Plus, Flexi Plus and Family Plan ticket types.

The first two changes are certainly good news but it is hard to see those “upgrades” offsetting the major downgrade that the third point delivers.

In essence, this becomes a €/£ 5 fee for carry-on bags. Travelers on Ryanair can buy that benefit as an ancillary fee add-on in the ticket purchase process (or €/£ 6 if added later). Without paying that fee the second bag – a big change for the carrier when it began allowing such – is now a checked bag again, albeit a free one.

If the goal truly is to ease problems at the gate then the best approach is to not let the bags make it there at all. Ryanair is splitting the difference here by continuing to charge for the first checked bag while forcing the carry-on into the hold anyways. If the company really wanted to improve the passenger experience and its operations the change would involve allowing the bag check free in advance. Handling the bags before they get to the gate is far more efficient and effective.

Only giving a free checked bag at the gate also means passengers are subject to whatever security restrictions are in place. Generally that means the liquids and other restrictions apply.

The company is quick to highlight the cost of this policy change and the reduced fees. It estimates a 50mm euro annualized hit, according to the release. But it will also sell more priority boarding, often to passengers that weren’t checking bags before. Presumably the increase of priority boarding sales for those who want to keep their bags on board will offset the “losses” from the reduced checked bag fees.

Among airlines specifically calling out gate-checked bags as a problem with on-time flight departures, Ryanair joins United Airlines which specifically called out gate-checked bags and the associated delays as a justification for its Basic Economy product limitations. United reported a quick 15% drop in gate check bags in the early days of that implementation but it is unclear that’s really enough. Ryanair’s approach is much more aggressive and should fully cut the last-minute gate-check problem.

And I suppose it is worth noting that the airlines do get to choose, within reason, how many seats to squeeze on board, fares (which translate to load factors) and bin size. They’ve known for years that not everything is going to fit and now there’s a price to the consumer on what that translates to.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. This is an over reaction. Not many airlines permit two carry on bags and Ryanair’s biggest competitor, EasyJet, certainly doesn’t. One carry on bag is free so all it’s doing is charging for the second. Your title is misleading.

    1. Nah…The first “carry-on” that remains free after this is just a smaller personal item. The company is very clear that a “wheelie” bag is now not coming on board unless you pay for it. A personal item is a different story, but this is absolutely a cut.

  2. Currently is one of the two carry-ons a “personal item”, i.e., smaller sized? So you’d now have to pay extra to bring on the second, larger sized carry-on?

  3. I don’t think this is a bag fee or as bad as you describe it: any passenger can still bring one standard size carry- n and a personal item. The carry-on will be checked at the gate for no fee. Because most Ryan Air flights I’ve been on board via a staircase, even when there are jet bridges, you can just hand the bag to the luggage handler and get it bag on deplaning. They are doing that on full flights today and I don’t think it takes more time than passengers looking for space in the bins, holding up the process.
    Sure, I prefer to take it on board, but still better then dropping it at check-in. You now can pay €25 for checked bag, €5 for priority or 0 and gate check – plenty of options between time/convenience and cost….

    1. Bag returned plane-side rather than at baggage claim? Really?? That’s not my experience. And there’s more to it than just dropping the bag and walking away. At least there should be. Bags should be tagged and a receipt issued at a minimum. That either needs to be done in the terminal prior to boarding or plane-side. Both are resource-intensive processes.

      I won’t argue that full bins cause delays. But to argue that this is anything other than a fee imposed to bring a normal sized carry-on into the plane rather than checking it is, IMO, an unrealistic view of the situation.

  4. This “fee” or whatever you want to call it can’t come to the US soon enough.

    Boarding in the US is uniquely stressful and takes forever (as does getting off a plane in the US), plus all those heavy bags on top of our heads can’t be safe. Carriers are losing millions on those slow turnaround times.

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