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:
- The basic checked bag can now weigh 20kg, up from 15kg.
- The fee for the first checked bag drops from €/£ 35 to €/£ 25.
- 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.
We're introducing a new baggage policy from 1st November, with cheaper and bigger checked-in bags. Read more here: pic.twitter.com/LdYEnfpyzN
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) September 6, 2017
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.
And it's also not the secondary bag that's being cut, it's the primary bag! I'll have to buy priority boarding to take on mid-size backpack.
— Alastair Jamieson (@alastairjam) September 6, 2017
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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