The Italian competition watchdog Antitrust has announced an inquiry into Ryanair’s new baggage policy, which charges passengers for taking hand luggage.
From 1 November, all passengers will have to either upgrade to priority boarding for £6-£8 to bring hand luggage up to 10kg into the cabin or pay £8-£10 to check the bag into the hold. Every passenger can still bring one small personal item into the cabin with them as long as it fits under the seat in front.
However, Antitrust says hand luggage is an “essential element of transport” and should be included in the price of an airline ticket. The watchdog claims the new policy could amount to unfair commercial practice because it changes the final price of the ticket and does not allow for true comparison to other airlines’ fares.
Italian consumer association Codacons said if the practice is found to be commercially unfair, Ryanair should be made to refund passengers who have already paid the new fee since it went into effect for forward bookings on 1 September.
Ryanair announced the new policy in August, claiming it was designed to reduce delays in the boarding process rather than to make money – even going so far as to say it didn’t believe the move would make money at all.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Cartrawler Yearbook of Ancillary Revenue by Ideaworks Company shows the Irish carrier made more than US$2.3 billion (£1.7 billion) revenue on ancillary products such as baggage fees in 2017 – the fifth highest result of worldwide airlines included in the research.
Kenny Jacobs, chief marketing officer at Ryanair, commented: “We look forward to cooperating with this Italian inquiry. All Ryanair customers are free to bring one piece of carry-on baggage onboard. But no airline customer has a right to unlimited carry-on bags. For safety reasons, most short haul aircraft cannot accommodate two carry-on bags for each customer.
"From November, half our customers will continue to bring two free bags onboard and the other half will continue to travel with one free small bag (which has been increased by 40 per cent in size) and can, if they so choose, check in a second 10kg bag for a new lower fee of €8 (currently Ryanair’s lowest cost check bag is €25).
"All other airlines, including Alitalia, Easyjet and BA, restrict the volume of carry-on bags for safety reasons. We look forward to explaining these safety restrictions and generous carry-on bag policy to the Italian authority.”
Ryanair continues to face ongoing staff strikes across Europe, even as it expands UK services by adding operations from regional airports such as Exeter and Southend for spring 2019.