Ryanair Wants To Let People Bring Unlimited Carry On Bags

Airport Experience, Baggage, Ryanair

It’s incredible to think about how the title of a post or article really sets the tone for a story. For example, if you saw the recent Dow Jones article entitled “Ryanair To Ban Check-In Baggage And Airport Check-In,” you might be surprised to know that it’s referencing the exact same piece of news that I’m discussing here today. The Load Your Own Bags on Ryanaironly difference? I see some good in this idea while Dow Jones is clearly going for the sensational, eye-catching headline.

Now before we get into this, I should start by saying that I doubt it’ll actually happen. Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary loves to spout off about his dreams about the future of Ryanair, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. We’re still waiting to see those pay lavs, right? But I think O’Leary’s head is in the right place here.

Yes, it’s true that O’Leary wants to ban checked baggage. Sounds like a bad plan if you like to bring a lot of stuff, but this wouldn’t really prevent you from doing that. Because while he wants to ditch checked baggage, he’d be happy to let you carry on as much as you can drag to the plane. Are you envisioning overhead bins and aisle packed to the gills with bags? Well if they run out of room, they’ll just start putting the bags in the belly, like they do today on regional jets that can’t handle those rollerboards.

If you think about this from a cost savings perspective, it makes sense. You really don’t need ticket counters or any place to for customers to interact with you outside security in this scheme. You also don’t need the complicated luggage transport systems and baggage carts that currently fill the underbelly of every airport. You then need fewer people working on the ramp as well, because you’re making the passengers do the work instead.

For passengers, they’ll have to drag their own luggage all the way to the plane, and I’m pretty sure this will make security lines even more miserable, but if you’re paying a penny for a flight, then you’ll probably just deal with it. And just imagine – no more checked bag fees! Not happy about schlepping all those bags through the airport? I’m sure Ryanair will offer you a pushcart . . . for a fee.

Despite all the decent possibilities of a system like this, I still don’t think it will happen. Why? The government. Any time a plan touches the security process, the government gets involved, and I’m sure they won’t like this idea at all. Oh, and all those carry-on restrictions mean that a lot of passengers who travel with things like guns and knives, not to mention liquids in large containers, will have to fly someone else.

Then there’s the issue of weight and balance in the belly. With carry-on bags, you won’t know how much luggage you’ll have and how it should be spaced out in the aircraft until people board. That will likely delay aircraft turn times, and it will make for a mess of a situation right before departure.

So I don’t think we’ll see this plan come to fruition, but there certainly are some merits to it. At the very least, it’s a creative way to reduce costs, and this industry can certainly use more creativity.

[Original image from wicho via Flickr]

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22 comments on “Ryanair Wants To Let People Bring Unlimited Carry On Bags

  1. WRT weight and balance, the regional airline that I worked for at the beginning of the decade used an average weight and balance program to establish baggage weights. Baggage may have been weighed at check-in, but that information was never communicated to us.

    The amusing thing with that program is that the same piece of baggage could weigh nothing (carry-on in the cabin), 10 lbs (carry-on stowed in the aft cargo compartment… sorry, no belly on a CRJ or turboprop that we used) or 25 lbs (checked baggage.)

  2. Over head bins are already stuffed full so O’Leary knows it just means getting people to carry the bags to the plane for the cargo hold and not him having to pay for people and transports to do it. And it will be no good to have all those people at the end of a flight standing around the tarmac waiting to get their cargo bags.

    But you can count on the fact if the man does one day only charge a penny for a ticket that the taxes will still be over a hundred dollars and you won’t be permitted to board the plane without a climbing the steps fee, entering the airplane fee, exiting the airplane fee, starting the engines fee, looking out the window fee (if there was windows), a seatbelt fee (unless you bring your own), a fly above bad weather fee, and who knows what other fees.

  3. I’ll avoid the histrionics and high-horse approach and simply ask a few questions:

    1) Do customers drag large dogs and kennels through security, too?
    2) Do customers ride bikes through security as well?
    3) One of your readers is an avid diver. Will his gear make it thru TSA?
    4) How will Yo-Yo Ma and other cellists handle their instruments?
    5) What about the immigrant trade with taped boxes and 100lb bags?

    All of this can easily be poo-poohed and dismissed by simply saying Ryanair’s customer base does not typically reflect many of these concerns. Not much of a ski market between Ireland and the UK, either. The rebuttal, however, is the enforcement of fair trade and public access to transport if these issues are not accommodated by the service provider.

    In short, O’Leary’s head is in the right place only in that such ridiculous pronouncements garner his airline headlines and free publicity. Some customers do over pack, true, but odd-sized luggage seems completely left out of this dreadful idea and leaves the guy who’s only going for a weekend on the links at the mercy of TSA getting his clubs and titanium driver past security and holding up the line in the process.

    I agree with Cranky in one sense only – it won’t happen.

  4. Eh, I think this is a great idea, and it’ll probably happen. I figure they’ll take care of the weight and balance issues and it’ll happen.

    RyanAir is in the game for one thing: really cheap transportation. If they can make it cheaper, their customers will go for it.

    I this setup they’re reduced to only needing people at the gate, since there is no check in at the airport.

    You won’t get me flying RyanAir, but for those that accept its value preposition, its a good deal.

  5. I’m puzzled as to why people think TSA will have anything to do with Ryanair. As far as I was aware, for flights that are within Europe, the TSA has no involvement whatsoever….

  6. I have to agree that there are definitely a lot of difficulties in implementing this, especially when you consider that security agencies aren’t going to like Ryanair complicating the security lines at airports with passengers carrying more and more carry-ons. I agree with the Traveling Optimist that Ryanair will effectively alienate passengers who must carry checked bags for one reason or another. Even if a small percentage of its passengers are using checked bags today, that’s still hundreds of thousands of people that may be forced to choose another airline.
    Also,I can see Ryanair backing off the free unlimited carry-ons in the future and charging for them somehow.

  7. Dan – I used ‘belly’ as a generic term for ‘anywhere passengers can’t get it,’ but yes, no belly on some of those little guys. Thanks for explaining how your airline handled weight and balance.

    Optimist – I have no doubt that Ryanair has looked at how many pieces of oversized bags it carries and come to the conclusion that it’ll be better for the bottom line if they go without. Nothing wrong with restricting those things, if they haven’t done so on some items already. People can always ship their things ahead if necessary.

    David – I never said the TSA will have anything to do with this, but certainly their equivalent organizations in Europe will. Optimist did mention TSA, and of course, they won’t be involved.

  8. Yes I mentioned TSA but not intentionally in context specifically with Ryanair. More of as a) a generic reference to any airport security force and b) as a precursor to TSA’s objections to anything similar being implemented here in the US.

    Having experienced security at FRA and LHR both airports are near Israeli in their vigilance to combat terrorism. Some lone pitiful excuse for an airline coming along and saying take your clubs, skis, hunting rifles, large dogs and oxygen tanks thru security because we’re too cheap to do it ourselves? Please. It’s flat out laughable.

    American flyers can’t hardly get a tube of toothpaste thru security these days so I really want to see the fight they’ll have in Europe to get rifles and bicycles thru the line.

    Particularly rifles, Cranky. I honestly can’t remember all of the stipulations but it begs the question if private weapons can be shipped ahead or if they must travel with the customer as checked baggage.

    Ryanair may be completely entitled to restrict the type of luggage accepted to support this scheme but making sure that is clearly understood at the time of booking will surely be one heck of a challenge.

  9. Are Ryanair above wing staff organized? In addition to an interesting idea, could be posturing for labor negotiations. Not to say O’Leary would would hesitate to axe the entire front of house if able.

  10. Optimist – in much of Europe, carrying any gun or other kind of firearm is either banned or very much a minority thing. Europe doesn’t really give its citizens the right to bear arms in the way that the USA does. Ryanair doesn’t permit the carriage of guns or ammunition even as checked in baggage.

    Nimitz – Ryanair pilots are not currently unionised. There is a campaign by one of the main UK pilot unions to compel the airline to recognise them, but Ryanair are firing pilots who are encouraging staff to sign up to the union (the reason given is breach of safety while at work, leaving it to the ex-employee to get their job back through the courts !). Given that many FR pilots are either starting out in their careers (with a lot of debt from training to pay off) and no real shortage of applicants, it seems unlikely that any union would have significant bargaining power for the time being.

  11. David –

    Thanks for the post on the general acceptance/non-acceptance of guns in European society. Having worked in the airline industry I regularly saw hunting rifles come thru the system that required direct surveillance at every point of contact. My statements wondered aloud if recreational hunting existed in Europe anymore and what air travel policies might be out there to support them.

    The comment regarding skis is entirely a practical one in that skis are simply too long to travel thru the typical baggage system that is loaded with L-shaped and U-shaped bends in the belt system. They are nearly always hand-carried from the check-in counter to the bag room where they’re loaded in special carts or on top of the standard bag cart out to the plane.

    The final issue is simply getting all of this excess luggage down the jetbridge from the plane in such a fashion as to be counted, sorted by destination, loaded for weight and balance and completed in a way that enables an on time departure. Anyone who’s traveled has seen this to be a hassle just with strollers and wheelchairs plus a handful of carry-ons after all the bins and closets are full.

    Without completely rethinking baggage handling from start to finish and making the necessary infrastructure adjustments to support it, I say again this entire idea is little more than a ridiculous cry for attention.

  12. I think that there are TSA-like rules overseas. I can vouch for Germany at least. When I traveled to Munich, I had to re-clear security to get to the terminal for my flight from MUC to Stuttgart. They also had the restrictions on liquids too. I think they even had a vending machine for plastic bags for the liquids, unlike the freebies that I’ve seen at DCA. I like banning the checked bags…who needs to wait for mangled bags?!

  13. I think this is an interesting idea that fits Ryanair business model and customer base, and could work out with more thinking.
    For odd-sized luggage or anything that is not allowed through TSA, passengers could always ship them in advance. Or Ryanair could have an agreement with other airlines that serve the same markets for those that realize in the last minute they want/have to check in. Passengers with check-in luggages have to pay extra in either case, with Ryanair or someone else. Ryanair would save money, and the blame of lost/missing luggage.
    If fire arms are banned, I wonder what other contents require passengers travel with their luggage? It’s not uncommon for one to check in luggage for one flight and then stand by for another, same airline or not.
    At the gate, Ryanair would need more time. Maybe boarding 45min before departure instead of 30min? What is the average turn-around time for Ryanair planes? Do their pilots get paid while waiting at that gate? I don’t know much to say about weight balance. And is it possible that there’s more luggage than the cargo hold capacity?
    If they can work out the logistics at the gate, I could see that this idea might drive more local passengers to Ryanair, and even frequent flyers.

  14. As far as guns, liquids, etc. are concerned, since all luggage would now have to taken by the passengers themselves through security, “under Ryanair’s proposed policy, passengers would not be allowed to pack liquids, razors and other items now prohibited in carry-on baggage, despite having the luggage stored in the aircraft’s cargo hold.”. (From a relevant WSJ article).

  15. Not over impressed by this arguement. Hard to believe you do not work for Ryan Air. As a way to illustrate their line of thought [money money money them them them] Not being able to pool your baggage allowance is a cheap trick. If two people travelling together cannot use the same bag then they may incur extra cost because of the weight of two bags not one. Cheap trick! All his ideas are dominated by him making more money at our expense. Pity nice planes.

  16. I have to admit that while this sounds alright in theory, in practice I can imagine it causing absolute chaos. How would they manage the process exactly? I can imagine people crowding onto the plane, frantically cramming their belongings anywhere they will fit and throwing a tantrum whenever a member of staff says they will have to start stowing bags in the normal cargo hold. Then there would be more chaos as the bags were transported out of the plane again and into the cargo hold. While baggage check-in itself is rather time-consuming, I think this would end up being just as bad, if not worse.

  17. Kat – I agree that this would be a nightmare from a procedural standpoint, but hey, if Ryanair could save a couple bucks . . . .

  18. Ryanair is nothing but cheap, let’s do a little maths:

    For a BHX-VIE flight with Lufthansa I pay around GBP120-150 return including everything including a pleasant flight :).

    Ryanair sais: our tickets are only GBP40 return.But (and there’s always a but) :

    airport taxes: add ~40 each way (so we are on 120now).

    web check in (!!!): 5*2=10 (130)
    (note that airport check-in desk will charge you GBP/EUR 40 on top of that if you don’t check in online)
    check in luggage? if so, add 30 for 1piece of max 15kg luggage (that makes it 160)
    you pay extra of course for insurance(epending on destination), priority boarding(GBP5), sms itinerary…

    **Check out
    if that wans’t enough, at the checkout you still get some more, administration fees: GBP/EUR 5/flight/passenger that is an extra tenner for a return flight if you’re travelling alone.

    So to sum up, I’d normally pay 170 for a return. Occasionally they don’t charge airport taxes, so going with a carry-on only can be as cheap as 70. But that’s not usually the case. Other than that their flight attendants are often rude, also they charge you for refreshments on board..
    I’d say it’s ok if you aren’t a frequent traveller, but at the end of the day it makes you think, is it really cheaper?

  19. With the current rules there is usually not enough space for all the carry-on bags & you are being forced to put your bags under the seat in front. This of course leaves you with no leg room. I am trying to find out if that practice contravenes any IATA regulations. On my last Ryanair flight I refused to do so & I hope that more and more people will do the same. I think they must be working up to saying that if no overhead racks are available you will have to put your bags in the hold and be charged £35 for the privilege.

    1. I’m sure it isn’t against IATA regulations as every US Airline I’ve been on has done it, and I’m sure many other airlines do it. As long as the bag is completely under the seat its fine..

  20. Regardless of the security issues, what about the safety issues of having so much luggage in the cabin? Nearly all narrow body aircraft I fly in as a passenger, I see the cabin baggage lockers full or overflowing. Where are they going to fit the larger luggage? We can’t forget the safety aspect that in an emergency evacuation people will be struggling to get out as it is, let alone tripping over luggage.

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