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Testing Ryanair’s new baggage policy

In case you haven’t been on a Ryanair flight since the 15 January or haven’t been catching up with the news, Ryanair introduced a new cabin baggage policy.

Essentially, this super low cost of all low cost airlines are now charging you for wishing to bring your cabin bags into the cabin.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain image

Read: Everything you need to know about Ryanair’s new baggage rules – The Telegraph

It has, as you would imagine, been as controversial as the airline has always been since the beginning of its creation. Criticised by both the media and its passengers, this policy is not at all popular.

Ryanair claims that passengers trying to find room and fit their cabin bags as they board are the cause of many flight delays they have experienced. In the above Telegraph article, the airline’s chief marketing officer is quoted saying that he hopes this new rule will speed up the boarding process and hence we can all take off a little faster.

Is it true? Of course we are all skeptical. It’s not the first time Ryanair has created a fuss – remember when they wanted to introduce standing seats?

In the spirit of NOT wanting to be skeptical, I tried out the new baggage policy on a recent trip to Poland, flying with the airline just 3 days after the new policies came into effect, and here’s a quick summary of my experience.

New Ryanair baggage policy now in force!

What does the new baggage policy mean to passengers?

As part of the rule, passengers are still allowed to bring a cabin luggage that is bigger than a handbag. However, this must be placed in the hold (for free) and not taken onboard, to be collected from the conveyor belt like a checked in luggage at your destination. So make sure you have your bags tagged manually before boarding.

If you don’t want to pay extra, you are still eligible to bring a cabin luggage for free. Just have to check it in the hold free of charge.

The problem is, it is not clear how you were suppose to tag your bags, and we had found the staff at Stansted Airport not proactive enough to flag passengers who may require to have their bags tagged before boarding, resulting in much confusion in the terminal and long queues to get bags tagged just as the boarding commences.

At the same time, many passengers didn’t realise they needed to have their bags manually tagged, so in the end, some rocked up at the bottom of the stairs tagless, and spent more time waiting to have the bags tagged by a staff, or some passengers blatantly brought on their ‘unpaid’ cabin baggage.

Despite the unfairness of those passengers actually having paid to have their baggage onboard, the process wasn’t any more efficient than just allowing passengers to bring their allowed cabin baggage on as normal.

If the policy is introduced for better efficient boarding process, Ryanair is going to have to rethink this.

If you haven’t paid to have a cabin bag in the cabin, you’ll need to check them into the hold! (At least it’s free though)

A study of the effect of baggage policy to punctuality

For the sake of having some data to study, I’ve noted down the time of events as below.

The first flight used for the study was London Stansted to Gdansk on the 18 January 2018, scheduled to depart at 18:45 and arrive at 20:55.

At the gate, we waited and waited, and by 18:47 we were still boarding, and they still had to bring all the collected cabin bags at the foot of the stairs to the belly of the plane.

It’s not like they were late. The aircraft was ready, have been sitting there at the gate. It was the refuelling that took up time, completing only at 18:50, and the flight pushed back from its dock 19:01. The pilot put his foot down and the flight arrived at the destination at 20:49, ahead of schedule by 6 minutes!

However, the measurement for success for this was the idea of being ontime at departure, and the fact that the airline did make up lost time does not prove the new baggage policy helped.

Let’s look at the next flight.

Return flight used for the study was Warsaw Modlin to London Stansted on the 22 January 2018, scheduled to depart at 13:35 and arrive at 15:15.

So. The flight was delayed for around two hours.

Flight was delayed with new schedule for 16:55, call to board was made at 16:36 and yours truly eventually boarded at 16:53 (bum on seat 16:56). Chaos in the terminal meant many people didn’t have their cabin bags manually tagged and having to get tagged while boarding. Loads of confusion about whether a bag can go up or under seat.

After a bit more settling down, the plane was pushed back at 17:14. Waited around for a bit for the de-icing process which took 5 mins before the wheels finally lifted from tarmac at 17:34 Polish time, touching down in Stansted at 18:40 local London time, 3 hours and a bit after the original arrival schedule.

This delay was attributed to a technical issue during crew change at the last airport (Salzburg). So can’t even blame passengers with baggage for this one either.

Despite the new baggage policy to reduce boarding time – boarding still took about the same amount of time and flight delays will still happen due to other factors.

So… this is all a bit of money grabbing exercise?

Very likely, and it’s not the first time Ryanair would be accused of such. Consider their seating charge. If you wanted to select your own seats you have to pay extra. Fine. We do that with other airlines, and happy to just sit wherever the computer puts us. The seating system generally group passengers in the same booking in adjacent seats – and those of us who don’t care if we are at the window or aisle, as long as we are seated together it’s fine, right?

However. Cheekily, if you are travelling with a group (say 2 people), the system is designed to split you at check in if you didn’t pay to select your seats, then prompt you with a message: “Oh no, would you like to sit together? Why not select your own seats?”

On our flight, a small family with a young child was split and understandably, mum and dad would like to sit together to care for the toddler together. So a bit of time was spent negotiating with fellow passengers to swap seats, time that could have been saved if the airline’s system simply just put people in the same booking together.

So the idea of making passengers pay for taking cabin bags into the cabin is, in my opinion, a way Ryanair is hoping to make just that bit more money. While it may reduce clutter during the boarding process, other things like seating can still cause chaos and confusion.

Will this become the norm?

It might seem unreasonable now, but remember we all complained when airlines followed suit and started charging for food onboard and seating selection to combat the competition fuelled by low cost airlines?

Now we sort of just expect it. So it’s not the end of the road, nor should we be too upset with Ryanair starting yet another way for airlines to make money. In the end, low cost airlines has driven prices of air travel down in the past ten years or so, and has given travellers of all budgets a choice of what they are willing to pay for.

In terms of this cabin baggage policy through, hopefully, other airlines will see that this doesn’t help the boarding process and in following suit might cause passengers to choose not to fly them. It all depends on what’s more important to them: money or customer loyalty?

The verdict?

To be honest, for us, the flights cost £35 return per person, less than the average three course dinner in London. At the time of booking the next price range was going to be around £100 for an airline that included a bit more in the airfare.

And it’s just another way to charge passengers. Besides requiring a few process improvements it doesn’t really bother me if I have to check in my cabin luggage into hold as long as that bit is free (because we are entitled to a cabin luggage!).

Just don’t use us passengers as an excuse to charge us eh? Because both flights above were delayed due to non-baggage related issues.

Still not happy with the idea? Just choose not to fly with the airline.

Simple.

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