Last week it was reported that approximately 100 passengers were denied travel on a Ryanair flight from Lanzarote to Belgium. The local paper, La Provincia, said the disruption happened when the airline tried to charge one passenger extra for carry-on baggage and his friends – a group of students – already on board the plane, “mutinied.”
After police intervention, all 168 passengers were ordered off the plane and only 64 were allowed to re-board the flight. The rest had to find other carriers and some spent the night on Lanzarote.
Ryanair confirmed the passengers “became disruptive and refused to comply with crew instructions” after a requirement to pay a gate bag fee “for outsized luggage.”
While not wishing to condone irrational, hotheaded and inebriated behaviour, I have some sympathy with those that feel Ryanair reaps what it sows. First, let’s not forget that what is “outsize” for Ryanair is slightly smaller than “outsize” for most other frill-free airlines. Compare 55 x 40 x 20cms, 10kg weight at Ryanair, with 56 x 45 x 25cms, no weight limit (if you can carry it) at easyJet, 56 x 45 x 25cm, 10kg weight on Jet2, 55 x 40 x 20cms, 10kg weight, PLUS reading matter etc on WizzAir, and 55 x 40 x 22cms, 10kg weight on Norwegian. Only bmibaby appears to be as stingy as Ryanair, but then it is considerably more generous with checked baggage allowances. Flybe allows less, but then is flying significantly smaller planes.
Secondly, it would appear that Ryanair was charging the extra fee, not at check-in, but at the gate. this is a comparatively new development and frankly I’m surprised that airlines are allowed to do it. Gate formalities are all about proving you are the same person as the name on your ticket, and even in this blasé day and age, there is still a frisson of increased tension when after god knows how long waiting you are finally going to get on your plane. The risk of last-minute charges runs contrary to expectations.
But it gets worse. To be held up by others or being stopped yourself does not a relaxed traveller make – you might suppose that an airline wouldn’t think it was worth the confrontation and ill-feeling. But not Ryanair – because their staff get a slice of the revenue they take!
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary was asked in a recent Irish Times article whether Ryanair “incentivises” its ground staff to hit people with excess baggage charges? “No,” he said, before pausing. “They do get a share of revenues to make sure they implement our policies,” he said, adding this could not be considered an incentive.