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Italy fights Ryanair over new cabin bag charges

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Italy fights Ryanair over new cabin bag charges
Passengers waiting to board a Ryanair flight. Photo: pio3/depositphotos
08:02 CET+01:00
Italy's Antitrust regulators have blocked the introduction of Ryanair's new carry-on bag policy, saying it ‘misleads' consumers.

A new baggage policy change by low-cost airlines Ryaniar and Wizzair allows passengers to take only a small ‘personal bag' that could fit underneath the seat in front, such as a handbag or laptop case.

Since the last rule change in January, Ryanair customers have had to pay extra for priority boarding in order to take two carry-on bags onto Ryanair flights - a handbag and a small carry-on case. Customers without ‘priority' would have their larger cabin bag or trolley case stowed in the hold free of charge once they reached their gate.

Under the latest change, ‘priority' passengers can continue to take two cabin bags onto the aircraft. But 'non-priority' passengers (ie: those who do not pay a €6-€8 priority boarding fee) can only take one small bag onto the plane.

Cabin bags of up to 10kg must now be checked in before security for a €10 fee – something Ryanair says will be ‘beneficial' to passengers.

When announcing the policy change in August, Ryanair said it aimed to reduce boarding delays, caused by being forced to place some suitcases in the hold when there was not enough space in the overhead bins.

Stacked trolley cases. Photo: areadeposit/depositphotos.

When the latest policy was announced, angry consumer associations complained the Antitrust Authority, saying no one could realistically travel with just a small handbag.

"Asking more for an essential element of the air transport contract, carry-on baggage, is a fallacious representation of the ticket's true price and harms cost comparison among carriers, which misleads consumers," the Antitrust Authority said in a statement.

But the watchdog added it had decided on "as a conservation measure, the suspension of the new carry-on policies by low-cost carriers Ryanair and Wizz Air".

The new baggage policy was supposed to take effect on November 1.

Ryanair said on Thursday it would fight the order.

"We will immediately appeal this decision," a Ryanair spokesperson told AFP. "There is no basis for a competition authority to issue a decision that relates to air safety or punctuality."

"This policy is transparent and beneficial to consumers."

Ryanair announced its decision on August 24, saying it sought to reduce boarding delays, many of which it said were caused by its previous baggage policy leading to a pile-up of bags at the boarding gate.

The move could allow carriers to rotate aircraft more often or raise additional revenue, or save on fuel costs, all of which are significant factors in a low-cost airline's business model.

Meanwhile, pressure is increasing more broadly on Ryanair to obey national laws across Europe. Labour ministers from several EU countries, including Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, warned the low-cost airline in a letter sent Wednesday that it needs to follow local labour laws, and to recognise and reach agreements with trade unions.

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