The research, a survey of 7,500 members by Which? – the UK product and service review site – found that 26pc of Ryanair customers are “forced to put hand luggage into the hold” because the airline says it doesn’t have space in the cabin.
The corresponding figure for easyJet was 15pc, while 11pc of Aer Lingus passengers are having to unexpectedly check in cabin bags at the gate.
Being asked to surrender cabin baggage at short notice can lead to problems ranging from damaged bags to placing valuables at risk, Which? says.
“While customers have for years been encouraged to travel with hand luggage only, most plane cabins simply don’t have room for all that hand luggage, despite claims from airlines that passengers will only need to check in bags on exceptionally busy flights,” Which? Travel states in a press release.
“Ryanair’s Boeing 737 planes, for example, have 189 seats, but its overhead bins fit just 90 cabin cases. So even if the plane is just over half full, some passengers could be left with no option but to hand over their cabin bag.”
“Some of these claims from Which? are untrue,” Ryanair responds.
“Ryanair aircraft can accommodate 190 (not 90) standard cabin bags. However, if each passenger brings up to two permitted carry on bags, then some of these 380 bags will be put in the hold free of charge.”
“Secondly,” the airline told Independent.ie Travel, “Ryanair has never claimed that ‘passengers will only need to check in bags on exceptionally busy flights’, since all Ryanair flights are exceptionally busy.”
Ryanair’s free second cabin bag has been one of the most popular changes introduced under its Always Getting Better programme, but the airline has made several threats to review it following its “abuse” by passengers.
“Far too many passengers are turning up with half the contents of their homes,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has said, and the airline has even produced a video (above) illustrating how to “use it, don’t abuse it, or lose it”.
Ryanair currently permits one free cabin bag weighing up to 10kg and measuring a maximum of 55 x 40 x 20cm, along with a second “small” bag – such as a laptop or handbag – designed to fit under seats.
Some passengers have been showing up with two wheelie cases, or oversized second bags like rucksacks, however – leading to boarding delays.
“We don’t want to [ban the bag],” as Robin Kiely, the airline’s Head of Communications has said. “But if you abuse it, you lose it”.