PASSENGERS on budget airlines face yet more add-on charges, after a carrier introduced fees for any hand luggage bigger than a laptop case.
• Wizz Air have introduced £9 fee for large hand-luggage
• Add-on charges for passengers with budget airlines such as Ryanair, including proposed charges for using on-flight toilets, have caused controversy
Wizz Air, whose routes include services from Prestwick to the Polish cities of Gdansk and Warsaw, has set a £9 fee for larger walk-on baggage, which the Hungarian airline claimed would reduce overcrowding and delays.
It said a trial on its Luton-Katowice route had cut the number of larger bags being carried on to aircraft by 20 per cent.
The move follows the introduction by no-frills airlines of charges for everything from priority boarding and reserved seats to food. Ryanair even plans to charge passengers for using aircraft toilets, to reduce demand so it can replace some of them with seats to raise revenue.
Flybe became the first airline in the UK to charge passengers to check in luggage seven years ago, and it was swiftly followed by other carriers.
Edinburgh-based travel website Skyscanner said that pattern could be repeated for hand luggage.
It said: “More airlines may consider these additional charges in the future.”
Spokesman Sam Poullain added: “Travellers are prepared to turn their backs on airlines who want to charge for luggage carried on board with them.
“Nine out of ten say the charges are unfair and would drive them to use another airline.
“It will be interesting to see how other budget airlines react to this move and whether they introduce similar charges.
“We’d recommend that passengers double-check the total cost of their flight, including extras such as hand baggage and seat selection, before making their final choice.”
Aviation consultant Laurie Price agreed. He said: “This will just add further complexity and confusion for travellers, already confused by a myriad of additions to the attention-grabbing headline fare by some of the low-cost carriers.
“It could be playing into the hands of those legacy airlines who offer passengers all-inclusive ‘what you see and buy is what you get’ fares and service.
“The lessons from adverse passenger reaction to low-cost carriers’ imposition of one-bag rules, credit-card surcharges and associated add-ons may not have been learned.
“It may also beg the question: when do airlines cease to be low- cost, low-fare?”
The latest charge applies to hand luggage larger than 42x32x25cm, up to a maximum of 56x45x25cm. Smaller bags, and goods bought after going through airport security, such as duty-free, will continue to be carried at no charge.
The fee was introduced for all new bookings from Thursday, and applies to flights from 24 October. Fares will be cut by £4.50 as a result. The airline said the move aimed “to eliminate the excessive number of bags carried on board, overcrowding aircraft cabins”, which it said caused delays.
Wizz Air chief financial officer Michael Powell said: “We are announcing our new and innovative cabin baggage policy after a successful trial confirmed that more on-board space and cost savings are achieved when passengers bring less large bags into the cabin.
“With the vast majority of passengers willing to bring smaller bags on board, we are now the first European carrier to eliminate a chronic problem in the airline industry faced by all airlines but even more important for consumers.
“We are again pioneering in delivering lower fares by passing on the cost savings in the form of discounted fares for all passengers. We leave it for high-fare airlines to tackle their costs by raising fares and levying unavoidable fuel surcharges while our passengers will continue to pay only for the services they use.
“Today we encourage our passengers to travel smart and bring only a small bag on board.
“To pass on the expected cost savings, we are immediately discounting by £4.50 all fares available for booking under the new cabin bag policy.”
EasyJet, Scotland’s biggest airline, which permits one cabin bag of up to 56x45x25cm, with no weight limit, said it had no plans to introduce charges.
Flybe also insisted it had no plans to charge. A spokeswoman said its “generous” hand-baggage limit had been increased by 20 per cent in July to 55x40x23cm, although this is still smaller than EasyJet’s allowance.
Ryanair, which permits passengers one 10kg bag measuring up to 55x40x20cm, said it “never commented on rumour or speculation”.