Europe News

Checking in Bags? Carry Them to the Hold

Carry your own luggage to the plane, slide one pound ($1.65) into a slot to use the toilet while airborne, pay more charges for fuel, have staff working for free for one month.


These are just some of the measures European airlines think of introducing to survive one of the worst times in the industry's history.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair this week revealed plans to scrap luggage check-in desks, saying passengers will have to take their own bags through security, departure lounges and across the runway to their plane, according to various media reports.

Passengers will be able to carry one piece of hand luggage on board, but leave any other bags beside the aircraft to be loaded into the hold and picked up the same way on arrival.

The advantage for the passengers would be that there will be no more waiting at luggage carousels or lost bags, Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said in an interview with the Financial Times.

"Sometime in the spring we will get to 100 percent carry-on bags. You can bring unlimited bags, as long as you can get them through security," O'Leary, who earlier this year joked that his airline will introduce a one pound tax for using the toilet, said.

Part of that plan was a cut in the number of toilets on planes to one from three, to free up room for six extra passenger seats. But the latest measure does not seem to be a joke.

From the beginning of October, the Irish airline will make radical changes to airport check-in procedures, making online check-ins compulsory and eliminating check-in counters, in an effort to cut costs, the FT reported.

O’Leary has already changed the travel habits of many passengers by introducing ever higher baggage charges to persuade passengers to travel only with ­carry-on baggage. Only 30 percent of Ryanair passengers now check in baggage for the hold, compared with 80 percent two years ago, the newspaper said.

According to a daily Scottish publication, Ryanair believe the move to make passengers carry their own luggage to the plane could save them 26 million pounds every year. A similar system is already being used by some U.S. airlines on domestic short-hop flights.

The changes have to be approved by the airport operators and regulatory groups before Ryanair can go ahead with its proposals.

Not only the budget airlines think up creative ways to save money. The UK's troubled flagship British Airways urged its 40,000 employees to take voluntary job and pay cuts.

A week back, BA CEO Willie Walsh invited employees to work for a month without pay, following the example set by himself and CFO Keith Williams.

And Lufthansa said Wednesday it would be raising its fuel surcharge for domestic and European flights as part of its effort to cut back on costs.

The German airline has already cut the number of seats it offers at its passenger airlines by 2.6 percent to cope with weak bookings and has retired 23 short- and long-haul airplanes this year.

The company last week warned it would not be able to post an operating profit as planned this year without further cost cuts given difficult markets, Reuters reported..

Last month BA reported a record loss of 220 million pounds ($306 million), including restructuring costs of £78 million and cancelled its dividend, saying that because of the tough market conditions it is impossible to give any guidance for the current period.

Ryanair posted a 78 percent fall in full-year adjusted earnings to 105 million euros ($149 million) but said it planned to at least double its profit in 2009/10.