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Ryanair Cabin Baggage Rules

The Hand-Luggage Dilemma at Ryanair - Flying to Ireland on a Budget


Ryanair Boeing 737

Ryanair Boeing 737

© 2005 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

Ryanair's cabin baggage or hand luggage allowance has almost constantly come under fire from disgruntled passengers. Long used to shlepp two heavy bags and a kitchen sink onto the plane, these passengers where taken aback by Ryanair's strict condition that only one piece of cabin luggage with a maximum weight of ten kilograms would be allowed on board.

Heavier luggage or items exceeding the maximum dimensions of 55 by 40 by 20 centimetres will have to be checked in ... and paid for.

On the bright side - Ryanair has expanded the allowance to include an additional small bag up to 35 by 20 by 20 centimetres. A handbag, essentially, maybe a really small laptop bag.

How Strict Does Ryanair Count?

One big item means less than two items, apparently to the immense surprise of many a traveller. Why this should be the case is beyond me - Ryanair will remind you about a dozen times about the "one big bag" rule before you even reach the departure gate.

Strangely enough there seems to be an awful lot of leeway in the rule. Depending on where the flight actually is boarding, you might see a uniform bunch of compliant passengers. Or a hotch-potch of people carrying any number of items.

How Strict Does Ryanair Weigh?

Strict - you have ten kilograms or less or you are not proceeding. Note that that means not "ten kilograms plus the bag" ... just in case you weigh before packing.

But, and this is a huge BUT at the moment, there seems to be a hopeless non-standardization here. On recent Ryanair flights, carry-on luggage was not weighed at all at Dublin Airport, while the return flight from Frankfurt-Hahn had electronic scales and a security person prepared to stop overweight bags.

Then again it could be observed that this security person was happy to let passengers "pool" their allowance, counting a 13 kilo and a 6 kilo bag as two "legal" bags. Which seems to be against Ryanair's official policy.

Flying out from Frankfurt-Hahn only six weeks later added to the confusion - no weighing of hand luggage at all, no enforcement of the number of items policy and ground staff happy to inform you that "stuff bought in the Duty Free does not count at all". Which should not be taken as gospel.

How Accurate Does Ryanair Weigh?

Interesting and valid question - the scales used at Frankfurt-Hahn were basic electronic scales which may or may not have been "geeicht" (the official German seal of approval). My luggage weighed around a kilo more than on my father's utility scales. Then again those may be wildly inaccurate as well. But they gave the same reading as scales at Dublin Airport ... I checked after arrival.

Another interesting point: as cabin luggage was weighed before you could hit the duty-free shop, my 9.6 kilogram bag became a 12.something bag before I boarded the plane. Cheers!

How Best to Approach the Problem of Ryanair's Hand-Luggage Rules?

Cautiously - after all you have accepted those rules when you booked your flight. So any infringement is your problem and your problem alone. Don't blame Ryanair if you run into problems. It is not rocket science to approach the departure gate with only one piece of cabin luggage with a maximum weight of ten kilograms.

As you can see, you may get away with the odd bending of rules to your own advantage. Just don't bet on it.

The one disputable point may be the accuracy of the scales used - insist upon a second opinion from different scales if you are sure to be under the limit. You will get this automatically when you are sent to check in the bag ...

How to Avoid Hassle From Ryanair Personnel in Three Easy Steps

  • A. Buy a piece of luggage that definitely does not exceed the maximum dimensions and has a low weight. Note that you'll have to check the measurements yourself, my own bag was given lower dimensions in the manufacturer's literature (they apparently "forgot" to figure in the handles and wheels).
  • B. Pack lightly and allow some room for error in your own weighing.
  • C. Stick to the rules, don't take a gamble - it'll all end in tears.

How to Beat the System

When I travel, I tend to wear a jacket with many and deep pockets. The sort of jacket a special ops operative would be proud of. When I weighed it before my last flight it packed a hefty punch at just above nine kilograms, loaded with camera, PDA, cellphone, spare batteries, Colin Wilson's "The Occult" and assorted other travel necessities for the modern digital traveller.

Michael O’Leary wouldn’t do anything less, I suppose ...

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