A decade ago Flybe started a quiet airline revolution when they started charging for hold baggage. Nowadays, £2 to put a suitcase in to the hold sounds like a bargain, but this small charge by one airline in 2004 has caused a tidal wave of change in passenger behavior.
As more airlines caught the check-in charge bug, prices to put your luggage in the hold soared; a £2.50 per bag charge to store your suitcase on a Ryanair flight in 2006 can be as much as £30 in 2016. Predictably, passengers have responded by packing less and making the most of their free hand luggage allowance to such an extent that travelling hand luggage only is now largely the norm. Fair enough, you might think, until 180 people try to fit their cabin bags in to overhead lockers that are never going to take them…
As such, Ryanair now only guarantees that the first 90 cabin bags will make it in to the cabin, with the rest being tagged at the boarding gate and transferred to the aircraft hold. Whilst this isn’t earth shattering, it is an annoyance for people who would have liked to keep their luggage with them on the flight, or those who wish to avoid a lengthy wait for hold luggage at their destination.
So how can you avoid having your cabin luggage put in the hold? We can’t guarantee these tips will work every time, but they should work most of the time!
First things first – know your allowance
It might sound obvious, but if your bags are too big you stand less chance of keeping them with you, whether you are in the first 90 passengers or not.
Ryanair offers a pretty generous cabin baggage policy with a main bag sized 55x40x20cm and a smaller under seat bag measuring 35x20x20cm able to be taken on board too. Stay within these limits and the first part of the battle is won. Stray out of them and you may find yourself not just having to put your bag in the hold, but also paying £50 for the privilege, as the bag would be considered oversized.
The ‘official’ solution
As you’d imagine with Ryanair, ensuring you are amongst the first 90 people on to the plane is going to cost you. The boarding process is split into three waves; Priority Boarding (including Business Plus), Rows 22-33, and then rows 1-22 with signage to direct the appropriate passengers to each.
As you’d expect, Priority Boarding passengers are first to be called. Available from £5 per person per flight, Ryanair states that people who have purchased Priority Boarding will not be asked to place their cabin bag in to the aircraft hold “unless necessary due to operational reasons”. This method, therefore, offers the most peace of mind for people who simply must stay with their bag – if they are happy to pay a premium of £5 to do so.
Passengers allocated seats in rows 22-33, either randomly or via reserving seats for £8 at online check-in (popular with families wanting to stay together), will be boarded next and this will realistically use up any of the remaining 90 large cabin bag spaces.
This means that the third wave of passengers in the first 22 rows will most likely have to store their larger cabin bag in the hold. As you’d expect, Ryanair know that most people value keeping their hand luggage bag nearby, which is why they have staggered their 90 bag allowance towards those prepared to pay these additional fees for Priority Boarding, Business Plus or Reserved seats. It is worth remembering that wherever you are in the queuing process, and whether or not your large cabin bag gets put in the hold, you will be able to keep hold of your 35x20x20cm small bag – a few great examples of which are the Oxford Stowaway and Arezzo Stowaway bags.
So that’s the official solution. Not ground-breaking, but £5 may be worth it for peace of mind if you are perhaps transporting something fragile, expensive or if you just need to make a quick escape at your destination.
There is another way though…
The unofficial solution – embrace the backpack!
If you’ve witnessed Ryanair’s ground staff wandering along boarding queue at the gate, you’ll know that they primarily target trollies to place in the hold. Often passengers wearing backpacks are ignored, with staff focusing on the heavier, bulkier trolley bags that are also more likely to stand up well to the rigors of being in an aircraft hold.
Obviously, turning up with a 70 litre backpackers’ rucksack won’t go unnoticed, but stick to cabin sized backpacks and you’ll stand a much better chance of passing through without your bag being tagged for the hold. In the unlikely event that you are, you should be able to reasonably argue that, being a softsided backpack, it is best staying with you in the cabin.
There are several other advantages to a backpack; your hands are left free to hold tickets, phones or children(!) and they are also much lighter than trollies – ideal if your airline has a strict carry on weight limit. The soft sides of many cabin backpacks mean that, whilst they offer less protection than most trolley bags, they are more versatile in being able to squeeze in to a variety of airline luggage gauges if carefully packed – something you can’t say about trolley bags and with their numerous ‘hard points’.
The lack of wheels, frame and telescopic handles also mean that there is more usable space in a backpack compared to a traditional trolley bag.
With this in mind, check out these Cabin backpacks, all of which are 55x40x20cm – the perfect size for Ryanair’s large hand luggage allowance.
The Malaga is a sensible and stylish choice in the cabin backpack field. A large 44 litre capacity and a wealth of pockets make this a practical companion on flights. The 600D herringbone effect polyester material is both lightweight and includes a layer of padding inside to offer a degree of protection to the bag contents. If you prefer to carry it as a holdall, the Malaga can be held via the side handle and the backpack straps zipped away into the rear pocket of the Malaga for added convenience.
The original and in many ways still the best lightweight cabin bag has loads to offer in what is approaching its tenth year on sale. If there’s a reason the Metz is so popular it is possibly the simple no-nonsense formula of prioritizing luggage space. If maximum capacity is at the top of your priority list the Metz is hard to beat, with a huge main compartment containing 44 litres of highly usable space. A large front pocket contains all the compartments and cubby-holes to keep everything organized whilst side compression straps ensure the Metz can be scaled down to fit into airline luggage sizers.
What’s more the Metz is available in a variety of colours and prints to match your personality and style. Who could ask for more?
The Nettuno consists of two bags – a large 55x40x20cm cabin bag and a smaller 33x20x8cm shoulder bag that can be worn individually or strapped on to the back of the main bag for easy carrying. As such they make an ideal combination for Ryanair’s bag allowance of one larger 55x40x20cm bag and a smaller bag less than 35x20x20cm.
Made from a hardwearing blue denim material, the large Nettuno bag features split interior compartments and a large front organizational pocket. The smaller bag features a front pocket that’s ideal for travel documents and a larger rear pocket perfect for snacks, phones or a small tablet computer.
The Riga Camo is a good buy if you are looking for a cabin bag that is a little different. Great for those who regularly commute by air, the Riga can fit a 15 ½ inch laptop in it’s padded technology pocket, whilst smaller tablets or reading materials can be packed into the large front compartment.
Main compartment space is also excellent, with extra space available via an expandable section – just make sure you use your compression straps to ensure the Riga fits in to the airline luggage sizer.
The Riga also features packaway backpack straps, should you wish to carry it as a holdall via the side handle.
The Palermo is a practical cabin backpack which includes a removable toiletries bag. This toiletries bag clips to the top inside panel of the Palermo to make it easy to remove for inspection at airport security. With dimensions of 55x40x20cm the Palermo is a perfect fit for Ryanair and also offers a commodious 44 litres of interior space.
NB – Many airports are now giving out their own free clear plastic bags for use whilst navigating airport security. Others are happy to accept the traditional version available with the Palermo. This varies from airport to airport. Our advice would be to take a free clear plastic if it is offered to you and transfer the contents of your toiletries bag over to the new clear bag whilst passing through security then transfer them back – After all, the Palermo’s toiletries bag still makes for a handy accessory during the rest of your trip!
So there you have it, the official way and the not-so-official way to avoid putting your cabin luggage in the hold. If you enjoyed this blog post please follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to hear about our latest posts, products and travel hacks!