We were only thinking the other day that we hadn’t heard an outrageous outburst from Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary for a few weeks, and sure enough, the fiery Irish CEO is back with a bang. His latest money-saving wheeze is to try and do away with check-in baggage – instead we’ll have to carry all our bags across the tarmac and drop our cases off by the hold. O’Leary says this will put an end to the days of waiting around carousels and losing your bags – and more importantly, he also thinks it will save him a fortune in baggage handlers…
Ryanair, which is already the biggest short-haul operator in Europe by passenger numbers, seems determined to cut down its airport costs to the absolute bare minimum – the idea being that it will then pass this on to us in the form of lower fares. As well as closing down airport check-in desks (forcing passengers to check in online), he’s already tried to dissuade people from checking in cases, by charging for the privilege. Now he wants to go even further: initially by ramping up the charges even higher, and as of next spring, banning it altogether. Instead, passengers will take their bags through security (as many as the airport allows), and then carry them out to the plane. Where, presumably, we’ll still be charged for actually loading them on.
O’Leary was quick to highlight the benefits to passengers today – and there’s something to be said for the idea of avoiding check-in queues, wrangles with airport staff over lost luggage and the post-flight battle for a good spec on the carousel. But he was also happy to admit that his primary motive was cost-cutting: he reckons this move will allow him to use just one baggage handler per plane instead of five (we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up getting the pilot to do it).
However, the flipside is that it will massively increase the burden on airport security. O’Leary will presumably argue that’s a problem for operators like BAA et al, not him. But that's hardly the point. Anyone who's been through Stansted in July and August will know that security is pandemonium already - a measure like this could lead to queues of Soviet Russia-esque proportions. It would take hours and hours to get through, and quite how people who have to juggle children/ elderly relatives as well as a truckload of suitcases are expected to manage it, we have no idea.
Clearly the Ryanair boss thinks we’re prepared to put up with almost anything in the name of lower fares, and to some extent he’s right: apparently only 30% of passengers now check bags in, compared to 80% two years ago (perhaps because the thought of lining Ryanair’s pockets further is enough to persuade anyone to pack light). But at some point there has to be a chance of backlash - not that he seems too worried. ‘This is so much fun,’ he told the Telegraph today. 'I love recessions. You get the chance to kick the **** out of everybody.’ Delightful.
In today's bulletin:
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Regulators bicker and bankers get back to business as usual
Carry your own bags, says Ryanair
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