Ryanair considers tightening baggage limits

As low fares hurt the airline's quarterly profits...

Ryanair considers tightening baggage limits

Picture by Donna McWilliam AP/Press Association Images

Ryanair's chief marketing officer has blamed longer turnaround times on customers taking too much luggage onboard and has warned that its "very generous" baggage allowance may have to be changed if travellers don't follow the rules more strictly.

Kenny Jacobs told Breakfast Business that a 25-minute turnaround allows the airline to maintain its low fares and said:

"One thing we've noticed is customers bringing more than we would like them to onboard so we are advising customers please do follow the rules.

"We have a very generous baggage policy where you can bring a wheelie bag and you can bring a small carry-on bag. When people try to bring too much – they bring two bags or they bring too much – it can slow the loading process...

"We don't want to make a change but we will have to make a change to this policy if we can't get customers to follow the rules...

"So we're currently reviewing it. We have seen it have an impact on turnaround times in the past three months.

"We're asking customers to please look at the information on the website... Don't bring bags that are too big and you cannot bring two bags. And if everyone follows that then we'll be able to maintain policy.

"We've got 95% load factor in this quarter – that's over 180 people on every single flight – so everybody can't bring what they want onboard. That's not reasonable. So we're calling on customers to work with us."

Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary and chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs (left). Picture by Nick Ansell PA Wire/PA Images

Jacobs was speaking as Ryanair released announced that its net profits fell by almost 8% in its third quarter, as overcapacity continues to depress ticket prices in Europe.

The airline made a net profit of €94.7 million, down from €102.7m for the same period a year previous.

Sales of €1.35 billion made for a 1% year-on-year improvement but fell short of expectations.

As well as the faster-than-expected fall in fares – which are down 17% to an average of €33 per passenger – the weakened sterling since the UK's decision to leave the EU was cited as one of the reasons for the poor financial showing.

While Ryanair carried 16% more passengers in the quarter, revenues only rose by 1% to €1.34 billion. Shares fell by almost 3%. Ryanair now carries 29 million people annually, making it Europe's largest airline in terms of passenger numbers.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said in a statement:

"We continue to grow capacity, new routes and bases, at a time when other EU airlines are also adding capacity, and accordingly the price environment remains weak.

"We expect the uncertainty post Brexit, weaker sterling and the switch of charter capacity from Turkey, Egypt and North Africa into Spain and Portugal will continue to put downward pressure on pricing for the remainder of this year.

"Our prices are falling faster than we initially planned."

A modest increase in profits is expected to be recorded when the financial year comes to an end with the company maintaining its guidance for the full year, though this "heavily depends on the absence of any unforeseen security events". 

Jacobs focused on the positives, calling it a "very strong quarter" in terms of carrying more customers and reducing the prices they have to pay. He said Ryanair would add to capacity with 50 new aircraft this year and continue to do so going forward:

"2017 is the first year that over 50% of the flights within Europe will be on a low-cost airline and one in three of those will be on a Ryanair aircraft. Low-cost is now dominating in Europe so it's the right time to be adding capacity. We continue to see the legacy carriers shrink capacity across Europe."