Ryanair is set to further revolutionise low-cost flying within Europe from March 16.
This is when the Irish airline will copy rival budget carrier Flybe and start charging network-wide for checked baggage. But unlike Flybe, passengers taking Ryanair are also being offered the time-saving convenience of online check-in.
It means that passengers carrying up to 10 kgs of hand luggage (Ryanair states that 25% of its passengers fall into this category) can check-in using ryanair.com and bypass the queues at the check-in counters. At the same time these travellers will also be entitled to priority boarding which, in theory, means they'll get to choose the better seats on the plane.
Passengers taking checked baggage (the allowance is boosted from 15 kgs to 20 kgs from March 16) will check-in as normal. But for bookings made after March 16, they'll pay £2.50 per piece when pre-booked or £5 if presented unbooked at the airport.
Ryanair reckons that some 40% to 50% of passengers will quickly switch to online check-in which it believes will save it Euros 30 million in ground handling costs. It is ploughing back this saving by trimming a few pounds from ticket prices.
Despite its no-frills reputation a lot of business people use Ryanair. This is partly because of its prices but also because Ryanair serves a number of airports and destinations which cannot be reached by using other airlines.
Regular customers who take hand baggage will welcome these developments. At busy times they can end up standing in a long queue just to collect a boarding pass. This will be a thing of the past from March 16.
For more information go to www.ryanair.com
Report by Alex McWhirter