European Union Ban on Cabin Baggage Fees? What it might mean for you & airlines

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  • The European Union aims to standardise airline carry-on luggage rules, targeting inconsistent practices among airlines.
  • The proposal would remove extra charges for cabin baggage and establish uniform weight and size criteria for all luggage.
  • The potential ban could reduce ancillary revenue for major European budget airlines including Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air.

Lack of Uniformity in Air Travel Rules

Over the last decade, the protocols on what you can and can’t take as hand luggage have diverged between airlines. With the European Union’s ongoing ‘fight’ for passenger rights, those rules might soon undergo a makeover. This is set to kick Ryanair, EasyJet and WizzAir exactly where it hurts: their baggage charges.

Passengers might well remember some European airlines started to charge to check luggage, driving passengers into taking carry-on only. Then charges for carry-on came in, meaning most customers can only fly with a small bag or purse ‘for free’. Even if you are willing to pay, there’s often a variance in the size and weight permitted on board, meaning it’s hard to find consistency across the board.

Since September 2023, the European Union has been deliberating a resolution looking at standardising the regulations about airline carry-on baggage.

Cabin Baggage: Fairness & Clarity

This issue is hitting the news because a statement from the European Parliament on October 4, 2023, voiced the need to revise the existing EU legislation on air passenger rights. Their aim is to eradicate the confusion we all face when comparing airlines or making travel plans, due to the complexity and variance of hand luggage fees.

No more fees & standard sizing/weight?

It looks like the resolution advocates not only for removing additional charges for hand luggage, but also the need to establish universally acceptable dimensions and weight for cabin bags. Right now, a person moving between airlines, especially on connecting flights, comes up against disparate baggage rules, meaning not only convenience but the risk of extra fees at the Gate.

The motion states:

“EU-wide harmonisation of the requirements on the size, weight and type of carry-on and check-in luggage for all airlines operating in the European Union would enhance transparency and consumer protection for all air travellers.”

Furthermore, lawmakers voted to support a resolution that calls on airlines to guarantee that passengers can carry “reasonable” sized cabin baggage free of charge (see Sources 1, 3, 4, 5). They went on to vote in favour of eliminating carry-on fees (Source 6).

The Economics of Budget Airlines

Too many of us assume that the majority of airline profits is anchored in ticket sales. For budget airlines, it’s certain that a big chunk of revenue comes from ancillary services. That includes seat selection, in-flight catering, and baggage preferences. In this last decade, the proportion of income coming from ancillary services has soared. You can see why: we are all lured by rock-bottom base fares, while every other service is marketed as an add-on luxury.

If Europe’s ban on hand luggage fees goes ahead, major European budget airlines, particularly Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air, will see a major dip in ancillary revenue. But as we know, they are all pretty sharp at finding the next revenue source. I wonder where they’ll find it?

Your Take on the Matter

Do you agree with the EU’s stance on hand luggage fees? Dive into the conversation and let your voice be heard. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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