How strict is Ryanair with its hand luggage allowance?

Jan 19, 2020

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Ryanair is the airline everyone seems to love to hate. So many U.K. travellers I speak to have a horror story about being ripped off with an unexpected but exorbitant charge or an awful experience with a delayed or cancelled flight. I’ve been pretty lucky with Ryanair and I’ve flown with the carrier probably 30 times over the past four years. If I can get a dirt cheap fare on a route and time convenient for me, I have no real qualms about flying with the airline.

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Ryanair has a reasonably complicated hand luggage policy. For most airlines, whether you have checked baggage or not, you can take on board a full-size cabin bag and often also a small personal item like a backpack or purse. Ryanair’s policy is different. Depending on how you look at it, it is either unbundling every single element of your fare possible, ensuring you do not pay for anything you don’t use or trying to extract as much money from unsuspecting passengers as it can get away with. Below are the guidelines:

  • All Ryanair passengers can take a small personal item on board, regardless of their ticket type or additional extras they have purchased. This personal item must be no larger than 15.7 inches x 9.8 inches x 7.8 inches and must be placed under the seat in front of you. There is no weight limit on this item.
  • Those Ryanair passengers who have also purchased “priority plus two cabin bags” at an additional cost can also take a full-size cabin bag on with them and board through the priority line. This bag must be no larger than 21.6 inches x 15.7 inches x 7.8 inches and there should be room in an overhead bin for it. There is a 10 kg weight limit.
  • All passengers can board with any clothes they are wearing (such as a big winter coat) and can also bring on board a duty-free bag for items they have purchased at the airport.

Related: Is the Ryanair family plus upgrade worth it?

(Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

how strict is Ryanair with these rules?

In my experience, Ryanair is somewhat flexible in terms of the personal item. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any staff measure a personal item, so if your backpack is slightly larger than the dimensions above, you may still be able to get away with it.

For full-size cabin bags, I have never seen Ryanair weigh a bag to check it is under 10 kg, though if it looks much bigger, you may be asked you to place it in a measuring stand to check. If your bag is stuffed full with extendable parts fully utilised you may want to try wearing some of the clothes or moving some items between bags. If you are asked to fit it into the measuring stand and you can’t squeeze it in, you will have to pay to check it in.

What Ryanair is very strict on is not taking a full-size cabin bag on board unless you have purchased the right to do so. If your bag is gate checked and you try and be sneaky and remove the bag tag between the gate and the plane, I’ve noticed on all flights that Ryanair will check your boarding pass carefully when you step onto the plane. If your boarding pass does not permit a full-size cabin bag on it but you have one, expect to be questioned about it.

Related: Tips from the pros: how to pack like a frequent flyer

Pay attention to Ryanair's hold luggage policies in advance. (Photo by Marcoprati / Getty Images)
(Photo by Marcoprati/Getty Images)

Bottom line

Ryanair’s cabin baggage policy is fairly complicated, as it is a true ultra low-cost carrier. I find myself paying more for “priority plus two cabin bags” purely so I can take a full-size cabin bag on board. This is frustrating because the advertised fare price is not the final price, which makes it difficult when comparing fares between different airlines. I do appreciate that, in my experience at least, the airline has some flexibility around things like the weight of small personal items and the ability to leave these in overhead bins.

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

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