How Strict is Ryanair's Baggage Allowance?

Ryanair boarding
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We've all been there: packing in a hurry, rushing to the airport, stuffing our carry-on with as many items possible and praying its bulging contents are miraculously overlooked by the check-in people at the airline gate. More often than not, you're stuck either paying some ridiculous overweight baggage fee, or frantically repacking your baggage on the airport floor, deflecting judging stares from your fellow passengers. Let it be said, it pays to come prepared, especially when flying Ryanair. The popular budget airline famously has one of the strictest baggage allowances in Europe, and it has recently gotten even stricter. Additionally, even if you do stick to their rules, you may still be penalized for tiny infractions.

Luckily, a little research goes a long way, and in this article, we will show you step-by-step how to avoid baggage fees while flying with Ryanair. You can also see how their baggage allowance rules compare with other European airlines here. Heed our warnings, lest you get denied boarding or have to pay more fees than expected.

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Size Is Everything

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) standard hand baggage allowance is 56 x 45 x 25 cm (22 x 17.7 x 9.8 inches), but Ryanair allows just 55 x 40 x 20 cm (21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 inches). These smaller dimensions mean that your favorite carry-on luggage could be far too large for a Ryanair flight, forcing you to check the item and pay a gate check fee. Those restrictions are also only for bags going in the overhead bin, which in a recent policy change, is no longer complimentary with a ticket on Ryanair.

It costs between 6 and 14 euros to bring a bag with the dimensions 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, weighing 22 pounds (10 kg) or less, onto the plane along with a personal item. If you purchase the additional bag allowance you'll also receive priority boarding. All passengers are allowed a personal item that can fit under the seat and is no bigger than 40 x 20 x 25 cm (15.7 x 7.8 x 9.8 inches). If you do not pay for two bags and priority access, and your bag doesn't fit into the bag sizer at the gate, you will be charged 25 euros and the bag will be placed in the cargo hold.

If you pay for two cabin bags and one is larger than the 55 x 40 x 20 cm (21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 inches) allowance, your bag will be refused at the boarding gate. In some cases your bag will be place in the cargo hold and you will be charged a 50 euro oversized bag fee. In other cases you will have to figure out how to get you bag to your destination on your own.

For Less Hassle, Carry a Hardcase

Sometimes even when your hand baggage does meet the size and weight requirements, the airport staff still charge you for having oversized hand luggage. This usually happens when using a soft-sided bag. Many Ryanair check-in desks as you to place your bag into a metal frame to ensure that it is the correct size. Soft bags however, like duffel bags or weekenders, can sag when stood upright. Even if a bag is the correct size and not overfilled, if you have to squeeze that bag into the frame, airline personnel might charge you for an oversized bag.

One solution to this potential problem would be to buy a hard case, which (if it starts off within Ryanair's size limits) will always fit the metal frame perfectly, no matter how full it is. But hard suitcases often weigh more than their soft counterparts, drastically eating into your 22 pound (10 kg) allowance. Which is better depends on what makes traveling the easiest for you, but for the most painless check-in process, go for a hard suitcase or soft luggage that uses a very stiff fabric.

Research, Research, Research!

Ryanair has the reputation of being the cheapest airline available in Europe, but you never know until you check your travel dates and see what kind of offers are available. Who knows, you might luck out! You can compare prices on flights with ticket aggregators like Priceline, Google Flight, or Kayak, and see what the least expensive option is. 

We've also put together a little cheat sheet on how to circumvent other Ryanair fees and penalties.

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