A court in Spain has ruled that Ryanair’s policy of charging customers for items of carry-on baggage is “abusive” and contravenes both Spanish and European law.
In a case brought by a passenger who had been hit by a €20 (£17) charge when boarding a plane in the Spanish capital earlier this year, a judge in Madrid’s mercantile court sided with the customer in a ruling that was made public on Wednesday.
Ordering the budget airline to return the €20 to the passenger, the judge said that airlines cannot charge for a hand baggage “suitcase whose dimensions and weight could perfectly be transported in the cabin”.
One year ago Ryanair introduced charges for carry-on baggage – exceeding handbag or small rucksack dimensions of 40cm x 20cm x 25cm – for all passengers who do not pay the €14 (£12) “Priority” customer supplement, of which there are a limited amount available on each flight.
However, Ryanair insisted on Wednesday that the Spanish court’s ruling would have no impact on its fares as it would continue to charge for carry-on baggage items above its lower size limit.
“This ruling will not affect Ryanair’s baggage policy, as it misquoted the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and misinterpreted the airlines’ commercial freedom to determine the size of their cabin baggage,” Ryanair said in a statement to the Telegraph.
At a glance | How much Ryanair collects from bag fees on a single flight
Having paid €35.69 for the flight in January from Madrid to Brussels, the claimant attempted to board with a handbag and a small suitcase, which fitted in the overhead baggage space and did not weigh more than 10kg.
But she was told she had to pay extra as she had not bought a Priority ticket. Ryanair did not contest these basic facts of the case. In her reasoning, the Madrid judge said that Spanish transport regulations oblige airlines to include an allowance for cabin baggage within the air fare charged.
She also cited a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice in a case involving budget airline Vueling, which stipulated that carry-on baggage is “an indispensable element of the transport of passengers and, as such, cannot be subject to a price supplement,” as long as bags are within the correct dimensions.
Spain’s EFE news agency reported that the ruling cannot be appealed against as the time available to lodge an appeal has elapsed without any of the parties involved having done so.
But it remains unclear what impact the ruling will have after Ryanair’s stated its intention to continue to impose its baggage charges.
On the Spanish domain of Ryanair’s website on Wednesday, flights out of Spain were still subject to the need to buy a €14 Priority fare or pay for cabin-sized suitcases.
According to an annual market study published by IdeaWorksCompany, the amount of money earned by Ryanair through supplementary charges such as baggage charges and seat selection fees reached £2.8bn in 2018, more than any other airline outside the main US carriers.
In March Italy’s AGCM competition watchdog fined Ryanair €13 million for “deceiving” customers by advertising fares that do not reflect the full price owing to the need to add extra for hand baggage.
The body also fined low-cost carrier Wizz Air €1 million for the same reason. However, last month the regional administrative court of Lazio annulled the fines imposed on Ryanair and Wizz Air for their cabin bag policies.