Budget airline Ryanair has announced that passengers will only be able to take a single smaller piece of hand luggage into the cabin from November unless they've paid more for priority boarding, as part of a series of changes to its baggage policy designed to "ease delays".

To reduce the amount of carry-on bags, non-priority customers will have to place their larger hand luggage in the hold when they get to the aircraft, although this will be free of charge.

But to encourage more customers to check in bags, Ryanair is reducing the cost of checking a 20kg bag in to the hold from £35 to £25 – and has removed the option to pay less to check in a smaller bag with a maximum weight of 15kg.

For full help on cutting the cost of flying with Ryanair and mastering the airline's mega-strict rules for cheap flights, see our 21 Ryanair Tips.

How are the hand luggage rules changing?

Ryanair currently allows you to bring two items of hand luggage:

  • Its maximum-allowed bag is 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (smaller than Easyjet's 56cm x 45cm x 25cm), with a 10kg weight limit.
  • You can also take a smaller bag such as a handbag or laptop bag, with a max size of 35cm x 20cm x 20cm and no weight restriction.

From Wednesday 1 November, you will still be able to take both bags through security, but non-priority boarding customers will only be able to bring their smaller bag into the cabin. The larger bag will have to be put into the hold at the boarding gate, at no extra charge.

If you pay extra for priority boarding – typically £5 – you will still be able to take both bags into the cabin.

How are the hold luggage rules changing?

Currently Ryanair allows you to take hold luggage with a maximum weight of 15kg or 20kg, charging you a different fee depending on which maximum weight your bag comes under.

However, now passengers will pay one fee – £25 each way, down from £35 at the moment – for bags with a maximum weight of 20kg.

Hold bags added after booking or paid for at the airport will cost £40 each way.

If you've already booked a flight which departs prior to 1 November there's no change and your hold luggage will be as it was when you booked. Likewise, if you've already booked a 15kg bag on a flight after 1 November, you can still check this in to the hold.

If you book any flight from today onwards, the new hold luggage rules will apply, regardless of whether this is before or after 1 November.

'Victim of its own niceness'

Announcing the changes, Ryanair's chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: "We hope that by restricting non-priority customers to one small carry-on bag – their wheelie bag must be placed in the hold, free of charge at the boarding gate – this will speed up the boarding of flights and eliminate flight delays being caused by not having sufficient overhead cabin space on busy flights."

Jacobs said the hold luggage changes would cost Ryanair "over €50 million a year" in lost baggage fees, but said: "We believe offering bigger bags at reduced fees will encourage more customers to consider checking in a bag, which will reduce the high volume of customers we have with two carry-on bags at the boarding gates, which is causing flight delays."

He added: "These lower bag fees and increased bag size allowances will come into play for all bookings for travel after 1 November, and we hope our customers will enjoy the savings of our new simplified bag policy."

Earlier this year Ryanair director Neil Sorahan attracted headlines after claiming the company had been the "victim" of its "own niceness", following reports that passengers taking on large amounts of cabin luggage were leading to delays.

Ryanair came under fire earlier this summer after it was accused of routinely allocating groups of travellers seats in different rows in a bid to force them to pay to sit together.

In June, MoneySavingExpert.com revealed a 15-strong hen party had been seated in 15 separate rows – with every person in a middle seat – under its supposedly "random" seating allocation policy.