Revealed: Cabin luggage sold as 'fitting Ryanair' can't be taken on board for free
Top high street stores such as Debenhams and Argos have been selling cabin luggage billed as suitable for Ryanair even though you'd have to pay extra to carry it onto the plane, a MoneySavingExpert.com investigation reveals.
Under Ryanair's super-strict cabin baggage policy, which was last updated in November 2018, passengers can only take one bag measuring up to 40cm x 20cm x 25cm – such as a laptop bag or handbag – into the cabin with them for free. You're also allowed to take a larger bag measuring up to 55cm x 40cm x 20cm – such as a small wheely suitcase – on board, but only if you pay for priority boarding or to put it in the hold.
However, we've found at least four big high street names plus sellers on Amazon and eBay have been selling bags described as the right size for Ryanair – using phrases such as "Ryanair cabin approved" or "fits Ryanair" – even though they're larger than 40cm x 20cm x 25cm, so passengers will have to pay to take them on a Ryanair plane.
If you try and take a wheely suitcase onto a Ryanair plane without having paid for priority boarding or to put it in the hold, the airline's clearly stated policy is you "will pay a gate bag fee of €25" and your bag "will be tagged and placed in the hold".
Some retailers, including Argos and Debenhams, have now agreed to change their site or listings for bags since we contacted them about the issue.
For full help on mastering the budget airline's mega-strict rules, see our 20 Ryanair Tips.
What are Ryanair's cabin baggage rules?
Ryanair's baggage rules changed twice last year. Here are the current rules:
- Non-priority customers who don't pay extra can only bring one small bag into the cabin for free. This must go under the seat in front of you and the max dimensions are 40cm x 20cm x 25cm. (Confusingly though, Ryanair's bag sizer is 42cm x 20cm x 30cm, so in practice you may be able to get a slightly larger bag on a flight.)
- Passengers who pay extra for a priority, plus/flexi or connecting flight ticket can bring one small bag into the cabin which must fit under the seat in front of them (40cm x 20cm x 25cm), as well as an additional 10kg bag which must fit into the baggage sizer (55cm x 40cm x 20cm). A priority ticket costs from £6 per passenger per flight.
What do luggage retailers say in their listings?
We looked at bags sold by several high street brands, as well as listings from third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay. When we contacted retailers afterwards, Amazon, Argos and Debenhams committed to changing their websites, while eBay says it is investigating some of its listings. However, when we asked Robert Dyas and Ryman if they were making changes, they declined to say.
Here's what we found:
- Debenhams was selling a "cabin suitcase" measuring 55cm x 39cm x 20cm with a description (pictured below) which said "fits all major airlines including Easyjet, British Airways and Ryanair".
Debenhams told us the bag was listed by a concession holder, Tripp Luggage, which apologised for the "confusion". Tripp Luggage said: "Unfortunately there are some cabin pieces on the website that have not been updated to 'Ryanair Priority' following the change to Ryanair's cabin restrictions. The description on these pieces is being updated as a matter of urgency and will be live on the Debenhams website on 29 August."
The description on the Debenhams suitcase (the image quality is poor as it's an enlarged screenshot)
- Argos had a section on its site called 'cabin luggage size guidelines', which stated Ryanair's dimensions as 55cm x 40cm x 20cm – even though bags that size can't be taken on a Ryanair plane without paying extra. If you clicked this link you were taken to several bags tagged "Ryanair", some of which were over 40cm x 20cm x 25cm.
Argos has now changed its website, clarifying the correct hand luggage rules and listing bags that would be the right size for priority and non-priority Ryanair passengers separately.
- Robert Dyas was selling at least one "cabin bag", which was 55cm x 35.5cm x 20cm and which it said "fits the Easyjet and Ryanair cabin size restrictions, meaning there's no worrying you won't get it through customs". However, it didn't say it was changing its site – a spokesperson told us "at no point do we state that it is free to take hand luggage onto a flight". They added: "All our cabin cases sized 55cm x 35cm x 20cm are accepted on all flights."
- Ryman, which has the same owner as Robert Dyas, was selling a "cabin approved hand luggage trolley bag" described as "designed to fit Ryanair and 98% of the rest of the airlines [sic] cabin restrictions", even though it measured 55cm x 35cm x 20cm. It didn't say it was changing its site and gave us the same statement as Robert Dyas – it said "at no point do we state that it is free to take hand luggage onto a flight" and "all our cabin cases sized 55cm x 35cm x 20cm are accepted on all flights".
- On Amazon and eBay, we found several listings from third-party sellers for bags which were described using phrases such as "Ryanair approved", even though the bags were bigger than 40cm x 20cm x 25cm.
Amazon told us it would be removing all three specific listings we flagged to it and asking the third-party seller to update the product descriptions so that they are accurate.
eBay meanwhile said it would be investigating the three items identified. A spokesperson said: "eBay policy states that sellers must always describe products accurately and they can face action for not doing so. Our Money Back Guarantee means that if an item is delivered not as it was described, the customer will be entitled to a full refund from the seller."
I've bought a bag I now realise is too big – what can I do?
Many companies will have standard returns policies anyway, which allow you to return unwanted goods for a refund within a set timeframe – Argos, for example, offers a 30-day returns guarantee on most items.
If you've recently bought luggage described as being suitable for Ryanair and now realise you can't use it because you wanted to take it on board without paying extra, you'll have to contact the retailer to ask for a refund.
Most of the stores we spoke to did not give a clear response on whether they'd refund customers, but it's worth giving it a go under the Consumer Rights Act. Goods sold by shops must be 'as described', so you can try to argue that this was not the case – though this may not be successful and some shops have claimed there was no problem with how bags were sold, as they did not say they could be taken on to Ryanair flights for free. See our Consumer Rights guide for full help – and let us know how you get on at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you've bought the bag highlighted in the Debenhams example above, it's worth contacting the concession holder Tripp Luggage, which has encouraged anyone who "experienced any problem with these specific cabin suitcases being accepted on Ryanair" to get in touch on 0207 014 5877 or by emailing email@example.com.
'Don't assume you'll be able to fly with a bag for free'
Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "Ryanair's baggage rules are super-strict, and given they changed twice last year, passengers can unsurprisingly get caught out. But retailers need to do what they can to help and make sure they're really clear when selling luggage.
"If a bag is marketed as being suitable for Ryanair, many will assume that means you can fly with it for free. If that's not the case, shoppers should be clearly warned.
"It's good to see a number of stores making changes to their sites off the back of our investigation, but if you're a passenger looking for a new cabin bag, the message is clear. Don't assume you'll be able to fly with a bag for free based on the marketing spiel alone. Instead, check the exact measurements of any bag you plan to buy, and your airline's allowances."