Just when you thought Ryanair were getting better and becoming a little more customer intimate – not too much mind you, because that would cost money, ask the pilots – Ryanair pulls what it probably considers to be a master stroke, and what passengers will feel is a low blow they can’t do much about.

We booked a family holiday a few months ago, towards the end of last year, paying for 2 check-in bags and planning to carry a cabin bag each, and a small bag to fit under the seat in front of us. There was no mention that I saw that the regulations were about to change.

A couple of weeks ago we started to get emails about a change in cabin bags, effective shortly and before we actually take our holiday. From this date, unless you have priority booking you can only bring on one bag that fits under the seat in front; you can’t use the overhead storage at all.

WTF! I went back and checked my original confirmation email and there’s no mention of a new cabin bag restriction. Ryanair has gone back to its policy of only one cabin bag, except that now it has to be smaller than before. Clearly pesky customers have been using all the overhead storage and that will not do.

As always, what’s at stake here is the principle. I’ve written before about how Ryanair competes primarily on operational excellence – and this is about operationally squeezing the last cent out of passengers, making them pack even lighter and still avoiding baggage check-in, thereby guaranteeing Ryanair comfortable flight turnarounds – rather than product leadership or customer intimacy. Presumably they’re allowed to hide behind small print that says ‘we can change the terms any time we like’, but to enforce it from the date of travel, rather than the date of booking, when they’ve got pre-booked passengers over the proverbial barrel, is petty, inconsiderate and will probably net them an extra few hundred grand.

Why do they do it? Because they can. For now.

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