Ryanair hits problems as profits soar

Passengers flying with Ryanair are being warned to expect chaos in the run up to Christmas as a result of strikes in Spain, changes to luggage limits and the introduction of extra charges to allow priority boarding.

The planned strikes at 12 Spanish airports, Almeria, Girona, Granada, Jerez, Murcia, Reus, Seville, Santander, Santiago, Vitoria, Valencia and Zaragosa, will last up to 24 hours. The strikers are baggage handlers, who accuse Ryanair of ignoring written agreements covering working practices. However, a spokesman for Ryanair said the airline fully complies with Spanish labour law and blamed Spanish union leaders for the disruption. Ryanair said it might be unable to accept hold luggage on flights to or from these airports on the strike days.

Similar strike action last month caused Ryanair to cancel several flights and refuse any hold luggage on 40 flights to Girona, Jerez, Seville and Granada.

Union leaders have given warning that Spanish airport workers will continue to strike against Ryanair until Christmas. The airline has threatened to pull out of routes if the action continues beyond this month and warned passengers travelling on the affected routes that they should travel with hand baggage only and check in online.

Ryanair has also been in the news over its online check-in facility. Available only to those travelling with hand luggage, the facility costs two pounds sterling per person and entitles passengers to board before others.

However, those who check in online, but arrive at the airport with hand baggage that exceeds the 10kg per person limit, will be required to put their baggage in the hold at a charge of seven pounds sterling per item and be reissued a boarding card for a further fee of 13.50 pounds sterling.

In another development, Ryanair has announced that holidaymakers with hold baggage are now able to enjoy priority boarding if they pay the two pound sterling charge at check-in. It is a move that critics feel will anger couples and families, who cannot afford the extra expense and are forced to sit apart when all the seats are taken. However, a spokesman for Ryanair said people should still be able to sit next to one another on the plane if they arrive at the airport in plenty of time.

To confuse matters further, Ryanair has also changed its rules regarding checked-in luggage. The airline has cut the baggage allowance by a quarter, from 20kg to 15kg. Those who flew out before the change were allowed to take 20kg of baggage, but those returning subsequently have had to comply with the new weight limit. Any excess baggage is charged at 5.50 pounds sterling per kg.

Meanwhile, over in the city, Ryanair has defied soaring fuel costs to post record profits. The budget airline’s profits for the six months to September 30, rose by 39 per cent to 220 million pounds sterling, reflecting a rise in passenger numbers from 18 million to 22.1 million.

Chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said he now expected Ryanair to make a profit of 234.1 million pounds sterling this year – 10 million pounds sterling up on earlier forecasts. The upbeat message came, despite a 42 per cent rise in the cost of fuel. Ryanair also enjoyed a 27 per cent rise in extra revenue from food, drink and hotels.

Finally, Ryanair is to restart flights from Stansted to Stockholm Vasteras next spring, with fares from 2.99 pounds sterling one-way, excluding tax.

Other new airline routes include Clickair, a Spanish no-frills airline, which plans to fly from Heathrow to Seville and Valencia from early next year and Jet2, which will fly from Edinburgh to Prague from January 7, with one-way fares from 24.99 pounds sterling, including tax.