by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, May 2, 2018
Passengers have been warned to keep their passports with them on flights when their bags are put in the hold at the last minute, or face lengthy delays at border control.
More and more travellers are having their carry-on bags taken off them at the gate as airlines struggle with limited space in the overhead cabins before take-off. But the change in routine is catching out passengers who then find themselves at passport control at their destination with no way of retrieving their documentation.
One holidaymaker, who asked to remain anonymous, told Telegraph Travel he was “detained” at border control at London Stansted airport and had to phone a friend to collect his bag from the carousel and return it to the passport kiosk. He was on a Ryanair flight with a backpack, which was taken off him at the departure gate.
“I had to wait behind the line at the desk until a friend brought me my passport. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise,” he said. “Airlines should tell you to keep your passport with you when they take your bag.”
The introduction of Ryanair’s new baggage policy in January, which requires anyone who does not pay for priority boarding to have their second, larger hand luggage placed in the hold free of charge, means more and more travellers are falling prey.
Social media is awash with fliers who realised too late they would not be reunited with their passport until after border control.
A spokesperson for the Home Office, of which the Border Force is a part, said there were no plans to issue guidance to travellers on the importance of keeping their passports with them.Another said: “Only I would manage to leave my passport in my bag that got put in the hold, so I am stuck at passport control with no passport.”“Ryanair take cabin bag underneath. Tell you to collect at arrival. Don’t tell you to keep passport separate. Problem,” wrote one.
Ryanair said that passports are included in the banned items list for hold luggage, along with lithium batteries, laptops and medicines, as stated by the Irish carrier’s terms and conditions.
“Bags going into the hold are tagged before customers go through the boarding gate where they must show their passport,” a spokesperson said.
“In addition, customers are reminded by assembly call and by staff at the boarding gate to remove passports, valuables and Personal Electronic Devices (PED) (e.g. laptop, iPad/Tablet/Mobile phone) from all baggage going in to the hold.”
Ryanair has previously said the new rules were a consequence of passengers abusing the two free bags policy and “coming with the kitchen sink”.
The scrum for space in the overhead lockers, and the impact it has on boarding times, has led airlines to reassess how it handles cabin bags.
Jet2, for example, introduced a charge to “guarantee” that hand luggage was not bumped into the hold, while Easyjet launched a service last year allowing passengers to pay £4 to have their hand luggage put in the hold, promising they will come out “among the first” on the baggage belt.
A study by Which? last year found that more and more travellers were having their hand luggage taken off them at the gate, despite their bags meeting size and weight restrictions.
One in four Ryanair passengers parted company with their bags (before the current policy was introduced), while the figure fell to 15 per cent for Easyjet and 4 per cent for British Airways.
Devin Liddell, principal strategist at Teague, a design consultancy that specialises in aviation and counts Boeing among its clients, has previously told Telegraph Travel that airlines are "drunk" on baggage fees and that they might solve the issue by instead “rewarding” passengers who do not travel with larger bags “with reduced fares, preferred seats or even free drinks”.