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updated 1/25/2006 7:03:44 PM ET 2006-01-26T00:03:44

Ryanair is to start charging passengers for checking in bags as it looks to slash its baggage handling costs.

Europe's leading no-frills airline is also introducing an internet check-in system for customers with hand luggage only.

It hoped the measures would encourage passengers to abandon the check-in desk and lead to €30m of yearly cost savings.

Michael O'Leary, chief executive, said: "We will require fewer and less expensive facilities such as airport check-in and baggage hall facilities. And we will carry fewer bags making our aircraft lighter and improving fuel consumption."

Ryanair is the second European low-cost airline to introduce baggage charges after Flybe, the regional UK low fare carrier.

Mr. O'Leary has described the checking in of baggage as a throwback to the "era of ocean liners" while some in the industry feel paying for the service is merely another step on from paying for inflight food and drinks.

Airlines also argue that charging will be fairer on the large numbers of passengers who already travel with carry-on items only.

Ryanair passengers are allowed to carry 10kg as hand luggage – which Flybe has estimated equates to "two pairs of jeans, two jumpers, one pair of trainers, four T-shirts, underwear (unspecified), a make-up bag, a toiletries bag, a belt and hair straighteners."

Ryanair will introduce its new approach on March 16 with any passenger booking after that date asked to pay £2.50 per checked-in bag.

The Irish carrier is planning at the same time to cut fares by £2.50 for all passengers. This means the 50 per cent of passengers who travel with just one checked in bag will see no impact from the changes, which Ryanair described as "revenue neutral".

From the same date, passengers travelling with hand luggage only and holding an EU passport will be able to check in on the web.

These passengers will be given priority boarding.

Ryanair expects half its customers will switch to using the internet check-in system, which will "significantly reduce the number of check-in and baggage handling staff required to handle individual flights".

Mr. O'Leary insisted that job cuts would be "tiny", however, as the airline continues to expand.

He said Ryanair was preparing to open new European routes and was in "detailed talks" with eight airports, including two in Poland. The airline is also planning to allow passengers to start using mobile phones on its aircraft this year.

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.

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