Ryanair this week introduced a controversial new baggage rule that will see non-priority customers charged up to £5 for hand luggage.
Ryanair has until now allowed customers to carry two bags into the cabin: one being a standard carry-on suitcase and the other a smaller bag around the size of a handbag or laptop bag.
Passengers will still be able to travel with two items of luggage, but the larger bag will be placed in the hold unless they pay for priority boarding.
Chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said the change will reduce delays caused by passengers struggling to fit wheelie bags into overhead lockers and will cost the Dublin-based carrier up to 50 million euro (NZ$84 million) each year.
"This new policy is centred around lower checked bag fees and bigger bag allowances and we have notified by email all our customers travelling from Monday," Jacobs said.
"All Ryanair customers will still be free to bring two free carry-on bags but we will now ask non-priority customers to put their bigger bag in the hold – free of charge – in order to eliminate boarding delays and improve our industry leading on-time departures. Ryanair has already introduced new reduced checked bag fees (from €/£35 to €/£25) and increased check-in bag sizes (from 15kg to 20kg) to encourage more customers to check in bags and reduce the number of customers with two bags at the boarding gates."
Spain urged to boycott the airline
Beyond serving as the genesis of social media frustration, the move has also provoked the ire of the Spanish Association of Users, Employers and Professionals of Air Transport (Asetra), which described the new charges as 'looting' passengers.
The organisation has attacked the new Ryanair baggage policy as 'disproportionate' and is calling on Spain's Ministry of Development to cut back on the airline's slots over the country.
Asetra says the new charge is unacceptable and 'a clear abuse'.
It is calling on the Spanish government to favour other airlines, which it claims have the real interests of Spanish travellers and their economic situation at heart.
The association is also outraged at Ryanair's intention to charge anyone 50 euros if they fail to abide by the new rules, slamming the decision as "a coercive message" and "violating good faith".
Asetra said: "This new condition violates the rights of passengers at a time when Ryanair enjoys a dominant position in the Spanish air transport market.
"This prevents users from choosing other airlines in some routes that the Ryanair company exclusively carries out and thus limits their ability to choose."
Asetra believes the new Ryanair rules can be challenged in the European courts or via the Spanish Agency for Aviation Safety.
It is encouraging any traveller who bought their ticket before the new rules were announced last September to take legal action on the basis of a 'change of contract in the agreed conditions.'
In the event that they are prevented from travelling with a carry-on suitcase for not paying the fee, it urges them to demand compensation, as set out in the European Regulation EC 261/2004.
However, Ryanair has hit back at the claims by the Spanish transport body, saying the policy is intended to reduce delays.
In a statement, Ryanair's Kenny Jacobs told MailOnline Travel: 'These claims are baseless. Since we announced this new policy, we have had a positive reception from our customers.
"This new policy is fair, will speed up boarding and will eliminate any risk of Ryanair flights being delayed because of too many bags being brought on board.
"These new bag rules are centred around lower checked bag fees and bigger bag allowances, changes which will cost Ryanair up to €50m per year so we hope our customers will enjoy and welcome them.
"All Ryanair customers can still bring two free carry-on bags but because of our heavily booked flights (94 per cent load factors), we don't have space on board for this many wheelie bags so are asking non-priority customers to put their bigger bag in the hold – free of charge – from today in order to eliminate boarding delays and improve our industry leading on-time departures."
Meanwhile for passengers flying with Ryanair today, the new policy was greeted with a mixed response.
Hannah Beagley accused Ryanair of going 'out of your way to make things difficult for your customers', while Jonny Lavery claimed a suitable motto for the Dublin-based carrier would now be: 'Low fares. Made extremely complicated.'
However, Gareth J Bond described the hand luggage rules as 'long overdue', adding that the changes have been 'clear on website for months'.
While Twitter user Dan added: 'Honestly don't understand the fuss over @Ryanair's new baggage policy, you're not getting any more/less for your money, you just put your bag in the hold for free instead of finding space on board! #simple.'
He explained: "Ryanair needs to make sure customers understand that they may not be insured for loss, theft or damage of their valuables if their luggage ends up in the hold as a result of these new rules.
"We would advise travellers to remove wallets, keys, laptops and other important or expensive items from any bag the airline plans to put in the hold.
"'If anything does go missing, you should claim against the airline as they should honour your rights under the Montreal Convention."
And Rory Borland, travel editor of consumer group Which?, urged Ryanair passengers to make sure they are aware of the new policy and how it could affect them.