Italy is challenging Ryanair’s decision to charge passengers for hand luggage.
For those travelling after 1 November, the low-cost airline will only allow non-priority customers one “small personal bag”, such as a handbag or laptop case, into the plane’s cabin.
Italy’s competition authority Antitrust has opened an inquiry into this decision, describing hand luggage as an “essential” item for travellers.
The change sees customers face charges of up to £10 if they want to take on a 10kg holdall or suitcase when booking.
Those who fail to pay for the bag ahead of time will have to pay up to £25 at the airport.
The small bag that customers can bring on board for no additional cost must be able to fit under the seat in front.
Antitrust has said hand luggage is “an essential element of transport” so Ryanair, and all other carriers, should include the price in the cost of a plane ticket.
The new Ryanair policy could amount to unfair commercial practice in that it distorts the final price of the ticket and does not allow a true comparison with other airlines’ prices, Antitrust says.
Ryanair claims it does not “expect to make more money” from the latest change, which should “speed up boarding.”
Priority customers can continue to bring two free carry on bags, including a 10kg wheelie bag.
It is cheaper to pay £6 for priority boarding than the new charge for checked in luggage.
Italian consumer associations had complained to Antitrust about the Ryanair decision.
Association Codacons promised to take the matter to court if necessary and said Ryanair should be prepared to refund customers who are left out of pocket.
“If [this] unfair commercial practice on hand luggage is confirmed, Ryanair… should reimburse all its customers who suffer unfair additional costs,” it said in a statement.
The scrutiny from the Italian inquiry comes as Ryanair shareholders on Thursday delivered a blow to the airline’s chairman amid widespread strike action by European staff.
Chairman David Bonderman was re-elected but only with 70.5% of the vote at the annual general meeting.
At last year’s assembly, he held a 89.1% endorsement.
“Questions about the company’s business model and governance now pose a threat to shareholder value,” said the chairman of one of the shareholders, the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum.