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Ryanair to charge for checked baggage but cut costs elsewhere

European low-cost carrier Ryanair, known for a) its very low fares, and b) its cattle-car-style seats, is making news again with another move that affects our wallets. The carrier announced yesterday it will begin charging about $4 for each piece of baggage checked online beginning March 16, and twice that amount for each piece of baggage checked at the airport. To offset the new fee, the airline says it will reduce fares across-the-board by nine percent.

Translated, this means if you can travel light—with just a carry-on bag, for example—you're in for further savings on the carrier's already cheap short-haul European routes. If not, expect to pay higher fares than the person sitting next to you.

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No matter how you look at the issue for consumers, the clear winner here is Ryanair. The carrier is unlikely to lose any customers over the move (its prices are still low even with the baggage fee), and if it's successful in steering passengers to travel lighter and check in online, it will also significantly reduce its airport costs. Count me among those who think other airlines may soon follow suit.

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