Ryanair has accused holidaymakers of giving their toddlers suitcases to wheel on to planes to get around hand baggage limits.
Neil Sorahan, the finance director, said the airline was “looking at the impact” of passengers who exploited cabin luggage rules to avoid paying up to £60 to check cases into the hold.
“Only 16 per cent of our passengers are now checking in bags, instead taking advantage of our policy of allowing two carry-on bags,” he said. “We are now seeing two-year-olds dragging along their own wheelie bag to maximise the baggage allowance. Perhaps we are becoming the victims of our own niceness but we are looking at the impact.”
Ryanair, Europe’s leading airline, also said that holidaymakers were effectively paying fares that were 10 per cent lower than a year ago to make up for the collapse in the value of the pound.
The budget airline said that it was having to slash fares this summer and would have to cut ticket prices this autumn and winter by a similar level to keep people flying.
Ryanair said its fares were being cut by 8 per cent on average but experts said falls would be steeper in Britain where holidaymakers had to cope with a 15 per cent dive in the pound.
“The greatest competitive pressures we are seeing are in the UK, where we are having to stimulate demand because of weaker sterling, and in Spain and Portugal,” Mr Sorahan said.
He said that fares to the Iberian peninsula were dropping because of the unprecedented competition in the region. Scheduled carriers and tourist operators have diverted many of their aircraft there and away from resorts in the Middle East and North Africa because of terrorist fears.
Lower fares this summer are on top of steep cuts made in the previous 12 months. Last year Ryanair cut its fares by 12 per cent, Easyjet by 15 per cent, Wizz Air by 11 per cent and the British Airways group IAG by 14 per cent.