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What a carry-on -- even Ryanair's new suitcase may cost you

AS any seasoned Ryanair passenger knows to their peril, it always pays to read the small print.

Without this minor precaution, seemingly bargain-priced flights become loaded with unwanted ad- ons and short hops to European destinations become epic treks from obscure rural airports to the city you thought you were flying to in the first place.

So when I discovered that the airline had introduced a Samsonite suitcase that complies with its own baggage restrictions, I managed to refrain from celebrating.

Remember, read the small print. Sure enough, it turns out that Ryanair's corporate-colours case could leave you with an eye-opening checked baggage fee if you're not careful about packing it. Only Michael O'Leary could have dreamt up something so bizarre.

Having gone to the trouble of designing the supposedly perfect case with Samsonite, neither Ryanair nor Samsonite appears capable of creating a fool-proof style.

Instead, they're trying to flog a soft-sided case on unsuspecting consumers, who will find themselves on the wrong side of checked-bag regulations if they happen to pack incorrectly.

Imagine, you pack for a weekend away and keep within the 10kg allowance. But then you arrive at the airport and discover that your high heels and hairdryer are bulging awkwardly out of the side of the bag, which no longer fits into those pesky Ryanair sizing cages.

What a farce. Would it have been too much to ask for the airline to sell us a hard-shell case that simply couldn't fall foul of regulations?

Then again, I don't know why I'm surprised. We're talking about a company that has plans to charge us for answering the call of nature mid-air.

Sure, this flying bus business has its perks. For most of us, its low fares have often been the difference between a foreign holiday and a dreary weekend at home. Then again, most of us have also found ourselves shelling out cash through gritted teeth after an unpleasant encounter at the check-in desk.

I still can't pack for a Ryanair flight without suffering horrendous flashbacks to a flight home from Germany where my excess baggage fees cost more than my ticket.

Now, the prospect of forking out for Ryanair's suitcase while running the risk of checked baggage fees really sticks in my craw.

Furthermore, I dread to think of the chaos that ensues at baggage carousels when frustrated lemmings attempt to identify their luggage among the scores of industrial-style blue and yellow suitcases.

It might sound funny, but considering Michael O'Leary's penchant for scalping his customers, it's only a matter of time before he makes his horrible-looking suitcases a compulsory accessory.

By then, he'll probably have hiked up the bag price so that we'll pay even more for the privilege of promoting his airline.

Like I said, keep a close eye on that small print.