Hays Travel online arm Loveholidays.com has attacked budget carrier Wizz air’s plans to charge for hand luggage.

The airline, which flies from Luton, Liverpool, Doncaster/Sheffield and Glasgow to destinations across Europe, introduces the £9 charge on all services departing from yesterday (Wedesday).

The move follows a month-long trial on flights between Luton and Katowice in Poland.

Passengers carrying luggage larger than 42cm x 32cm x 25cm must pay the fee, while smaller bags will be permitted on board free of charge as long as they can be fitted underneath the seat.

The carrier said the policy will allow it to reduce fares by £4.50.

Loveholidays.com chief executive Alex Francis said: “Hidden charges have become a bugbear of holidaymakers and prices that can initially seem good value rapidly rise when all extra expenses are factored in to the equation, so we imagine this won’t be well received with customers just seeing it as another way for companies to make money out of them.”

He speculated that the decision by the carrier could well be as a result of a significant increase in passengers travelling to short haul destinations with hand luggage only to save money.

“Whilst allowing customers to select certain items like in-flight meals makes sense, because there is no point charging the traveller for services they don’t use – travelling with hand luggage is for the most unavoidable so it seems a little unfair to put this in the same ‘choice’ category as other ancillary costs that airlines levy,” said Francis.

He added that it was “far more likely” for the additional fee to be absorbed by the airline rather than be passed on to passengers in reduced fares “given the current state of the airline industry”.

A Wizz Air spokesman said: “We are pleased that our passengers promptly adhered to Wizz Air’s new cabin bag policy with the vast majority of them travelling light with small cabin bags.

“Less than 15% of Wizz Air customers have booked large cabin bags since the introduction of the policy earlier in October. This confirms that consumers prefer to have a choice by selecting when to save money and go green and when to pay some extra fee to enjoy added benefits.

“The new policy, which now operationally started on over 250 Wizz Air routes, aims to reduce the number of large bags in the cabin enhancing passenger comfort and reducing costs.”

Directline Holidays chief executive Maria Whiteman joined the criticism of Wizz Air’s hand luggage fees, saying it is causing some confusion among customers.

“As a result of this confusion, we have decided to factor baggage costs in to our advertised holiday costs to avoid irritation amongst our customers and offer full pricing transparency around luggage costs,” she said.

“Customers are free to remove the hold luggage during the booking process to save money, but as most people travel with one bag in the hold we feel it is most helpful to include this cost from the outset.”

She added: “A report last year stated there had been a 233% increase in travellers flying with hand luggage only – which means while airlines may have thought they’d benefit from additional baggage costs, savvy travellers have in reality played the system and saved a lot of money.

“We have received a number of enquiries this week from customers who have been questioning whether this approach is likely to roll out across our other airline suppliers. Currently, there is no indication that this will be the case.”