PASSENGERS flying with Ryanair will be able to connect directly onto a long-haul flight without collecting their bags or going back through check in under groundbreaking plans for a tie-up between the budget airline and major global carriers.

It is understood that the Irish airline, famed for its low-cost model, is in "active talks" with a number of larger airlines including Aer Lingus and Virgin Atlantic about setting up a 'codeshare' arrangement.

It would enable passengers to book tickets via the Ryanair website to far-flung destinations in the United States, Caribbean or South America which are not served by the budget carrier - but would be by its partner airlines.

It would be the first time such an arrangement has been struck between a low-cost carrier and the long-haul sector.

Kevin Thom, of the Scottish Passenger Agents' Association, said: "That is a good move from a passenger's point of view because this was always an issue when flying with the low-cost carriers.

"So if they're providing onward connections with through-bags and so on, then I think that's a great thing and I'm pretty sure it would win Ryanair more custom."

It comes months after easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall ruled out codeshares with legacy airlines, saying it "would not make any financial sense".

Sources at Ryanair, which is trying to shed its no-frills image by cutting back on punitive fees and introducing a business class service on some flights, said the larger carriers want to tap into its extensive European network.

Under the plans, the larger long haul airline would pick up the tab for airport baggage and transfer fees and would also shoulder the responsibility for compensation in the event of delays.

A spokeswoman for Ryanair said: “We are speaking to a number of airlines concerning feeding long haul airlines, namely Aer Lingus at Dublin, TAP at Lisbon, IAG at London Stansted and Virgin and Norwegian at London Gatwick.

"Given we have the largest route network in Europe, it’s a logical move and a very attractive proposition for long haul carriers. However, it would represent a very small percentage of our business and it is very much at a discussion only phase at this time.”

Passengers using Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports would be among those able to take advantage of the tie-up, with Ryanair operating direct flights from both the Scottish bases to Stansted, Dublin and, in Glasgow's case, Gatwick.

Prestwick - where Ryanair is the only commercial airline - will miss out, however, as it has no connections to any of the four airports involved.

Aer Lingus flies to more than 100 destinations in the US and Canada from the Irish capital, and Dublin Airport also boasts a US customs pre-clearance facility.

From Gatwick, Virgin Atlantic serves a host of holiday hotspots in the Caribbean such as Antigua, St Lucia and Jamaica, as well as cities along the US west coast including Seattle and San Diego, while Norwegian counts Puerto Rico and Tel Aviv among its Gatwick routes.

Although not currently served by Ryanair from Scotland, TAP Portugal flies direct from Lisbon to destinations throughout South America which have typically been expensive and awkward for UK passengers to reach.

However, Douglas McNeill, aviation analyst for Macquarie Securities, was sceptical.

He said: "Aer Lingus already has a fairly extensive network into Dublin and they serve 14 or 15 UK regional destinations, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, so if you want to go to Dublin from either of those places you already can."

Mr McNeill added that such a tie-up could also force Ryanair to sacrifice its own scheduling flexibility.

“I can't see Ryanair wanting to let IAG dictate its schedules or vice versa,” he added. “It seems problematic to me.”