Ryanair – Rip off in the skies!

Ryanair is a low cost airline operator based in Ireland. Have you caught today’s newspaper report? Until now they have been charging 40 Euros (A$54) to print out a boarding pass if the passenger forgot to do it at home! A judge in Spain has now prohibited them from the practice because of a court case brought by a Spanish lawyer. To put this charge into perspective, Ryanair’s air fares start from as little as GBP 7 (7 British pounds)!

Low cost airlines such as Ryanair have been at the forefront of delivering low air fares by, at first, either getting rid of or asking passengers to pay extra for so called optional extras. The reasoning used by these low cost operators is that these optional extras are built into the cost of the more expensive air fares. The first thing to go was “free” food. Many people thought airline meals were not worth eating. So why pay for something that is built into the fare if you don’t want it? In Australia, Virgin Blue was the first mainstream airline to provide food as an extra you could pay for.

Next to go was “free” baggage. This one is also easy to understand. Not only does baggage have to be transported to and from the aircraft and loaded and unloaded, it is also of considerable weight. Extra weight on an aircraft means extra fuel burnt and thus extra expense. If no one brought any luggage at all, then the airline would save a heap on fuel and baggage handling. The low cost airlines often charge for any booked baggage, charging less if you tell them about it when you check in online. Their credo is customer choice. So if you are just nipping away for a couple of days and only have a small carry on, there is no payment at all for baggage.

As the years have gone by though the list of “optional extras” has lengthened considerably from meals and baggage. An interesting variation came due to a quirk of aircraft design. The space between rows on many aircraft is slightly larger adjacent to the emergency exits. Some smart passengers who were taller than average soon realised they could get access to seats in these rows for no extra if they simply asked for them. Smarter airlines quickly realised these seats are a valuable commodity  that people would pay for!

When laws changed in Australia a few years ago, all merchants were able to charge a fee for using a credit card. This is somewhat understandable as there is a cost to merchants for offering credit card facilities. Some people however think that this should simply be absorbed as an overhead of running a business. Not the airlines. Not only have airlines starting charging a credit card fee but it is often a flat fee per passenger, not a set percentage of the transaction. This can practice can produce a credit card fee that reaches far beyond mere cost recovery. It is also near impossible to book an airline seat WITHOUT using a credit card!

No area of the aircraft is safe from extracting additional fees from customers. Ryanair has considered charging a pound to spend a penny (use of the toilet). They are also looking at equipping their aircraft with “vertical seating” so that they can simply cram in more fare paying passengers!

Next the air travelling public should perhaps expect a fee for scuffing the carpet, wear and tear as they fasten their seatbelts and a per minute charge for gazing out the window!

Look here for a full list of Ryanair’s fees. Note that while the fees in Pounds or Euros are nominally the same, the exchange rate is around 1 Pound = 1.2 Euros. So a five pound fee converts to around six euros. Since the fees are nominally the same (5 pounds or 5 euros), those in the UK are being stiffed about 20% extra in fees!

Look here for a full list of Tiger Airways fees. Notice that they have trade marked their “boardmefirst” fee ($6) and cannot provide any detail on what you get for your “convenience fee” ($7.20)! Too inconvenient for them to explain it apparently!

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