Everyone has used a budget airline at least once, braving potential delays and frustrations to get to their destination on the cheap. While these flights are very tempting (who hasn’t dreamt of a €5 flight to Barcelona or Milan?) “flying cheap” is not always what it seems, leaving many travellers frustrated by hidden fees and poor service. Recently, these frustrations came to a head when dissatisfied Ryanair customers brought a case against the airline for ‘hidden fees’.
In general, all budget airlines will charge customers for extra (or any) luggage, seats with extra legroom or changes to ticket information. Naturally, without these fees, consumers get to fly on the cheap in a seat with all the comforts typically available in a prison cell. Following an investigation by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Ryanair has been directly profiting from passengers by abusing ‘hidden fees’. Following this revelation, more than 5000 passengers sued Ryanair on the basis of ‘unfair hidden charges’, claiming €400 million compensation from the Irish company.
Indeed, nearly a quarter of the company’s revenue comes from extraneous charges such as extra water, name changes on the boarding pass, seat changes, extra sport equipments, extra baby equipments, and so on. From these, it’s been claimed that Ryanair has earned over $1.4 billion from this type of extra charges. Part of the reason so many travellers get caught in the budget airline trap is because these airlines have found very effective ways of hiding their fees – hopefully knowing the following tactics these airlines use will help you actually save money next time you’re booking a flight.
For instance, if you check your luggage at the airport, you will be faced with and extra charge of $11. Consumers who pay by credit card are charged a 2% transaction fee – how else are consumers expected to pay nowadays? No one pays with cash anymore, how can you possibly pay by cash online even?! What about your tutor who have gave you an extra assignment and you are no longer able to make it home for Christmas on the planned date. A change in flight dates have will cost you between $33 to $56; if you are flying in a holiday season (which all of us do) the charge fluctuates to a range of $45 to $67! What about charges during the flight? I hope you won’t eat anything sweet before going to fly with Ryanair because one glass of water costs $3! (From my extensive research, I’ve found that there are cheaper wines than that.)
In response to the CAA investigation, Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill has emphasized the importance of airline companies’ obligation to comply with “ticket transparency” issues, namely establishing fair terms and conditions. In order to ensure consumer protection, CAA has increased its supervision towards low-budget airlines such as Ryanair. Going forward, CAA will encouraging compliance with fair terms and conditions which will strike a balance between consumer protection and company integrity: it should be provided in a way that consumers will not be harmed. Ultimately, the extra charges that Ryanair imposes mainly: extra charges for name changing, extra charges for re-issuing the boarding passes, as well as the changes during the airport.