For most tickets purchased from Ryanair, you are levied a €6 fee to print your boarding pass online. Don’t like it? Your only other option is to pay 40€ to print your boarding pass at the airport. Yes, you read that right.
Until now, that is if you live in Spain. A judge in Spain has ruled that Ryanair is "forcing" passengers to print boarding passes from home and such action is illegal.
A judge in Barcelona said that, under international air travel conventions, Ryanair can neither demand passengers turn up at the airport with their boarding pass, nor charge them €40 (£34) if they do not.
"I declare abusive and, therefore, null, the clause in the contract by which Ryanair obliges the passenger to take a boarding pass to the airport," Judge Barbara Cordoba said. "The customary practice over the years has been that the obligation to provide the boarding pass has always fallen on the airline."
Ryanair is appealing the decision, which now threatens its ultimate goal of scrapping airport check-in counters to save cash. A spokesman stated, "If the problem is the €40 charge for this service, we’ll simply stop offering the service. That, of course, will mean the passenger who arrives without a boarding card cannot fly."
Ooh, a threat.
So here’s how I would deal with it: I’m not a Ryanair fan, but if their boarding pass policy was made clear to customers before they purchase their tickets (I checked and it is…) then I would not be in favor of a law prohibiting a consumer and Ryanair from entering into that contract.
However, Spain (among other nations) has ratified conventions on air travel. I’m not an expert in this area of law–yet–but that forces me to alter my analysis. While Ryanair nominally should be able to form contracts as they see fit, the law places restrictions on thier ability to do so. Perhaps analagous to safety standards, an airline cannot just contract away the requirements of the law in a one-sided exchange (a consumer has no bargaining power other than to buy or not) in violation of public policy. With that in mind, Ryanair should be denied operating licenses in countries where they violate the law.
I understand that fees have been a boon for airlines the last couple years, but I still hate fees that you cannot avoid. Charging for luggage is one thing, but charging to check-in for the flight or to pay for the flight (no matter what the method of payment) leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Having looked at Ryanair’s cheap fares from Frankfurt Hahn, however, I must admit I am tempted to give them a try fees and all…