There have been more mentions in the press in the last week about Ryanair now charging €5.00 for online check-in than I could possibly link to. If you haven’t seen any of them, but you are reading this, then I’m impressed with your discerning taste; but you really should consider reading a little more widely.

But in all of the countless newspaper articles, blog posts etc on this topic, what I have mainly seen is a a lot of hysteria, but very little detail or digging beyond repeating what someone else had written. The way I was repeatedly made to understand it, every passenger would now be paying either €5.00 to check-in online, or a far greater amount to check-in at the airport. I was suspicious, as I’ve always believed that to advertise a price in most civilized markets, it was neccessary for at least one customer to be able to consume the product (ie. fly) for the stated price. Last week the EU announced a list of airlines with misleading websites, but according to this source, that list does not include Ryanair – the airlines named were: Aeroflot, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Olympic, airBaltic, MyAir, Northwest Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Wind Jet, Germanwings, Niki and SkyEurope.

One criteria on the 14 point EU checklist is “Are all the optional price supplements of the flight offered on an “opt in basis” without the need for the consumer to remove a tick from any box to opt-out? (article 23 Air Services Regulation)” Can’t say I agree with this one, as pre-checked boxes are nowhere near as bad a deceptive advertising, but I suppose I can see why some others, especially those booking in a language that is not their native tongue might not like it. 

Getting back to Ryanair and the online check-in fees I decided to have a look at their Terms and Conditions of Travel. One the first page, one will find written “Passengers may check-in online free of charge if travelling with no checked baggage.” I never saw this mentioned once in any of the press reports. I’m sure some did mention it, but none of the maybe ten that I read. I personally stopped flying Ryanair some time ago, but people reading this blog regularly are hardly the sort of passengers Ryanair are courting. I rarely read the fine print when booking air travel, but if there is one airline where one MUST read it, that airline is Ryanair. If you keep reading the T’s & C’s you find the real sting in the tail, and that is the list of passengers who are not eligible for online check-in. One of these ineligible categories is an adult with an infant, but they can apply to Ryanair for a refund later. Good luck with that one, as Ryanair are notoriously one of the hardest companies in the travel industry for customers to actually contact regarding complaints or refunds.

And whilst I’m on Ryanair, I had to visit their site to find the link for the T’s & C’s and was amazed at the taxes shown. On a zero fare to Marseille in late June taxes were €3.00 and in the tax breakdown were only listed as “going out special” whilst taxes on the €0.99 fare were closer to €20.00. There is no apparent logic in how these taxes are calculated, and just reinforce my displeasure at airlines that even bother making an obvious distinction between the two – all I care about at the end of the day is what is coming out of my pocket.  

So the verdict is this: paying for online check-in at Ryanair is horrible, but in reality only slighly less bad than other articles were making out. Any company charging an “online specific” fee should be condemned, as internet is the lowest cost channel and customers should know this. United and US Airways were putting justifiable extra fees last week on offline activity, but I repeat my criticism of Allegiant and other US carriers charging a “convenience fee” – a fee that applies to online purchases but not to tickets purchased at the airport. I believe passengers will accept a lot in the name of a la carte pricing, but the convenience fee may turn out to be much less sustainable than the rest, or at least I hope so.