Beware of European Budget Airlines!
If you’re like me, you may be experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock after living abroad for five months, or if you’re lucky, you may still be traveling around Europe before heading home for the fall semester. If you are still adventuring through Europe or planning a visit on your own dime, you can find a lot of great travel deals, especially on airfare. However, beware of European budget airlines! Many airlines claiming to have the lowest ticket prices actually find tricky ways to slap you with fees that can sometimes equal the cost of the ticket, essentially doubling your cost! Unexpected fees like this can mean the difference between a delicious dinner out, or bread and a can of grocery store beans at your hostel.
One European airline that is notoriously low-priced, is Ryanair. Ryanair offers flights for as low as $73 round trip from one European city to another. It may sound like a great deal, but this is the same airline whose owner was considering a standing room only section on flights, and considering charging passengers to use the restroom. The old saying holds true — you get what you pay for.
What a lot of travelers don’t realize is that Ryanair requires you to print your own boarding pass a certain number of hours before your scheduled flight. I was drawn to Ryanair’s low prices while planning a trip from Barcelona to Seville, Spain this spring. I received an email confirmation that reminded me to check-in online before going to the airport, but what I didn’t realize was that “checking in” also meant printing my own ticket. I arrived at the Ryanair counter ticket-less and was charged 40 Euros, the same price as my departure ticket. I then had to go to a special counter nearby and wait in line with other angry customers to pay the fee. I would have been happy to cover the cost of ink and paper necessary to print my ticket at the check-in desk, but a 40 Euro charge to my debit card made me feel like the victim of a scam.
Not only does Ryanair require you to print your own ticket, but flight-attendants throw a special Ryanair cardboard fee box over your carry-on while you wait in line to board the plane. They do this to make sure that your carry-on is the proper lunchbox size. On my trip with Ryanair, one woman standing next to me in line was furious when the attendant told her that her bag didn’t fit in the box width-wise. On any other airline, her bag would have met carry-on regulations, making a 20 Euro baggage fee seem outrageous.
Are you one of those neurotic people who has to sit at the rear of the aircraft because it’s the safest? Ryanair has no assigned seats, so there’s a mad dash to get in the boarding line first. The wait in line can also be long, as the flight attendants come around with their stupid box. Recently, Ryanair announced that they will offer a seat booking option for some flights; however, there will of course be a 10 Euro fee.
While low cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet offer travelers great prices, with their hidden fees you can end up paying just as much as any airline that will give you a free diet coke on the flight and maybe even let you pick your seat. If you choose the cheapest ticket, just make sure you print it first, bring a small carry-on bag, and pack a snack for that long wait in line because if you pass out, Ryanair won’t compensate you.