Beware of European Budget Airlines!

June 12, 2011
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.


About Anna Casey

Anna Casey studied abroad in Barcelona.

7 thoughts on “Beware of European Budget Airlines!

  1. Christine
    June 20, 2011

    I completely agree with you Annac. I’m also sorry that you’re receiving unproductive comments on this blog. Ryan Air certainly seems to have a lot of loop holes and hidden fees. I studied abroad for a semester with 40 other people and nearly everyone who flew with them ran into some sort of issue.

  2. traveler
    June 14, 2011

    FYI, wow, you sound a little condescending. So, I guess you think we should support businesses that mislead and misrepresent what they are so they can scam people with shady practices. Thanks to the blogger for the information. No thanks to you, FYI. Why shouldn’t one assume, like the writer, that a business is being honest in their business practices?

    • FYI
      June 16, 2011

      No one is forcing you to buy a ticket from Ryanair or any other LCC and nothing Ryanair is doing is misleading. When you search for airfare on, they ask you to check a box that you have read the terms and conditions. There is nothing dishonest in how they operate – the bulk of Ryanair’s profit comes from people who *don’t* read the terms and plainly assume that they can fly for pennies and everything will be the same. It’s quite easy: want to support businesses that don’t “mislead and misrepresent”? Pay more money. Otherwise don’t complain about it when you’re getting a ticket from Barcelona to Seville for less than the cost of a tank of gas! Especially when the airline is nice enough to send you a reminder to check in!

  3. FYI
    June 12, 2011

    Have you ever considered reading the rules when you buy a ticket? The only person you have to blame is yourself

    • Mary
      June 12, 2011

      What a helpful comment! Do you work for Ryanair? How often do you read all of the terms of service that airlines send you after purchasing a ticket? I don’t think that any airline passenger should be charged the price of her ticket simply for not printing it, do you? They’ve recently made what Ryan Air is doing illegal, and for good reason.

    • FYI
      June 14, 2011

      Nope, I don’t and I personally avoid flying them, too – it doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook just by pleading ignorance! Assuming you can fly for cheap without any catch is a little optimistic. That’s why airlines like Ryanair can maintain the prices that they quote, exactly because people like you don’t bother to read the terms of service and show up to the airport without boarding pass. I agree with you that it’s silly and low of them to demand 40 Euro for a boarding pass, but it’s just as much your fault for not knowing what you’re getting into. Next time, spend a little more, and enjoy a vacation without nasty surprises!

    • LotherV
      March 6, 2013

      This…is exactly the point of the article. To inform people about what airlines are doing and to encourage them to read the terms of service so they’ll have a nice vacation. You just decided to, what, write a bitchy summary?

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