Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The evolution of a Ryanair fare

Thinking about a flight in Europe? Why not choose Ryanair, the self-appointed "low-fares airline"?

Now the thing is, Ryanair was cheap - you could get genuinely rock-bottom fares, reasonable service (well, it was good enough!), it ran to time, check-in bags were free, and so on. Well things have changed - and with the airline industry in turmoil, and Ryanair cutting routes and grounding planes this year, it does somehow seem that they are pushing passengers to squeeze the last bit of margin out that they can, and see how far they can go before they strangle the golden goose.

I decided to have a look for a return flight from Dublin to Edinburgh recently, and see how it stacked up.

So first step - give lots of notice - so I chose October, a clear 3 months away. Secondly, shop around for a cheap day, and a cheap fare. And I got them - going out on a Friday, and back on a Sunday no less!

So what is the fare? €9.99 each way. €19.98 total - beautiful!

Well... not quite. You see, I forgot that that does not include "taxes and fees". It turns out that "Taxes and Fees" amount to €33.37 on the way out, and €30.65 on the way back! Hold on - that means my €19.98 fare is now €84?

If only.

Here's the breakdown of the extra taxes and fees for both directions:

And nicely summarised:

Ok, I see the Taxes/Fees (whatever they are - I'll come back to that). But €94? Where did the extra €10 come from?

That would be the Ryanair web check in scam. A bit of history needed here...

On Ryanair flights originally you checked in at an airport checkin desk, like a normal flying human. Then, they brought in the amazing web check in, so that you could print your own boarding pass, thus not needing to check in at the desk at all. Major staff cost-saving for Ryanair! So, to thank the passenger for checking in online and saving the airline money, they gave you a saving (or rather they penalised the normal check in passenger), by making it free to check in online, but introducing a charge for a normal desk check in.

Well, fair enough - a bit mean, but you have the choice. Well not any more - they have just done away with the check in desks altogether. So the vast majority of passengers now have to check in online. Ok, but online check in is free so that's not so bad, right? Wrong - because now that you have no choice, Ryanair charge you €5 per-flight to check in online.

So having saved the staff costs (that means reduced hours or lost jobs to me and you) involved in a check in desk, and bribed you to help them do so by incentivising you to do online check in, Ryanair are now going to stick it to you by charging you €5 per flight, per person, for the privilege of printing your own boarding pass. Brilliant.

While we're on this little scam, here's another thing - the ticket price is €9.99. If I have to online check in, and I have to pay the €5 for my own time and effort in doing it, why is the €5 check in fee not built in to the ticket price? This is the last straw for me with Ryanair - the stage where deliberate opacity becomes outright deception. The €5 is a known, predictable cost, and effectively a non-tax, non-optional part of my ticket price - so it should be built in to the ticket price, so I can see immediately what I'm actually paying.

Next, you'll notice in the above summary of charges image, that there's a little blue link next to the "Taxes/Fees" line item, so that you can get details [sic] on what the taxes and fees are. Me being the curious sort, I clicked on it - and here is the genius explanation of the taxes and fees that go to make up the €33.37 on the outbound flight:

So, for those that are curious about how the €33.37 Taxes and Fees break down, this should forever answer all your questions. €27.38 of that "Taxes and Fees" total is... Tax and Fees. I'm not sure it could be more of a deliberate non-explanation if it tried. Either Ryanair have mislabeled the window, and €27.38 is pure tax - OR they are deliberately or otherwise concealing the fees details from the customer.

As for the €5.99 "Insurance/Wheelchair Levy/Aviation Insurance", I have a couple questions - firstly, why are two types of Insurance listed, and secondly, if this is a constant cost, why is it not included in the basic ticket price?

Anyway, with my €19.98 ticket running at €94, it's time to get this thing booked before I choose "Priority Boarding" or something stupid.

So - it's on to baggage and Insurance (hold on - haven't I been charged for two types of insurance already?). Anyway:
Trying to keep costs down, I decide to check in no bag, and take no travel insurance. (Incidentally, a single check in bag would be €10 each way, catapulting my ticket to €114). As for the travel insurance, it no longer selects travel insurance by default, but it does make you select from a drop down list, with "No Travel Insurance Required" buried in the middle. Maybe ok for younger types like me, but the no-insurance option should really be the default - for an older person trying to book a flight, what are the chances of them inadvertently purchasing and paying for travel insurance they don't need?

Ok, so we are done - time to check out. The checkout section is ready to go, showing our €94 total:

So I choose to pay by Visa...

And it's suddenly €104. Another extra €10. And the explanation for this, would be what exactly?

Oh - it's a handling fee. One of those handling fees that only applies to a Visa transaction (although there are lower fees for bank debit cards etc). The thing that I cannot figure out, is this: if it's a charge for going through Visa, then how come this charge is applied once for every person, for every flight? For instance, if I buy a return for two people, I'm charged four Visa handling charges!

Are Ryanair so inefficient that they process my card two separate times to get the payment for a return flight? (I checked my statement, no they are not - they are simply charge you two Visa handling fees, for one Visa transaction)

Anyway, flight booked, and I can only be glad that I started out with the cheap €9.99 fare.

Because even with no check-in bags, online check-in only, no travel insurance, and no priority boarding, a €19.98 ticket is equal to a €104 charge when you fly with Ryanair the "Low Fares [sic] Airline"


clom said...

Another delightful practice is the continued gouging of paying customers at the airport too.

On our way out on our holidays we were flying out of stansted, the missus was charged with checking in online as I was insanely busy with work. As we were flying down from Edinburgh with Easyjet she noticed on their website they said only check in online if you're taking only hand baggage. So she assumed that the same applied to Ryanair (in most circumstances this unworldly innocence is endearing). This information wasn't shared with me until we were in the queue for Bag Drop in Stansted.

The charge for checking in and printing out our boarding passes at the electronic terminals was £40STG per person.

Needless to say this enabled us to set off on our holidays in a state of serene marital harmony.

They were weighing cabin baggage to and from Kaunas too to ensure that no-body was taking more than the 10kg and requiring them to pay additional cabin bag charge (or top up their hold bags and charge for excess there)

Regulations are regulations but the business model in Ryanair seems to have integrated a breathtaking degree of cynical contempt for people flying with them.

The stated cost of flying STN-KAU was £24.99 each way. We ended up paying in excess of £170 each.

Anonymous said...

The online check-in charge should be illegal as you have no other method of boarding the flight you have paid for. Ryanair does itself no favours by treating its paying customers like "baggage".
However the bottom line is; for the destinations we go to they are at least half as cheap as any other airline, even with all the voodoo fees.

divot said...

Clom - I'm with you. The thing is, at least Ryanair used to be somewhat honest about it's fares - all the oncosts were optional extras, stated (however unclearly) as such on the site.

This charge for checking in online (plus the wheelchair levy etc) is really the final straw for me though - because you have no choice, and without a choice, it should be in the basic ticket price. It's outright deception and dishonesty. Grrr!