NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Ryanair, the budget European airline which piles a laundry list of fees on top of its cheap fares, is at it again.
The airline announced this week that it would team up with MasterCard (Stock Quote: MA) to introduce the Ryanair (Stock Quote: RYAAY) Cash Passport in the U.K., a prepaid credit card. And if you don’t sign up for the card and use it to pay for your flight, you’ll get dinged with a 6 pound fee (about $9.50) on both ends of your trip. That comes out to about $19 in fees for a round trip just for using the “wrong” credit card.
In fairness, this “admin fee” (which the airline says “relates to the costs associated with Ryanair's booking system”) is nothing new. Before, you could avoid it by paying with any MasterCard prepaid card; now that Ryanair is releasing its own branded card, that will become the only one that qualifies for the fee waiver. The new card will launch Oct. 4, and as of Nov. 1, users of other prepaid MasterCards will have to pay the fee like everyone else.
Ultimately, the change affects a relatively small number of people – those who were using prepaid MasterCards to book their flights and don’t want to sign up for the new card. But Ryanair, whose past antics include flirting with the idea of charging people to use the bathroom, has hardly earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fees.
And more to the point, this goes against what we feel to be proper fee etiquette. Airlines should only be charging fees if they’re adding on special services (like W-iFi or special menu items) or if they’re trying to split out services used by a minority of passengers (such as extra checked bags or pets) and thereby keep prices low for everyone else. In this case, though, Ryanair seems to be using fees as a way of strong-arming passengers into signing up for its new credit card.
While the company prefaced the announcement by declaring that “U.K. customers can now save even more on Ryanair,” it’s clear that Ryanair is only the airline that’s benefiting from this latest scheme.