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Melissa Locker
June 20, 2016

As anyone who has flown Ryanair and other budget airlines knows, the cheapest fares don’t always end up being very cheap.

Low-cost carriers, whether Ryanair or Spirit or Frontier, offer the most basic service — efficient passage from point A to point B — for a lower price tag than legacy airlines. If you want to make the experience more palatable, and less like a flying Greyhound bus, you have to pay.

Ryanair charges passengers for everything from checking in at the airport to printing a boarding pass to paying with a credit card to correcting the name on a boarding pass.

Britain’s aviation industry watchdog, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), is investigating the Irish airline for the practice.

A CAA spokesman told The Telegraph that they plan to investigate whether no-frills airlines are “being open, clear and transparent about what additional charges they i mpose in relation to tickets and make sure that consumers are aware of what they are paying for.”

This investigation comes on the heels of a class action lawsuit filed last month by more than 5,000 disgruntled Ryanair passengers (not Prince William) who claim they were forced to pay “unfair hidden charges.”They are seeking £400 million (US$587 million) in damages.

While the bulk of Ryanair’s profits come from ticket sales, according to the Daily Mail’s This is Money, up to a quarter of their revenue stems from the so-called ancillary fares, which means Ryanair quite literally banks on passengers paying hidden costs for everything from seats to water. They’ve done quite well at it, too, bringing in $1.4 billion in profits.

Of course, Ryanair is not the only budget airline trying to make money on fees. The Telegraph reports that European airlines raked in an additional £13 billion (US$19 billion) in fees through additional charges, which make up huge portions of revenue for budget airlines. According to the Mail, in 2014 Budapest-based airline Wizz Air made a third of its profits from ancillary charges while England’s easyJet made 19%. Compare that to British Airways, which made just 2% of their revenue from such charges and you’ll see why some travelers are miffed.

“All Ryanair charges and fees are clearly outlined on the website and throughout the entire booking process,” a Ryanair spokesman told The Telegraph. Now it's up to the courts to decide if that is true.

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