Ryanair finds new way to fleece us for card payments
So what's going on, and can you avoid the charges?
Pre-paid card change
The latest move is a change in the types of cards it will accept for free. When you book online you have to pay by card. It has always levied a ridiculous charge for using credit cards, and debit cards. The OFT has decreed that these charges are grossly unfair, but Ryanair claims this is an 'administration fee' rather than a charge for using the cards - and therefore plans to keep on charging.
However, the airline has to offer a free alternative, or it would have to include the charges when it is quoting the cost of the tickets, so you could get around the charges by using a pre-paid card to buy the tickets.
Now Ryanair has worked out a way to make money from this too.
It has changed the pre-paid card it will accept from MasterCard to a 'Cash Passport' from Ryanair itself. Naturally this leaves you high and dry if you got hold of a re-paid MasterCard purely to pay for the flights, but anyone who tries to get around Ryanair always knew there was a good chance the airline would make life as difficult for them as possible. After-all, it had already changed the prepaid card it accepted from Visa Electron to MasterCard.
The 'Cash Passport' is run by MasterCard, but is a Ryanair branded card. Customers will have to pay £6 to take out the card (and will get 6 in Ryanair vouchers in return), then after an initial period, they will have to pay an additional 50p on every purchase it makes outside Ryanair. The cunning money-making element is that Ryanair will get a slice of this 50p.
Can you avoid paying?
It is therefore possible to continue to jumping through the hoops that Ryanair keeps setting (and moving) without it costing you anything. As a result Stephen McNamara, head of communications for Ryanair, told the Daily Mail: "It is only the media and groups like Which? that complain about these charges. Customers simply realise that there is a way to avoid admin charges and they do it. The low-cost airline business model is based on charges that are avoidable if you want to avoid them and the same applies here." He added that at least a fifth of bookings were make through pre-paid cards, so there were plenty of people avoiding the charges.
Of course, it's not terribly easy to avoid the charges - especially when you have to keep swapping cards - which is why at least four in five people don't have the time or energy to keep up.
But what do you think? Should the media just put up and shut up, or do these charges rankle with you too? Let us know in the comments.