Ryanair has worked hard to earn itself a reputation for low headline prices - and outlandish fees which often double the cost of the flight. Fans of the airline have worked hard to find creative ways around them. Some have been known to pack for a ski trip using hand luggage alone. Others send the suitcase by courier. And a savvy few applied for a Ryanair credit card to avoid the incredible £6 'admin' fee (which happens to be applied at the time of booking in much the same way as a booking fee) slapped on everyone else.
Now the airline has slammed the door on this loophole too.
'Admin' feeIt has announced that after 1 December this year, everyone will have to pay the 'admin' fee - regardless of how they pay for their ticket.
This fee has always been in place, but there has been a way around it for the most dedicated bargain-hunter. In the early days you could avoid the fee if you used a Visa Electron card. Then Ryanair changed its mind and to get around the charge you had to use a prepaid Mastercard. Finally in November last year it introduced its own Ryanair Cash Passport Mastercard - which became the only way of dodging the fees.
ChangesNow even holders of this card will be fleeced when they buy their ticket. There is now no way around the charge - which essentially means that every return ticket will cost £12 more.
This will come as a major blow for cardholders. They have already faced a number of hurdles to save £6. They had to pay to load the card, stick with a ridiculously high minimum sum they could put on the card at any one time, face the fact they have no protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for the outstanding balance, and some have even been slapped with a £2.50 a month charge for inactivity if they haven't used it frequently enough.
The fact that the whole exercise seems fairly pointless is maddening.
The blameRyanair is blaming the Office of Fair Trading for its insistence that compulsory fees ought to be in the headline price.
In a statement, Stephen McNamara of Ryanair said: "Ryanair regrets the recent anti-consumer ruling of the OFT, which will result in thousands of UK Ryanair Cash Passport holders no longer having a free form of payment that allows them to avoid the £6 admin fee when booking flights on Ryanair.com. This is another example of regulatory interference by the OFT which once again increases the cost of travel for passengers."
Its argument is that by insisting that all compulsory fees are included in the headline price, it means that Ryanair will have to include the admin fee in its prices. It means there is no point in the airline offering a reduction for Ryanair cardholders.
Of course, it has to be said that this is a commercial decision. There was nothing stopping Ryanair dropping this ridiculous 'administration' fee for everyone, or offering a discount for holders of certain cards. Instead, it has chosen to blame the OFT and bump up prices.
It's no wonder that Ryanair's net profit for the six months to end the of September was up 10%. Michael O'Leary may be wringing his hands at the unfairness of it all, but higher prices and a lower fuel bill means the airline is making a small fortune from travellers desperate to save a bit of cash.
But what do you think. Is the OFT to blame? Let us know in the comments.