Now holidays are generally relaxing affairs. But after a week with friends in sunny Spain earlier this year, I had a surprise when I opened up my credit card bill to find I’d been stung with an extra charge from Ryanair.
I had consciously paid off the bill before heading on holiday to ensure I was in the clear on my return. So when I returned to the UK, I was somewhat surprised to see an unaccounted for £1.49 charge on my statement.
As I analysed my statement closer, I saw the charge related to London Stanstead, the airport I flew from, and Ryanair, the airline I flew with. But something was wrong. The date was almost a month after I had flown out to Malaga, Spain.
Spanish airport departure tax increase
At first I thought someone had used my card details, so I called my provider to dispute the payment. My card provider said that my call was not the first they’d received on this issue. And it didn’t take me long to find many passengers in a similar situation on a variety of online forums.
The charge related to an increase in Spanish airport departure tax which came into force at the beginning of July. The tax increase resulted in an extra 30p to £7.20 per person, depending on the Spanish airport you were flying from.
While many airlines absorbed the cost of the tax increase, Ryanair passed it on to its passengers even if you had booked and paid for your flights before 1 July 2012 and departed from a Spanish airport after that date.
When we asked Ryanair to explain the reason for the increase the company said: ‘Ryanair is obliged to collect taxes and charges and pass them to the Spanish Government on behalf of passengers’.
Ambiguous terms and conditions
Now the airline’s terms and conditions stated it is able to do that. Clause 4.2.2 reads:
‘Taxes, fees and charges imposed on air travel are constantly changing and can be imposed after the date that your reservation has been made. If any such tax, fee or charge is introduced or increased after your reservation has been made you will be obliged to pay it (or any increase) prior to departure.’
The second sentence seemed ambiguous. I wrote to Ryanair quoting clause 4.2.2 stating that I believed I should not have to pay as I had been charged after departure. The following week I received a response saying that, upon reviewing my booking, the increased tax was applied to my reservation ‘in error’ and I was duly refunded £1.49.
While the amount of money initially taken from my account was small, if I had paid for a family flying from an airport incurring the highest charges that sum would have been significant.
Ryanair’s T&Cs also state: ‘If any such tax, fee or charge is abolished or reduced such that it no longer applies to you, or a lesser amount is due, you will be entitled to claim a refund of the difference from us.’ Have you ever received a refund for such a fee from Ryanair or any other airline, or have you been charged extra after returning home?
Is it fair for airlines to charge extra after you've paid for your flight?
No - that's not right (80%, 355 Votes)
Maybe - it depends on what the charge's for (18%, 80 Votes)
Yes - if they have to (2%, 7 Votes)
Total Voters: 443