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Airlines fined by Spanish Consumer Affairs

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Ryanair fined along with other low-cost airlines
Credit: Pixabay: JanClaus


Spanish Consumer Affairs has fined low-cost airlines Ryannair, Vueling, Easyjet, and Voltea 150 million euros for anti-customer practices.


The Directorate General for Consumer Affairs led an investigation into their practices in June 2023 when associations such as FACUA (a non-profit consumer association independent of political parties and companies) denounced the airlines for practices they considered abusive, unfair and contra to consumer regulations.


This case has now concluded, and a steep fine is the result.  In fact, according to Cadena Ser, this is the largest penalty ever imposed by the Spanish Consumer Authorities for anti-customer practices.


Why are airlines charging for carry-on?

The fine is for the following four specific infringements:


Charging for carrying hand luggage: It was acknowledged that some airlines impose charges for carrying a handbag or small piece of luggage on board even when not checked in. This practice was given the biggest sanction.


Charging for seat selection when travelling with children or dependents:  Assigning separate seats and then administering a surcharge to permit families to travel together was considered ‘harmful to the vulnerable’.


Lack of transparency in contractual information: In a scathing indictment of the airlines, it was noted that initially displayed prices were not always what the customer paid, making it difficult to compare competitor offerings and, therefore, an ‘unfair commercial practice’.  This was particularly apparent when customers, in their quest for the best deal, made purchase decisions by conducting internet searches.


Ryanair check-in

Furthermore, Ryanair has been criticised for charging unreasonable fees for printing paper tickets at the airport. Consumer Affairs considers the charges—sometimes as high as 20 euros—disproportionate to the actual cost.


Along with the fine, the outlined infringements are also ‘technically’ prohibited from this point forward.  However, as the airlines have a right to appeal – to the Ministry and then the National Court this may not necessarily lead to a complete change in their business models.


Ryanair, the primary offender, will bear the brunt of the penalties, although this will only account for a mere 5 per cent of its profits. Just 10 days ago, Ryanair reported a net profit of 1.92 billion euros, an all-time record for the airline.


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