Ryanair loses low-cost crown as families find cheaper flights
RYANAIR is no longer the low-cost airline for those taking summer holidays.
Significant baggage charges during peak times with Ryanair have often made it cheaper to fly with more mainstream airlines.
It can still boast of being cheapest for flights that are taken outside of peak times, even when you include extras like baggage, priority boarding and booking fees.
The differences can be quite substantial -- for example a St Patrick's weekend break in Rome is more than €200 cheaper with Ryanair than with their main Irish rival Aer Lingus.
However, for summer holidays to sun destinations -- when many families find it impossible to manage without checked-in luggage -- the picture changes.
For summer flights to Barcelona, Nice, Malaga and Milan and for an Easter break in Faro, Aer Lingus was cheaper than Ryanair.
Aer Lingus flights came in between €5 and €37 cheaper according to an Irish Independent survey. And this holiday price difference was mainly down to Ryanair's practice of hiking up its baggage charges for peak periods.
While they normally charge €25 each way for a 20kg bag, that soars to a whopping €35 from June to September, bringing the check-in charge to €70 for a return flight.
If you travel to the Canaries or Greece the charge is even higher, at €40 each way.
Aer Lingus generally charges €15 each way per bag, although it also imposes a higher charge of €20 for flights to more distant destinations including the Canaries, Greece, Turkey, Catania in Sicily and Bucharest.
Crucially, however, it does not increase these charges during peak travel periods.
Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara insisted the airline offered the lowest fares on every route, and said only 30pc of their passengers checked in a bag, meaning it was unfair to include those costs in a price survey.
"We are trying to dissuade people from bringing bags, we don't want them, they are too expensive with high fuel costs," he said.
Ryanair also offers a slightly cheaper rate of between €15 and €30 one-way for smaller 15kg bags.
However, if you exceed the 15kg limit its excess baggage charges are €20 per kilo, compared with €15 per kilo with Aer Lingus, who also offer a cheaper €9 per kilo rate if you pay in advance online.
The "extras" on flights are now the main expense that passengers need to look out for when booking.
The survey shows that even "free" flights are anything but -- for example an Aer Lingus return flight to Birmingham costing nothing, finally rings in at €86.98 once €44.98 of taxes and charges, a €12 handling fee and a €30 baggage charge is added on.
And a Ryanair flight to Paris with a return fare of €74.73 has a final price tag of €186.12 once you add on €34.89 for taxes and charges, €12 online check-in fees, €0.50 ETS levies, €4 EU261 levies, €50 bag charge, €10 priority boarding fee and €12 administration fee.
The Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) said the survey highlighted the high prices of all the extras, which had to be costed in before people assessed the full costs of flights.
"It's very hard on families who have to take their one break a year during the school holidays and then find themselves paying massive rates for checking in a bag," said CAI chief Dermott Jewell.