Customers must use Ryanair debit card or pay extra
CUSTOMERS will soon need to use special Ryanair debit cards to avoid hefty booking fees when they fly with the airline.
The airline is rolling out a new "Ryanair Cash Passport" prepaid Mastercard in the UK -- and it will be introduced in Ireland in 12 months.
It requires customers to load up money onto the card in advance, and will be the only way customers can avoid booking charges of €6 per person per flight.
However, Irish-based passengers can continue to use existing Mastercard prepaid cards to avoid the booking fee -- at least until Ryanair introduces its own card here.
Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said it was likely it would introduce the card in Ireland in the next 12 months. It is planned to roll it out in Germany, Spain and Italy first.
Ryanair charges all customers a €6 per flight "administrative charge" -- unless they use a prepaid Mastercard to pay online. At present, customers can use any type of prepaid Mastercard to avoid this extra fee. But now the airline is moving to ensure that only customers using the specific Ryanair prepaid card will be exempt.
The airline will begin making money from the Ryanair cards, first in the UK and then in other countries, by selling them via the Ryanair website.
Ryanair confirmed last night that it has a deal with the card issuer so it will also get a cut if the card is used to buy anything other than Ryanair flights.
However, Mr McNamara rejected criticism that Ryanair was forcing customers who had already purchased a prepaid card to buy another one.
"The reason we are doing this is to make prepaid cards more easily available. People can purchase them directly from our website," he said.
The cards cost £6 in the UK, but customers then get a £6 voucher -- although this must be used for purchasing Ryanair flights.
However, consumer groups in the UK have reacted angrily at the new rules being introduced by the airline there.
Martin Lewis of website MoneySavingExpert.com said: "Ryanair is sticking up two fingers at every consumer group and regulator with this news.
"Ryanair must be forced to include the booking fee in its headline price. This is not a voluntary fee."
Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer watchdog 'Which?' said: "A minor change to the law is all it would take to ban the charges on debit cards that you only find out about at the end of a lengthy online booking process.
From next week Ryanair is also extending its reserved seating service onto flights from Dublin and other cities to Brussels Charleroi, at a cost of €10 each way in the front two rows or over wing exits.