RYANAIR will hit passengers with a charge for priority boarding, despite previously using it as a perk to encourage people to check in online.
Less than a year after promising free online check-in, Ryanair is introducing a new €5 charge for passengers who want to avail of priority boarding.
Ryanair said it would make the system "fairer" but the new charge marks yet another attack on the increasingly-outdated concept of "low-cost" flying.
Ryanair recently justified increased charges by saying it wanted to encourage passengers to check in online with no luggage, a sentiment apparently at odds with yesterday's move.
When it announced its €3 airport check-in charge last August, the airline said online customers would get free online priority boarding.
The airline claimed this would act as an incentive to passengers who wanted to avoid the usual priority-boarding charges, which stood at €5 for checking in at the airport.
Online check-in has since become a firm favourite with families and groups, allowing them the chance of getting priority boarding and sitting together without paying for the privilege.
But that era will come to an abrupt end from June 3, after Ryanair announced its plans.
"These new charges will make the sale of priority boarding fairer for all passengers," said Ryanair's Lorna Farren.
She added that the priority boarding allocation, which stands at 40pc of available seats, is "often" entirely taken up by people buying online.
"We hope to ensure that priority boarding seats will always be available for sale at airports for family members and groups who wish to purchase it," she said.
Checking in a bag with Ryanair now costs €10 each way, after the latest increase came in on May 5. On the same date, airport check-in charges rose to €5, marking the second rise since their August introduction.
Rivals Aer Lingus do not charge for check-in online and offer a seat selection service but have online checked-in baggage charges of €12.
Ms Farren last night admitted the number of passengers checking in online had increased "massively" since web check-in was made entirely free.
But she insisted the priority boarding charges wouldn't have "any effect" on the number of people checking in online.