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Spain wants to put a stop to Ryanair and easyJet’s ‘abusive’ extra fees. Will others follow?

Simon Calder’s Travel

Authorities in Spain have placed huge fines on budget airlines totalling 150 million euros ($163 million) over ‘abusive’ cabin luggage fees.

Consumer groups who lead a six-year campaign against the charges by Ryanair, easyJet , Vueling and Volotea.

The fines will be seen as a challenge to budget airlines’ business models, which hinge on charging rock-bottom fees for tickets and adding supplements for things like larger carry-on bags that were previously provided free by traditional airlines.

Spain’s Consumer Rights Ministry fined the carriers for violating customer rights when charging for larger carry-on luggage, picking seats or boarding pass printouts, while not allowing cash payments at check-in desks or to buy items on-board, said consumer rights associations OCU and Facua which have been challenging the practices since 2018.

The ministry opened an investigation in 2023.

OCU said in a statement it expected other European countries to follow suit and also to punish those same “abusive practices.”

Spanish airlines industry group ALA, which confirmed the fines, was quick to criticise the government decision as violating the European Union’s single market rules and the companies’ freedom to set their own prices.

“We defend the consumer’s right to pick the best travel option,” ALA President Javier Gandara said in a statement, adding that Spain’s decision would force as many as 50 million passengers who only travel with a small bag under their seat to pay for services they do not require.

The fines will be seen as a challenge to budget airlines’ business models
The fines will be seen as a challenge to budget airlines’ business models

The group represents airlines carrying 85% of air traffic to and from Spain added that an appeal could be lodged.

It said: “Sanctioning this practice limits the option to pay only for essential services and would force all passengers to contract the cabin baggage transport service, even if they do not need it.

“The consumer will be the main victim of this interference by the ministry of social rights, consumer affairs and Agenda 2030 in the European single market and the freedom of tariffs protected by European law.”

The Consumer Rights Ministry had no immediate comment. Ryanair, Volotea and Vueling declined to comment on the fine since ALA spoke on their behalf.

In 2019, a Spanish court ruled Ryanair’s policy of charging a fee for hand luggage was…

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