The Spanish authorities are set to fine low-cost airlines including Ryanair, Vueling, Easyjet and Volotea for charging passengers extra for hand luggage and where they sit, among other practices.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs in Madrid has opened proceedings against the airlines over additional costs applied to services that were traditionally included in ticket prices, including booking seats next to minors or dependents.
The authorities said that low-cost airlines have better positioning on search engines than their competitors because their prices are so low, and deceptively so, as the customer often ends up with hidden costs and additional fees not advertised up front.
The Madrid Metropolitan obtained a statement from Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs on 3rd August saying the disciplinary proceedings were targeting “several low-cost airlines for extra costs for hand luggage”.
The Ministry also said: “The ministry is also investigating the extra charge for reserving the adjacent seat to accompany minors or dependent persons.
“Fines can reach EUR 1 million and up to eight times the illicit benefit obtained if it is greater than EUR 1 million.”
The Spanish authorities explained: “The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has initiated the first disciplinary proceedings against several low-cost airlines for charging extra costs for hand luggage transported in the cabin.
“The ministry, through the General Directorate of Consumption, has extended the case to the additional costs applied to other services that were traditionally included in the price of the ticket, such as the reservation of the seat next to another passenger in the case of minors or dependent persons.”
The Spanish authorities argued that the lower ticket prices allow low-cost airlines to do better on search engines, saying: “Thus, through this practice of cutting off services traditionally included in the ticket price and charging the passenger a supplement for them, these companies offer very competitive prices in their advertising.
“This allows them to have a privileged SEO positioning in search engines and in comparators compared to competitors that do include these services in the price of the ticket that is advertised in the comparator.
“However, this price initially offered in advertising does not correspond in most cases, as a consequence of these practices, with the price that the consumer ends up paying.
“In addition, the airlines initiated would not be allowing cash payment at the airport for additional services, contrary to the provisions of the regulations.”
The fines Ryanair and the others could face are considerable, with the authorities saying: “The sanctions provided for these infractions can be considered as serious or very serious infractions, and be penalised with fines of between 10,001 and 100,000 euros, in the case of serious ones, and between 100,001 and 1,000,000 euros, in the case of serious ones. very serious.
“In the event that the illicit benefit obtained from the infringing practices exceeds said amounts, the sanctions imposed could reach up to between four and six times the illicit benefit obtained, for serious infringements, and between six and eight times the illicit benefit obtained, in the case of very serious ones.”