Ryanair, the airline notorious for its array of extra charges, has just launched an unavoidable new fee that will add euro2 ($2.80) to every one-way ticket.
Europe's biggest budget carrier announced Wednesday that its new "EU261 levy" has been designed to compensate the airline for European consumer laws that hold airlines, rather than airports or governments, liable for stranded customers' food and hotel costs whenever a natural calamity or air controllers' strike grounds services.
It promised to lower or abolish the new charge if the European Commission reformed its laws.
Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said the airline has lost more than euro100 million ($140 million) since April 2010 because of last summer's volcanic ash scare across Europe, last winter's heavy snowfall, and summertime air-traffic-control strikes in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain. He said the disruptions stranded 2.4 million Ryanair customers and forced 15,000 flights to be canceled.
McNamara said European airport and air-safety authorities needlessly shut down services in all three cases _ and should be the ones held liable to repay the costs of stranded passengers.
"It is clearly unfair that airlines are obliged to provide meals and accommodation for passengers _ for days and weeks in some cases _ simply because governments close their airspace, or air traffic controllers walk off the job, or incompetent airports fail to clear their runways of snow," he said.
However, if Ryanair's figures are taken at face value, its new "compensation" scheme will actually generate the airline a profit of around euro55 million ($80 million) annually even presuming that 2010's exceptional volume of airport shutdowns repeats itself.
Ryanair says it plans to sell 78 million one-way tickets in the upcoming April-March fiscal year. That means the levy being applied on all tickets from Monday onward will produce euro156 million ($220 million) in extra revenue over the coming 12 months.
Ryanair expects next month to report a full-year net profit of at least euro380 million ($535 million).
Those booking tickets on the airline must run a gamut of add-on costs. Some billed as airport taxes and fees are unavoidable. So too is Ryanair's policy of adding euro24 ($34) to each round-trip ticket if normal credit or debit cards are used for payment.
Traveling with a baby on your lap costs euro40 ($56) round trip. So does a single Ryanair-printed boarding card. Checking one bag costs at least euro70 ($100), two bags up to euro280 ($400). The right to stand in the fastest boarding line _ important on an airline with no seat assignments _ costs euro5 ($7).
Ryanair fees, http://bit.ly/hQUWgV