Reader David had a paid ticket and a boarding pass, printed online. He had paid all the necessary fees. He was at the airport and passed through security well in advance of the boarding time. And yet, Ryanair wouldn’t let David and his wife onto the plane. Why not? Because they hadn’t visited a Ryanair “visa check” desk. Huh?

Until earlier this year, Ryanair passengers with non-EU passports were unable to check-in online at all. Since Ryanair charges a higher fee for checking in at an airport, this meant a higher expense for citizens of non-European nations (and some European nations). So when Ryanair “upgraded” their systems to permit, say, Americans to check in online and print their boarding passes, most people were pleased. But there was fine print. Fine print which several travelers haven’t taken seriously until it’s too late.

The boarding pass, when printed, included text that read: “Important for all non EU/EEA passengers this boarding pass must be checked and stamped at the document/visa check desk before going through security or travel will be refused.” And that’s what happened to David. (Read his whole post for the full story.)

Here’s a shot of his boarding pass. (Click through to see the whole document.)
 Dont let Ryanairs visa check prevent you from flying

This boilerplate language is replicated if you read the details of the Ryanair terms and conditions.

What’s a visa check? It’s Ryanair’s requirement that the non-EU passenger check in — again — at a staffed desk to have their passport (and visa, where applicable) reviewed. So, if you’ve checked in on line to avoid standing in line at the airport, you get to do it again, anyway.

Yes, airlines need to make sure that passengers flying internationally are actually permitted to enter the destination country. The airline would be on the hook for the return airfare if the passenger were denied entry. But why does Ryanair have to manage it this way, unlike any other carrier?

As an aside: How Ryanair will square this with their upcoming policy of not having check-in desks at all, I don’t know.

There are going to be people who argue that the customer needs to read the contractual language and take responsibility for what they purchased. Yes, yes, yes. But there are two problems here: 1) The language isn’t clear that this is a Ryanair visa check, rather than an official, governmental security/passport check. 2) No other airline that I’m aware of requires a secondary check if they permit the printing of web boarding passes.

Take, for example, fellow Irish airline Aer Lingus:

Aer Lingus says it does not have such a requirement. “For those passengers who check in online, passports are checked either at the bag-tag desk or bag-drop machine or at the boarding gate,” a spokeswoman said.

Or at the gate. How much… simpler. But no, Ryanair can’t be bothered to run a “visa check” at the gate. It’s almost as if they’re just trying to collect fares from people without actually transporting them.

I think we have our explanation.

The bottom line: If you’re not an EU citizen, and you opt for Ryanair, despite everything you’ve been told, you’ll still need to show up early at the airport, stand in line, and have your passport checked before going through security.

pixel Dont let Ryanairs visa check prevent you from flying
Categorized in: Ryanair

24 Responses to “Don’t let Ryanair’s “visa check” prevent you from flying”

  1. santafetraveler (TheSantaFeTraveler) Says:

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    RT @upgradetravel New post: Don’t let Ryanair’s “visa check” prevent you from flying [link to post]

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  2. Toulousenessie (Alan Ness) Says:

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    Don’t let Ryanair’s “visa check” prevent you from flying [link to post]

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  3. Mike Maddaloni - The Hot Iron Says:

    I have been reading about RyanAir here for years now, and what I don’t understand is why the hell would anyone want to fly this airline? What is next – cryofreezing people, putting them in boxes and stacking them in a plane?!

    The airline industry sucks with the exception of a few stars. I would like to hear from someone who regularly flies this inhumane airline!


  4. Ang Atwork Says:

    Every time I read about RyanAir I wonder how much money people could possibly be saving to allow themselves to be treated this way?

  5. Mark Ashley Says:

    Via e-mail, a reader writes: “I’m no fan of Ryanair but give ‘em a break. The fine print says what it says. Read it or tough luck it’s as simple as that!”

    I knew I’d get responses like this, and yes, people should read the fine print. But…

    There is a problem when an airline has practices that are out of the norm. There are commonly accepted standards, and a mandatory pre-security visa check after online check-in isn’t one of them. I would argue that the fine print is insufficient communication of a unique policy.

    If Ryanair doesn’t scream at you during the purchase process that this new procedure is required, and only slips it only the boarding pass, or in the ultra-fine-print T&Cs, then that’s not enough.

    I printed an American Airlines boarding pass just yesterday afternoon. I didn’t read it at all (though I noticed that it was full of ads.) I’ve gotten complacent, perhaps, but I doubt I’m alone in assuming that the boarding pass is just that — a boarding pass — and not a list of duties and responsibilities.

    This could all be fixed if gate staff were empowered to run the visa check. I’ve had boarding passes reprinted on international travel, due to a document check. But it was done at the gate desk. The fact that Ryanair doesn’t follow the norm and do visa checks at the gate is arbitrary and punitive.

    Failing their changing of the policy, I’d throw into the mix that the airport administration should be more proactive, and ID checkers at security should consider alerting passengers with non-EU passports that their boarding passes aren’t stamped.

    Yes, we should all read fine print. But companies shouldn’t put up unnecessary hurdles to getting what we paid for.

  6. Al B. Says:

    Does Ryanair charge for this “service”? If so, how much? If not, why not? They seem to be missing an opportunity.

    For the life of me, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to fly on that airline.

  7. The Global Traveller Says:

    Another passenger unfriendly policy by Ryanair – what a surprise.

    I do take issue with the wording on the boarding pass. The phrase “non EU/EEA passengers” does not clearly state they are referring to nationality of passengers (although there is some implication by the later reference to visas). If I wasn’t reading it carefully I’d take it to not apply to me if I was flying to or from an EU/EEA destination.

  8. S A Says:

    Not only is “non EU/EEA passengers” unclear (citizenship? destination?), there are a lot of people who don’t know what “EEA” even means. Including me, and I consider myself reasonably well traveled.

    “European Economic Area.”

    I didn’t realize the concept of a European economic area was still relevant after 1992. Learned something new!

    Amusing: Norway is in the EEA, except for the Svalbard archipelago, which, while part of Norway, isn’t in the EEA. I don’t suppose Ryanair flies there?

  9. Cookies Says:

    I flew Ryanair in June. The Visa Check was a Ryanair employee looking at my passport and my boiarding pass and stamping my boarding pass.

    Not a major deal but considering I had already checked in, and that Ryanair doesn’t have airport check in anymore, I had to search for the “Visa Check” desk.

    On the other hand, their rules about weight and size limits for cabin baggage are a bit of a farce.

    Their gate personnel were more concerned about how many bags you had; you’re allowed only one, your purse, shopping or whatever must be in your one bag, size or weight were never questioned.

    For the cost of my flight, I wasn’t going to complain. I paid 1£ each way plus fees and taxes (14£ all together) It still would have been easier with a bigger bag. Gotta put the souvenirs somewhere.

    And as others have stated, you have to read the rules and regulations.

  10. alastairmck (Alastair McKenzie) Says:

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    Don’t let Ryanair’s visa check trip you up [link to post]

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  11. sam Says:

    I just flew swiss from Zurich – New york, they set up this stand at the gate just to check that all US visas were valid!

  12. Worth reading: A foodie rebirth for San Fran's Ferry Building - This Just In - Budget Travel Says:

    [...] Don't let Ryanair's "visa check" prevent you from flying. [Upgrade: Travel Better] [...]

  13. Martin Says:

    As a non EU/EA resident I have always gone to the visa check desk (a less than 30 second job) then happily past security. As someone who always makes use of these dirt cheap fares I am willing to trade off with the visa check requirement.
    The alternative is for Ryan air to charge a one off fee to store your visa /permit on their booking system

  14. Elle Says:

    Is this visa check desk is in the airport?

  15. Mark Ashley Says:

    @Elle, yes, at the airport.

  16. Karla Says:

    I’d like to know what they mean by “non eu/eea passenger”. I’m an EU resident (American expat with UK ILR), but not a citizen.

    Anyway, I only just found out about this because an eagle eyed person in our party noticed it in the T&Cs.

    I’m sorry but the pathetic argument about checking T&Cs or buyer beware just doesn’t wash. If the company’s policy is so vastly different from the norm (woe betide anyone trying to travel LyingAir if you have a rip in your passport!), then it should be made very clear at every stage of check-in. They know you’re not an EU resident when you buy the tickets (you have to say), so they should tell you then.

    Now, let me be perfectly clear: we’re only flying with them because our other airline has gone bust and we can’t get refunds on the rest of the holiday (booked separately) so RyanAir were the only option available. We very nearly did cancel as the thought of giving that thieving scumbag a penny of my money really sticks in my throat. If I’d known about their visa policy, I would have cancelled, end of story.

    I hate RyanAir and will never, ever fly with them again.

  17. Bryan Says:

    I do wish people would stop whinging about Ryanair. If you don’t like them, use another carrier. Quite simple. I have flown with them dozens of times all over Europe and I have never, ever had a problem. What’s more, I don’t know anyone else who has either. There are just these incessant grumblers who don’t pay attention to the rules and then moan when they’re applied. Michael O’Leary does a great job, and so do Ryanair. I am Irish and I am proud to fly the flag. Long may they continue!

  18. Ling Says:

    Too late to read your blog. Me and my husband just got denied to board onto the Ryanair flight going to Barcelona for the long weekend. We’ve been travelling a lot in the last 8 years and never thought we needed to read the boarding pass to look for such ‘important’ policies, especially there is no gate or seat information on the boarding pass. The staff at the gate asked us to wait when we actually could try to run back to the check-in desk to get it done. There are 3 others had the same problems and we were all shocked. We asked the staff to check all our travel documents but they refused to do so. We will NEVER fly with Ryanair again. We heard enough bad news about Ryanair after we bought our ticket but never expected it to be this bad. I suspect they just want to rip another 100 pounds off from passenger. Now my questions is if the travel insurance would cover my loss? If anybody has done a claim before in this case?

  19. smartannam Says:

    Frankly speaking, it is easy to speak about how dare people travel with Ryanair because the customer service and in general people are treated not in a good way. I can comment as a person who needs visa check, Ryanair is an alternative to national airlines that are extremely high in terms of price and the service you get on board sometimes is the same as in Ryanair. Well, even if i had to pay extra it can’t be compared with the price at Austrian or other airlines. Moreover, when u buy something cheap you do not have to expect luxury. The principle is simple get what you paid for. I travelled with Ryanair and did not have any serious problems: the fact is that i had to pay in the airport for the extra luggage as i didn’t plan in when i booked the tickets. I had to pay more because of my drawbacks. My impression do not expect business class somewhere really cheap. For me, plane is a tool to reach those places where i’d love to go. It is like a public transport – do not care what is happening around and it is important to get to the planned destination. Visa check is a smart move to segement those who are non-EU members. Sad but true.

  20. Mustafa Topaloglu Says:

    I will NEVER choose Ryan Air anymore. It was my first and last fly. They make the visa check at one airport at an additional desk after check-in and before security check, at another airport during check-in. I had to pay 300 euro more because of their stupid rules. Besides that I don’t want to see sales promotions every 5 Minutes during the flight.

  21. Michael Says:

    I have never flown with Ryan Air before and after learning earlier today of this visa check, I will NEVER fly with them again. In fact, were I not visiting a close friend in Italy, I would sooner not fly at all and lose the price of my ticket then be treated like a 3rd class citizen. This is completely unacceptable and beyond reproach. I am a Canadian citizen who has been living in Holland for 12 years. I could have opted for the Dutch passport but didn’t want it…this whole thing stinks of discrimination.

    BTW, smartannam, this has nothing to do with having chosen a cheap flight. I have to pay to get to Düsseldorf from Amsterdam so am not really saving anything. The only convenience offered is that they fly directly to the small village I plan to visit so I don’t have to rely on Trenalia when I get there!!!

  22. Haruka Says:

    So, I just booked my flight and wished I had ran into this before i pressed confirm…. But now that i already confirmed it, I have a question. The Visa Check Desk is at the airport, correct? So I should arrive at the airport about 2hours earlier than my flight and go to this Visa Check Desk (is it noticeable?) and then go through security, etc? It would help a lot if any one could answer these questions. Thanks!

  23. Max Says:

    It seems that it’s either a separate desk/window, or it’s done at the check-in desk. I don’t know why you, Haruka, are worried about it, since you now know about this rule, and will make sure you get the stamp.

    When I flew Ryanair (only once) in April of 2009 from Eindhoven to Stansted, I (American) didn’t need to go to any special desk. Of course, I had to check-in at the airport. I’m SO GLAD I came across posts like these because I’m once again flying Ryanair to Morocco.

    On WizzAir, though (Brno to Eindhoven), I was asked to do this at the check-in desk. However, this did not happen when I flew from Eindhoven to Prague. Really strange how inconsistent this stuff is.

  24. roy Says:

    hey guys
    if anybody knows if the rest of the companies do it
    i had a flight today from madrid to mallorca and i couldnt make it on time because of there visa check, i am not ee passport holder
    anybody know if all the companie require a visa check or something like that in europe? its so strange, madrid 2 ibiza same country
    hate this company
    please help

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