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.)
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.