On my trip to Dublin this past weekend, I took the risk of flying notoriously cheap Ryanair. I wrote about how annoying they were when I bought the ticket (I had to pay £7 more than the Irishman) and this unfairness continued as I boarded at Gatwick on Thursday.
Ryanair makes a big deal about charging you for everything, and it's totally true. You have to print out your own boarding pass (and pay £5 for the pleasure) or face a £40 fee to check in at the airport. So I printed my boarding passes at work, made sure to pack only the essentials into my regulation size carry-on (for a wedding, impossible - I had to bring 2 pairs of shoes), and headed to the airport to see what they had in store for me. We sailed through security and got a drink before boarding so that standing in line and fighting for a seat would be a bit more tolerable.
Little did I know that I already had made a huge faux pas. Only as we neared the gate desk to have our boarding passes checked did I notice that the Irishman's had a big EU/EEA stamp on it (for EU/European Economic Area citizens) and mine had a paragraph of small print under the heading "Passport Check". Since I'm American, I was supposed to have read that paragraph and gone to a check-in desk landside to have them verify my passport. Oops. The Irishman turned a horribly dangerous shade of red and we shuffled forward to face the music. Luckily the lady who took my documents worked for BAA, not Ryanair, and she took pity on me. She explained that they stamp the boarding pass and if I went back to do it they would charge me £100!!!! So she did something tricksy with the Irishman's boarding pass and waved me through with a stern warning.
The Irishman's face didn't return to a more natural shade of pink until we were safely in the air, and he lectured me even more. And yes, I was wrong - I should have read the stupid piece of paper. But! I think it's horribly unfair of Ryanair. I'd guess that non-EU/EEA travellers make up approximately 15-20% of all their passengers, and this hidden charge takes advantage of them. I've flown hundreds of times and never had to had my passport checked (and boarding pass stamped) by an airline prior to boarding. The Irishman wouldn't have known; he rarely flies Ryanair and his passport is EU. So all you Yanks - if you plan on taking advantage of flying Ryanair around Europe - be warned! Only take one carry-on, READ EVERYTHING, and don't take anything for granted!!!!