RYANAIR customers are being scammed by a misleading currency conversion system which charges more for flights purchased in pounds than in euros, according to consumer watchdog Which?.
Which? Travel has accused the Irish low-cost airline of using "rip-off tactics" to charge passengers up to 6% more using an opt-out online booking option that applies an exchange rate at check-out.
Under this "dynamic currency conversions" system, ticket prices are displayed in the currency of the departure airport – for example, flights leaving from Ireland or Italy will be displayed in euros.
However, that fare is then converted to pounds by Ryanair at the point of payment using an automatically applied exchange rate.
Customers have the option to opt-out of paying in pounds but it is hidden behind a "more information" hyperlink, which leads to a warning that flights will therefore cost "significantly more".
But according to Which? Travel, flights are actually cheaper when paid for in euros – in direct contradiction to Ryanair's "warning".
The watchdog conducted a spot check of 10 popular airlines and found that only Ryanair and fellow Irish carrier Aer Lingus automatically switch currencies at check-out.
But while Ryanair's poor exchange rates inflate fares by around 6%, Aer Lingus travellers pay a more modest 3.5% extra and are clearly warned when they are being charged in their home currency before they can complete a payment.
Warning to flyers
Which? Travel said it had reported Ryanair's "derisory" exchange rates to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Caroline Normand, Director of Policy at Which?, said: "This misleading pricing trick is one of the clearest examples of a rip-off we have seen, but Ryanair has been allowed to get away with it due to a lack of action from the Civil Aviation Authority.
"It must clamp down on this practice before thousands more holidaymakers are caught out this summer."
The watchdog is warning Ryanair customers that they are most likely to be affected when buying a single return fare, for example on a trip when their outbound journey was with a different airline.
They found flights from Alicante to London Stansted for a family of four advertised as €565.81, but at check-out Ryanair switched the currency to pounds – with the total fare now £526.97, an exchange rate of 93p per euro.
The same trip – if paid through Visa's exchange rate (88p to the euro) that day – would have cost £30 less overall at £496.97.
Similarly, a single adult fare from Berlin to London would have cost £235.29 with Ryanair’s exchange rates, compared to £221.78 with Visa – a difference of more than £13.
In a statement, a Ryanair spokesperson said: "Ryanair's currency conversion presentation is fully transparent and complies with all applicable EU and national laws on consumer protection.
"Customers have the option of paying in the currency of their payment card which gives absolute certainty of the final payment amount."