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Flying Ryanair? Read the Fine Print

The story of the family of five that was hit by horrendous fees from Ryanair—€60 (about $74) per passenger, totaling €300—went viral in the general press and online. The €60 fee is for printing out your boarding pass at the airport, rather than printing it out in advance. There's no question as to whether Ryanair notifies its passengers of that fee on its website; it does. But there's also no question that a fee of €60 to print a pass out of a machine amounts to extortion. As usual, because it has the fine print on its side, Ryanair hasn't budged on either the travelers' complaints or the subsequent public outcry.

Although Ryanair's fees are well above the norm, and even above fee-hungry lines like Spirit, the fact is that several airlines charge you more to issue boarding passes, check baggage, and arrange seats once you arrive at the airport than they charge if you do it beforehand, online. More than ever, if you want to avoid being gouged, you have to read the fine print about the laundry list of fees you might encounter and—usually—make the arrangements in advance.

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The real catch can be if you're on vacation without the access or ability to download and print online travel documents and pay advance fees for your return flight. This can mean that you have to figure out an entire trip before you leave home. And if your airline won't let you print boarding passes until a day or two before departure, you have to line up the necessary Internet access before you head for the airport.

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