Ryanair’s pricing gets lost in translation

Airline math often fails to resemble the math we learned in school. Ryanair is known for interpreting facts in a unique way. William Livingstone, a businessman who has homes in Helena, Mont. and Warsaw, Poland, discovered that when you combine airline math and Ryanair, you end up with a situation that defies reason.

Livingstone wrote to us after he purchased three tickets from Warsaw, Poland to Madrid, Spain. I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

On November 3, 2015, I purchased three tickets (myself, my wife, and daughter) for a flight from Warsaw (WMI), Poland, leaving December 28, 2015, to Madrid (MAD), Spain, returning on January 4, 2016.

Prior to the purchase, I spent a substantial amount of time over several days comparing ticket prices and made a purchase only when satisfied I had secured very low cost tickets.

It is my recollection that I purchased tickets from WMI to MAD on the dates listed above for 129 zlotys per person — possibly less. I also recall securing return tickets for the same amount. (I am an American and purchased the tickets with a U.S. bank credit card.)

Unfortunately, I cannot verify the amounts because the information is not forwarded to customers upon ticket purchase and it is impossible to revisit past online ticket price offerings.

Given the above price for each ticket, the cost of a roundtrip ticket was 258 zlotys, which is about $64 at the November 3 exchange rate of 3.95 zlotys per $1. For three roundtrip tickets, the total comes to 774 zlotys (3 X 258) or $196.

I also purchased reserved seats, which cost 52 zlotys per person for an adult and 28 zlotys for a child, per flight. The additional cost was 204 zlotys for the adult tickets (4 X 52) plus 52 zlotys for my daughter’s tickets (2 X 28) for a total of 256 zlotys or $64.80.

The total for the three roundtrip tickets, seat reservations, and credit card fee comes to 1,091 zlotys or $276.20.

Ryanair also charged $15.48 for “the credit card fee” (the company charges 2% of the total transaction). This equals about 61 zlotys.

Instead of charging my US credit card this amount, Ryanair charged me $789.40 or 3,116.55 zlotys! This is more than $500 more than what should have been billed.

Livingstone initially contacted Ryanair by phone and spoke to a customer service agent and then a manager, both of whom were unable to assist and recommended that he use the online complaint system.

Related story:   Is the era of excessive airline fees really over?

Livingstone submitted a complaint about the billing problem to Ryanair and, on December 14, 2015, received a reply from Ryanair’s Customer Service Department. It acknowledged receipt of his inquiry dated December 11, 2015, and responded with, “On reviewing your bank statement, we wish to confirm that the payment corresponds to the amount paid.”

Livingstone was confused about this response and resubmitted his concerns in greater detail and received this response:

As you know you used a U.S. Dollar Credit Card to pay for the flight and the amount was due in Polish new zloty. When you made your booking online you were informed of our General Conditions of Carriage. These explain our policy in relation to bookings made in a currency other than that of the currency of the credit/debit card used:

Customers who pay for their flights with a Credit Card billed in a currency other than the currency of the country from which the flight departs will be charged in the currency of issue of the Credit Card, inclusive of a ‘foreign user’ charge but you can check the actual amount to be billed in the currency of your card prior to payment being made.

The amount charged to you was correctly calculated as outlined above, using the information you gave us. Due to this we unfortunately cannot accede to your request for a refund.

This response still did not address Livingstone’s complaint, so he resubmitted his concern and Ryanair explained their math:

Our records confirm that on the 3rd November 2015 the cheapest tickets for the outbound flight FR1063 from WMI to MAD departing on the 28/12/2015 were PLN [zlotys] 539.00 for each passenger.

On the return flight FR1062 from MAD to WMI departing on the 04/01/2016 the cheapest tickets were PLN 449.00 for each passenger.

The total cost of the flights had the starting price of PLN 988.00 per passenger.

Accordingly, you paid $116.07 for the outbound flight and $116.07 for the return flight per each passenger, equal to the amount of $789.40; which you were charged in the currency of issue of the Credit Card.

According to the correspondence from Ryanair’s Customer Service Department, they consider the matter closed.

Related story:   Hey VRBO, what happened to the security deposit on my vacation rental?

Companies like to interpret rules to their advantage. No one does it quite like the airline industry, and no other airline does it quite like Ryanair.

How could this have been avoided? When multiple currencies are involved, it is important to be extra careful before hitting the purchase button.

What should Livingstone do from here:

He can appeal to Ryanair’s executives. We list their phone numbers and email addresses here.

If appealing to Ryanair’s executives does not resolve this dispute, he can file a credit card dispute.

He could post his complaint to our forums. One of our advocates may have further suggestions.

Unfortunately, we must move this to the “Case Dismissed” file.

Teri Bergin

Teri Bergin is a Physician Assistant with an oncology and hematology practice in Central Florida. She lives in Orlando, Florida with her daughter, two disobedient dogs and a Bengal Cat.

  • Chris Johnson

    As soon as I saw the word “RyanAir” at the top of the article, I thought, forget about any resolution for the customer, it ain’t gonna happen. The only way to deal with RyanAir and get what you want is not fly them in the first place. Booking on RyanAir might as well be the same as placing a bet in a casino – you might come out ahead (with a cheaper airfare), but the odds are stacked against you and it’s pretty doubtful, especially when you factor in the all their other service charges. At least in a casino (and some other airlines) they give you free drinks – not the case with RyanAir.

  • Laura616

    No one will ever win a battle with Ryan Air. I can see what they did which is the same thing that a lot of car rental companies do in Europe. I will never use some of them because of it. I paid with a UK debit card on a rental and they converted the funds to US dollars because they said whichever license is used, that is the currency they charge the card with. This was years ago but what kind of insane logic is that? Incidentally, their ‘computers were down’ when I took the car back and the exchange rate was in their favor. I did however get the money back.

  • Mel65

    “It is my recollection that I purchased tickets from WMI to MAD on the dates listed above for 129 zlotys per person — possibly less.”

    Well that’s a problem. As soon as you say “I think I remember paying X,” and they say “We know you paid Y” you’re going to lose. If you know you’re not going to get a receipt why would you not screenshot the transaction? This sort of situation is just ripe for abuse. Also it doesn’t appear to me that it’s a math problem it’s a problem of recollection and the amount agreed to/paid.

    Also, it’s Ryanair… enough said.

  • MarkKelling

    I know this is Ryanair, but …

    What does the receipt say? I don’t know of any airline that does not email you a receipt with the amount of the ticket(s) on it. It is always in the currency booked in when I get the receipt, regardless of my home currency. They could have done some exchange rate trickery like using Dynamic Currency Conversion and changed first to GBP before going to USD with the doubly inflated amount passed on to the credit card company. But I doubt that could add up to $500 on a transaction of this amount.

    Why was the transaction done in Zloty? I guess if you were in Poland when the transaction was done the web page would default to the Polish version. However, Ryanair makes it very simple to pick the country and language you want. Was there a savings on the price quoted on the Polish web site over the US one? I looked today at the Polish version of the web page and the price today for a random flight is fairly close to the amount quoted in the responses shown in the article.

    Also, the wishy-washy “It is my recollection that I purchased tickets … on the dates listed above for 129 zlotys per person — possibly less” does nothing to help the case. It seems that recollection is off and it was possibly more, not less, but with no concrete evidence to back up a recollection there simply is no case.

  • Peter Varhol

    What I would like to know is why people fly airlines like RyanAir and Spirit. Sure, you are going to be quoted a great fare, but they must know that you get what you pay for. I continue to be amazed that these airlines can make a business off of deceiving their customers.
    Well, it’s that people search for the lowest possible fares, without searching for the quality of the service or the quality of the provider. We continue to trash all airlines, yet we continue to be bottom feeders. Can someone explain that to me?

  • Éamon deValera

    Checking RyanAir’s website using a US IP address and a VPN Polish IP address the cheapest fare on the 8 random dates (out and back on a weekday staying over a weekend) even 5 months advance purchase was 369 PLN.

    It seems odd to me that a receipt wouldn’t have the fare paid. I think we’re missing quite a few facts.

    The “Manage” dropdown section of the website will allow you to print your receipt up to 9 months from the date of travel by email address, credit card number (even if you don’t have the booking number). This should clarify everything.

  • Éamon deValera

    I fly Spirit because it is cheap. I also have a canvas bag that is 12X14X16 and counts as a personal item so I pay no baggage fees. I set my expectations for timeliness and service in line with what I paid. I don’t expect first class treatment.

    I fly Ryan because they bent over backwards to get me out of London (when my original Ryan flight had been canceled by the government) on 9/11/2001. Sure I ended up in Wurzburg, Germany but nobody was blowing up Germany that day.

  • Michael__K

    They could have done some exchange rate trickery like using Dynamic Currency Conversion and changed first to GBP before going to USD with the doubly inflated amount passed on to the credit card company.

    Bingo. They admit they do this in Article 18 of their contract (which they reference in their response to the passenger in the forums):

    Passengers who pay for their flights with a credit card billed in a currency other than the currency of the country from which the flight departs will be charged in the currency of issue of the credit card, inclusive of a ‘dynamic currency conversion’ rate but you can check the actual amount to be billed in the currency of your card prior to payment being made.

    In theory the actual amount billed in USD should have been disclosed “prior to payment” but who knows how clear that disclosure was and what is the passenger supposed to do if they did not observe any such disclosure?

  • Michael__K

    According to Ryanair, it doesn’t matter what the quoted fare in PLN was. Their contract asserts the right to charge the passenger in the currency of issue of the credit card, PLUS to add on a ‘dynamic currency conversion’ rate, which they don’t publish.

    There wouldn’t be any receipt in PLN because Ryanair asserts the right to switched the fare to USD and tack on their dynamic currency conversion charge.

    If the passenger is an EU national, then this is illegal price discrimination by Ryanair.

  • Nathan Witt

    “Prior to the purchase, I spent a substantial amount of time over several days comparing ticket prices and made a purchase only when satisfied I had secured very low cost tickets.” For many people, it’s apparently worth days of their time to save a few dollars, and those people keep Spirit and RyanAir in business. I think it’s because they view airline tickets as a fixed-quality commodity (probably the way you think of canned corn or 2x4s, to pick examples at random), so the cheapest one must be the best value. And because people are very bad at being wrong, they keep doing the same thing over and over, even when presented with evidence that they *are* wrong.

  • Realitoes

    If you actually book it and use a US or Euro card, they give you the option to pay in either PLN or USD/Euro. If you select the USD/Euro button, it gives you amount in that currency that will be charged, plus the exchange rate they are using. I’ve done this many times with a US Credit card booking on the UK site while living overseas.

  • Realitoes
  • Michael__K

    Interesting. How long ago was that? I wonder if their terms changed?

    The current terms state unequivocally that payment will be taken in the “currency of issue of the credit card” when the departure point uses a different currency. As the terms read, the customer has no choice.

  • Realitoes

    You can actually go on the site now and book it that way. I posted an example using the polish site in the forum a while back. http://forum.elliott.org/threads/ryanairs-stonewalling-and-fraudulent-billing.2837/#post-29887

  • Annie M

    Why would those on the forums be able to help when you couldn’t? The only way for this gentleman to prove his figures is with screen shots which he doesn’t have.
    It’s a shame that it has to come to doing screen shots every time you make a booking, but it seems that would be the only way to end the “he said, they said”.

    If he can’t prove it, he can’t get a refund.

  • MarkKelling

    I’m sure many people do concern themselves with the very last penny they can save on a flight. But my time is worth more than that. Sure, I’m not going to automatically go with one airline when I need to go somewhere and I will look around, but I’m not going to spend “a substantial amount of time over several days” to make the decision for a quick short trip.

    Same with canned corn. Store S might have it on sale this week at 3 cans for $1 while Store K has it at the regular $1 a can. But is it worth the extra time it would take me to go to Store S which is not my regular familiar store, struggle through their unfamiliar store layout to find it and then wait in line for a disgruntled employee to ring it up? I could have gotten it while doing my shopping at Store K and spent no extra time (remember my time is worth something to me) and only a little extra money while being assisted by happy employees. Of course if I was buying a plane ticket and it was 3 times more expensive at my regular airline than at another, I might want to try the other airline and if Store S had enough items I needed on sale at great prices I might want to try them as well. But give me a bad experience, or if I hear from enough customers having a bad experience I am not going to be willing to choose the lower cost option even it it is substantially lower. But them apparently I am in the minority.

  • MarkKelling

    Yes, they bill you in your home currency, but the receipt should still show the currency the transaction was conducted in. The billing is done after the fact. That is how Dynamic Currency Conversion is required to show on a receipt provided for the transaction.

  • just me

    Since you are not sure if your actual cost was 774 Zloty – I will tell you the cost was 789 Zloty. Ryan NEVER shows currency designation. Their accounting got the amount 789 and they noticed that your card is US issue – therefore it must have been Dollars not Zloty. Simple.
    I had similar issues in the past with other airlines like Ryan and big car rental companies. I do not fly “discount” airlines anymore and I watch the paperwork from the big name car rentals outside US like a hawk.
    Lucky you that it was US based credit card – request the charge-back from the credit card — let Ryan sue you for the debt. But since you are in Poland – be advised that you will loose – you’ll pay american rates for lawyers, you’ll pay exorbitant court fees to get access to them, and after that the case will be heard by a judge who was already paid off and who does not obey the law anyway. Super corrupt country.

  • Maxwell Smart

    give it a break. Ryanair is one of the world most popular airlines & would rather fly them than ANY U.S. carrier.

  • Chris Johnson

    You are certainly free to choose and so am I. Fortunately, RyanAir has not graced the United States with their presence as of yet. I would consider their closest equivalent in the states to be Spirit and I won’t fly them either after all the horror stories I’ve heard, many of them on this website. Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, despite being called “discount” airlines, seem like full service by comparison and do things just as well, if not better than the legacy airlines. Of course, those discounters don’t fly everywhere, but they are my preferred mode of air transportation when possible. Compared to RyanAir or Spirit, they are the gold standard by far.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.