Greg Vetter booked his recent European trip on the cheap. He and two traveling companions used Vayama, a travel website, to book flights on Ryanair. But a Ryanair check-in problem canceled out Vetter’s savings and caused him trouble that he could have avoided.
Vetter is the latest traveler to discover that low-cost airlines and third-party travel websites are risky. Instead of saving money, customers of these sites can find themselves dealing with unexpected problems that result in additional charges. If you book using these companies, you have to follow their highly specific, strictly enforced procedures. Otherwise, you’ll be out the money you tried to save in the first place — and our advocates can’t help you get it back.
Couldn’t get boarding passes printed
Vetter and his traveling companions booked flights on Ryanair from Prague, Czech Republic, to Budapest, Hungary. They tried to print their boarding passes 24 hours before departing, but Ryanair’s reservations system did not recognize their reference number.
They tried to solve this Ryanair check-in problem using many channels, including online chats, telephone calls, and Ryanair’s mobile app. But none of these methods proved successful. The telephone number Vetter called didn’t work, and nobody responded to his other attempts to communicate with the airline. Finally, Vetter tried Facebook. This time, a Ryanair representative responded, asking for his email address. Although Vetter provided the email address, the representative did not contact Vetter before his group left for the Prague airport.
Vetter’s group arrived at the airport early in the hopes of getting Ryanair’s check-in personnel to assist them. But the check-in agent could not log in to Ryanair’s reservations system with their reference number either. She told Vetter that they would have to pay an additional $225 fee and request that Ryanair reimburse him. The Facebook representative contacted Vetter and provided a link for applying for reimbursement.
Ryanair check-in problems happen when you don’t follow the airline’s procedures
Vetter and his companions then applied for the reimbursement, using the link the Facebook representative had provided. But Ryanair refused to reimburse the additional check-in fee, claiming that they had not followed the airline’s check-in procedure.
“Obviously they did not read our complaint closely because their online system would not recognize our number so we couldn’t check in online,” says Vetter. “They also claimed to have sent us an email reminding us to check in online. We did not receive this email. They charge a per minute fee to talk to their customer service so we have not called.”
To avoid a sizable fee, Ryanair requires that all passengers check in online. In Vetter’s case, he needed to use an email address Vayama created during the booking process. Ryanair’s reservations system probably failed to recognize Vetter’s reference number because he used his own email address to check in. Had he used the email address Vayama created, he might have avoided this Ryanair check-in problem.
No help in the terms and conditions
The airline’s terms and conditions provide that “All passengers are required to check-in online via https://www.ryanair.com/ and print or download a boarding pass. … Customers who fail to check-in online within the above deadlines … will be charged an Airport Check-In fee at the rate set out in our Consolidated Table of Fees.”
Another reason why Ryanair declined Vetter’s reimbursement request is most likely that he requested it directly from Ryanair rather than through Vayama. When travelers use travel agents, including online websites, to book their flights, they must seek assistance through those agents. Travel companies routinely refuse to assist customers who contact them directly for help if they have booked through travel agents.
However, Vayama’s terms and conditions didn’t help Vetter either. The terms and conditions disclaim liability for the contents of Vayama’s site. They also contain language reminding customers that they must abide by supplier terms and conditions.
That check-in fee is probably gone forever
Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, told Vetter that he needed to use the email address Vayama created to check in. Vetter responded that he had contacted Vayama. But because he hadn’t used that email address, he doubted Vayama would help him solve his Ryanair check-in problem.
Unfortunately for Vetter, that’s where his story probably ends. But it contains several valuable reminders for our readers: It’s risky to use low-cost airlines and third-party travel websites. And the cost savings might not be worth the risks — and the headaches — if things go wrong. If you do use them, know their requirements and procedures and follow them closely. Otherwise, you might have to bid those savings good-bye.