One flew over the Cuckoo's nest: Airline charges $60 for boarding passes

It's microcharging gone too far. The European airline Ryanair is tearing out the check-in desks at 146 airports where it flies. As of October, if you want to check in for a Ryanair flight, you've got to do it in advance for £5 ($7.60) per flight, and if you forget, you'll be slapped with a hefty £40 ($61) "boarding card re-issue fee" per flight to get one from an employee at the airport.

Until now, no-frills Ryanair has been one of the most affordable European carriers thanks to its minuscule airfares, provided you knew how to sidestep its myriad of extra charges. Those include paying $30 to use a debit card to paying $40 to carry your airport shopping on board to paying $100 for checked baggage with a ridiculously low 33 pounds. But this new set-up pretty much takes the airline off the map for American travelers.

Ryanair does not go across the Atlantic (although it has been making rumbles about doing it), but it is the top low-cost carrier in Europe, and many Americans catch it while they're abroad. However, the inability to check in at the airport without paying £40 per flight is a burden on international travelers. Americans may have chosen Ryanair because they're doing Europe on the cheap, but there won't be many hostel guests who can find a printer for check-in. This new rule favors business travelers with access to hotel business centers where a boarding pass can be printed. If you can't find a computer and printer from which to check in for Ryanair, you'll have to face that $61-per-flight fee.

Add that to the welter of charges already being levied by the regrettable Ireland-based carrier, and Ryanair now stacks up as one of the most expensive airlines in Europe, not one of the cheapest.

Ryanair was supposed to be a model of the micropayment system, and an airline that could be of value to travelers as long as they could figure out, in advance, the way to navigate the added-priced perils. But now, having gone so far as to make too many of these extra fees unavoidable, it has priced itself back out of the budget market.

Instead, it's merely tricky and obnoxious, and it's now festering under a reputation as the airline that will figure out a way to bleed you dry if you're stupid enough to be seduced by its ultra-low lead-in pricing.

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