Spain to probe budget airlines over hand luggage fees

MADRID, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs said on Thursday it had opened an investigation into low-cost airlines over hand luggage and other fees, which result in the price most consumers pay being higher than the one that was initially advertised.

The probe could result in fines of up to one million euros ($1.09 million) regardless of the profit made from such fees, and as much as eight times the profit obtained, if it is in excess of one million euros, the ministry said in a statement. It did not name any specific airlines.

Budget carriers like Ryanair (RYA.I), easyJet (EZJ.L), or their Spanish rival Vueling charge passengers for hand luggage, such as trolley bags larger than a certain size. They also impose an additional fee if a passenger wants a choice in seating.

The ministry said that by separating such fees from those traditionally included in ticket prices these airlines “offer in their advertisement very competitive prices”.

This “does not correspond in most cases with the price that the consumer ends up paying, as a consequence of these practices.”

It said Internet search engines can also give an unfair advantage to airlines offering tickets that exclude the fees compared to pricier tickets offered by competitors.

In 2019, a Spanish court ruled Ryanair’s policy of charging a fee for hand luggage was “abusive”. However, Ryanair continued with its policy, citing airlines’ commercial freedom to determine the size of their cabin baggage.

($1 = 0.9151 euros)

Reporting by Belen Carreno and Andrei Khalip; Editing by David Latona and Sharon Singleton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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