Archie Bland: It may drive you mad, but Ryanair is right to charge

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The Independent Online

I don't know if I've ever been hotter with righteous indignation than the time that I turned up to board a Ryanair flight without printing my boarding pass. Realising my mistake as I arrived at the airport, I was relieved to see an internet café right next to the Ryanair check-in desk. I was correspondingly narked when the guy behind the counter explained that they didn't have a printer. When I went to check in and paid my £60 penalty and watched the desk clerk perform the onerous, time-consuming, costly task of hitting print, picking up my boarding pass from the printer on his desk, and handing it to me so I could hand it back to him, I was incandescent.

So was Suzy McLeod, from Newbury, who was recently charged an extra £237 to print boarding passes for her family of five. McLeod posted this on Facebook, where it has clearly struck a nerve: 350,000 people have "liked" her comment, and 18,000 have written mostly supportive comments of their own in response. This kind of apparent unfairness clearly winds us up.

The thing is, though, I've done some thinking since my own moment of outrage. And actually, I don't think Suzy or me or any of those 350,000 others have a leg to stand on. The argument that Ryanair's charges are unreasonable just doesn't stand up to scrutiny. If I'd had the wit to actually pay attention to the terms and conditions that came with my remarkably reasonably priced flights, or the basic organisational capacity to use a printer of my own before setting out for the airport, I wouldn't have had a problem.

Just like those Clarksonites who complain about being snapped by a speed camera because it's been deliberately placed somewhere that people actually might speed, I was caught out by the rules of a game I had already agreed to.

Consider how bonkers the same thing would seem in sport. A footballer can moan if he follows the rules and gets booked, sure. But if he's been told beforehand that he'll get booked if he takes his shirt off, and then takes his shirt off, he would be much better off shutting up and getting on with it.

If Ryanair want to expand this sort of thing, I'm not going to blame them, just like I'm not going to blame the cinemas that charge too much for hot dogs, or the phone companies that give you a free handset and a whacking monthly bill. This is, after all, how they make their business viable enough to offer you a good deal in the first place. If you don't want to pay a £60 penalty, you're more than welcome to pay £100 extra for a BA flight, instead. And they might even throw in some complimentary peanuts.