How to avoid hidden airline fees, from bag drop deadlines to printing boarding passes

Ryanair and Wizz Air insist passengers check in online or pay extra at the airport

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 17 August 2023 09:36 BST
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<p>Flight check: Liverpool John Lennon airport, with services on easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air and other airlines</p>

Flight check: Liverpool John Lennon airport, with services on easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air and other airlines

The decision by Ryanair ground staff to charge Ruth and Peter Jaffe (aged 79 and 80, respectively) £110 between them to print out a couple of boarding passes at London Stansted airport has caused huge controversy.

In a social media poll on X, formerly known as Twitter, the vote was 2:1 that Ryanair’s move was unfair – with more than 10,000 people registering their views.

Yet the carrier, which is Europe’s biggest budget airline, says: “All passengers travelling with Ryanair agree to check-in online before arriving at their departure airport and all passengers are sent an email/SMS, reminding them to do so 24hrs before departure. We regret that these passengers ignored their email reminder and failed to check-in online.”

So which airlines impose such rules and penalties – and which do not?

These are the policies of major carriers flying from and within the UK, as well as the check-in/bag drop deadlines. In addition we list the policies of the two leading ultra-low-cost carriers in the US, Frontier and Spirit.

British Airways

Online/app check in available from 24 hours before departure.

“If you lose or forget your boarding pass, you can print it again at a check-in kiosk at the airport,” says British Airways.

No charge if you prefer to check in at the airport – either at a self-service kiosk or a check-in desk.

“All you need is your booking reference (PNR) or passport,” the airline says.

Check-in/bag drop deadlines

One hour before all long-haul flights from any airport; and all flights from London Gatwick, Amsterdam, Antalya, Berlin, Dalaman, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan Malpensa, Palma and Paris CDG.

45 minutes before short-haul flights from all UK airports (except Gatwick and London City), including London Heathrow, and all other European airports.

20 minutes before all flights from London City.

At Heathrow, BA passengers must have their boarding passes scanned at the entrance to security no later than 35 minutes before their flight.

easyJet

Online/app check in available between 30 days and 2 hours before flight departure, and easyJet recommends passengers to do this.

But if travellers are unwilling or unable to check in ahead, ground staff at airports will help and print boarding passes up to the bag drop closing time – as stipulated below.

Check-in/bag drop deadlines

One hour before flights from London Gatwick; Paris CDG; all airports in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia; all flights to Israel.

40 minutes: all other airports/destinations.

Frontier

Online check-in available 24 hours to 60 minutes beforehand.

“Airport Agent Assistance is available for purchase for our passengers who prefer assistance at the airport for things like checking in and printing your boarding pass,” Frontier says.

The cost is “up to $25” (£20). The airline stresses: “To save time, money, and avoid this charge, passengers may check in on the website or mobile app, bring a printed or digital boarding pass, pre-purchase all products, and self-tag their bag.”

Check-in/bag drop deadline

One hour for all flights.

Jet2

“You can check in online any time from 28 days up to six hours before your departure via our website or app,” says Jet2. “Please remember to print off your boarding passes or download them to your device.”

Online check-in does not apply for flights departing from Turkey. “You can still complete the process and get your pre-allocated seats, but you’ll need to visit our airport check-in desks to collect your boarding pass before you go to security,” says Jet2.

If you have not checked in online, there is no fee for doing so at the airport: “Present yourself for check-in no later than the minimum check-in time shown on your itinerary or at least 2 hours before your departure time, whichever is the earlier.”

Check-in/bag drop deadline

40 minutes at all airports.

Loganair

“We don't require you to print your own boarding passes or charge extra for checking in at the airport. We believe in giving our customers the choice,” says Loganair. So if you are going on holiday – you can spend more time enjoying the journey than trying to interpret the rules.”

Online check-in opens four days, and closes between one and three hours before departure, depending on the airport.

Check-in/bag drop deadlines

One hour: international flights.

45 minutes: London Heathrow.

30 minutes: all other airports.

Ryanair

“You can check in on the Ryanair.com website or on the mobile App. Once you are logged in, select check-in and enter your travel document details.”

Check in opens 60 days in advance for passengers who have reserved a seat. For those who choose random seat assignment, it opens 24 hours ahead and closes 2 hours before the flight.

Mobile boarding passes are acceptable for flights except from Moroccan airports, where passengers must have a paper print-out.

Passengers who have not checked in online up to two hours before their flight can do so at the airport with the payment of a fee.

From the UK: £55.

From Spain: €30 (£26).

From other airports: €55 (£47).

Passengers who have checked in but cannot present the boarding pass on the Ryanair app or on paper must pay a boarding pass reissue fee of £20 in the UK, €20 (£17) elsewhere.

Booked through an online travel agent? “Where you have booked via a Third Party Intermediary that has no commercial relationship with Ryanair to sell our flights, you must verify yourself by completing one of our customer verification processes. Verification may be completed online up to 120 minutes before scheduled departure.

“In the event that you do not complete Verification online, you will also be able to do it at the relevant airport ticket desk 60 minutes prior to departure. In this case, passengers will be charged for the airport check-in fee.”

Who can do the actual checking in online? A passenger on the booking or “an individual with personal knowledge of you and of the contents of your luggage”.

Check-in/bag drop deadline

40 minutes at all airports.

Spirit

Check in online between 24 hours and 60 minutes before departure. At the airport, you can check in at self-service kiosks and avoid a fee.

“Customer Service Agents are available at the airport,” says Spirit. But a charge of $25 (£20) applies to print each boarding pass.

Check-in/bag drop deadline

One hour for international and US Virgin Islands flights.

45 minutes for other flights.

Wizz Air

“Online check-in is available from 30 days up to 3 hours before the scheduled departure time if you have purchased a seat during your booking,” says Wizz Air. “In case you have not purchased any seats with your booking, check-in will become available only 24 hours before departure.”

If you prefer to check in at the airport, you can pre-book this option online for £11.50 or €13.

Airport check-in without pre-booking costs £35.50 or €40.

Check-in/bag drop deadline

One hour: Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Damman, Jeddah, Luton, Milan Malpensa (non-Schengen routes only), Riyadh, Tbilisi, Tel Aviv; when flying from Budapest to Pristina or Tel Aviv; and when flying from Vienna to Middle East destinations.

50 minutes: Bucharest, Eindhoven, Malaga.

40 minutes: all other airports (including Gatwick)/journeys.

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