Is There a New Ryanair Boarding Pass Fee When You Don’t Buy a Seat?

Recently, there’s been several reports about a new Ryanair boarding pass fee. It was first reported by passengers, and then featured in the media that the airline is now charging passengers to download their mobile boarding pass if they haven’t bought a seat.

But what’s actually going on? We’ve decided to find out whether it’s simply a misunderstanding, or another Ryanair fee to be on the lookout for.

Ryanair Fee Issue Luggage Chelsea Airport

What’s This New Ryanair Boarding Pass Fee?

Back in December 2023, several passengers took to X, formerly Twitter, to share a quirk to their Ryanair online check in process. You see, when they tried to check in online for their Ryanair flight, they were told that they could not get a mobile boarding pass. Instead, they were told that they would have to go to the check in desk at the airport and get a boarding pass from a Ryanair agent.

The good news is that this extra step would still be free and so we can quickly assert that no, Ryanair are not charging passengers to check in online.


However, it is a total hassle and particularly gruelling if you aren’t checking in luggage anyway and are used to zipping through the airport without having to speak to any airline staff. That, and it’s only going to make the queues longer for people who need to use the check in desk.

So Why Do People Think Ryanair Is Forcing Them to Pay?

Well, alongside the news that passengers have to queue up to get their boarding pass is this cheeky little message. It’s this that’s got people riled up.

One version of this prompt reads:

“Check in done! Get your boarding pass now and avoid queuing at the airport by adding a seat”.

Basically, you actually don’t have to queue up and you can get your mobile boarding pass in seconds – but only if you pay for a seat. Since this could cost up to £21 per passenger, we totally understand why it feels like Ryanair are forcing people to pay up.

But remember, you don’t have to! Though if you find yourself in this situation, you would need to queue at the airport to collect a paper boarding pass.

What Does Ryanair Have To Say About It?

When speaking to the BBC, Ryanair denied any policy changes and any reports that there is a Ryanair boarding pass fee: 

“All Ryanair passengers can pay for a reserved seat if they so wish or if passengers wish to avoid this seat fee, they can select a randomly allocated seat entirely free of charge”

As we’ve discussed above, this is true, but it feels like they’ve not really answered the question about this new extra step. What we wanted them to explain was the reasoning for this new step.

Will I Now Have To Pay for a Seat To Check In With Ryanair?

No – even if this was a new policy, you’d still have the option to queue for free.

Cancelled Flight Replacement flight

Is This Happening on All Ryanair Flights?

Whilst it’s quite easy to find a few posts about this on X, the issue has only been reported by a handful of passengers at this point. If it was wide scale, we’d expect to see a much higher volume of complaints.

There was also a suggestion that it was only happening to the last 20 people who checked in for a flight – perhaps in an effort to dissuade individuals hoping to bag the best seat on the plane? We’ve spoken about that hack before! But that could simply be a rumour as we’ve heard from people who experienced this but checked in early.

Why Would Ryanair Introduce This Change?

Budget airlines like Ryanair tend to add on extra fees to ticket prices – think baggage, seat reservations, and that bit of extra legroom – they say it’s their secret sauce to keeping those base fares low. This strategy is known as ‘drip pricing’ and can sneakily bump up your final fare price.

But Ryanair’s pricing strategy has been a subject of discussion and controversy. Just last year they came under fire for charging a couple £110 to print their tickets at the airport – the passengers had accidentally downloaded tickets for the wrong leg of their trip.

A couple were recently charged £55 after they had checked in for the wrong flight - but should they have been charged? And how do you avoid Ryanair charges like this?

However, when it comes to the latest reports of passengers having to buy seat reservations to download boarding passes, consumer rights experts suggest that this could be an error in Ryanair’s computer or booking systems. Or perhaps they could just be testing out a potential new policy. 

We Tested the Ryanair Boarding Pass Fee for Ourselves

With a Ryanair flight booked to Sofia for my brother and I, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to test this new Ryanair boarding pass fee out. I’d check my brother in as soon as online check in opens and then I’d leave my check in until the last minute. That way, we could also double check it wasn’t a new step for those last minute stragglers.

Here’s our results!

Checking In 24 Hours Before Flying

Ryanair’s online check in opens 24 hours before you fly and so as soon as it opened, I checked my brother in. When it got to the seat selection, I tapped on ‘random seat allocation’ and followed all the other instructions. Check in was swift and easy and once complete, Christian had been given seat 3D (pretty decent that!) and there was a mobile boarding pass ready for him to use.

Overall conclusion: For this flight, there was no change to the online check in when checking in 24 hours before the flight.

Checking 45 Minutes Before Online Check In Closes

Ryanair’s online check in closes 2 hours before you fly and so at the airport, I whipped out my phone and finally went through the same process – once again selecting ‘random seat allocation’. Because I’m a saddo, I was quite excited to see the new messaging pop up but… it didn’t! It was exactly the same outcome as checking in online 24 hours before. I got a seat (7A) and a mobile boarding pass.

Overall conclusion:  For this flight, there was no change to the online check in when checking in 2 hours 45 minutes before the flight.

My Final Thoughts

So here are a few theories that are being batted around:

  1. There was a technical glitch
  2. It’s a new process for flights that are overbooked only
  3. They were trialling something new

I think given that people were prompted to buy a seat which would resolve the issue, a technical glitch is unlikely.

As for overbooking, I was actually quite into this theory until I realised one key thing – Ryanair doesn’t overbook it’s flights! So it can’t be that.

The final thought is that they were trialling something. This is what I’m currently leaning towards since it didn’t impact all passengers, and there were even some travellers who were hit with this on their outbound flight but not on their return. 

Many of those who experienced this change said that they had to queue for over 30 minutes and I do wonder whether they were seeing just how many people would pay up and whether it would be worth the extra labour cost of check in staff printing boarding passes. 

Ryanair Plane Window View

This is just a theory though – after all, Ryanair denied that there had been any policy change at all.

However, if this is the reason it is interesting that the number of reports have died down since December 2023. Therefore, if it was a trial, I hope this may mean it didn’t give the results they were hoping for… But perhaps that’s wishful thinking!

The good news though is that at present, this is not affecting many people and so most people will be able to not pay for a seat and still get a mobile boarding pass.

If we come across more info or hear about any Ryanair updates, we’ll be sure to let you know here.

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Are Ryanair charging customers to check in?

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