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Air traffic: “Historic” million-euro fine for low-cost airlines in Spain

Air traffic: “Historic” million-euro fine for low-cost airlines in Spain

Many airline passengers are annoyed when they have to pay extra to take hand luggage into the cabin. A decision by the left-wing government in Spain will please them.

According to media reports, the Spanish government has fined four so-called low-cost airlines a total of over 150 million euros for charging extra for carrying hand luggage and for other practices deemed unacceptable. The companies affected are Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling and Volotea, reported the state television broadcaster RTVE and other media, citing the responsible Ministry for Social Rights and Consumer Protection in Madrid. The left-wing government confirmed this information, but has so far refused to provide any details.

The media and the Spanish consumer protection association Facua, on whose complaint the ministry initiated sanction proceedings last summer, described the penalty as “historic”. “This is exactly what we are committed to, to put an end to fraud and illegal practices,” said Facua Secretary General Rubén Sánchez to journalists in Seville. “For the first time in our history, we can say that we are also satisfied with the amount of a fine,” he stressed.

The director of legal and economic affairs at the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), Agustín Reyna, spoke of a “strong and welcome signal” from the Spanish authorities. “The unfair policy of airlines regarding hand luggage must stop.” EU-wide standards for hand luggage regulations are now needed in order to harmonize the airlines’ requirements for consumers and to relieve the burden on air travellers, demanded Reyna.

Criticism of the decision

The Spanish association ALA, which says it represents more than 60 airlines operating in the EU country, criticised the decision, which in practice amounts to a ban on hand luggage fees charged by some airlines. This will harm consumers, especially “the 50 million passengers who do not carry hand luggage in the cabin”, said a statement. “Passengers are being deprived of the opportunity to pay for exactly what they need”.

The investigations into various controversial practices were launched after several low-cost airlines tightened their hand luggage rules. According to the ministry, this violates Spanish law because services that were traditionally included in the ticket price are now billed separately. And also because airlines only refer to the price before paying additional costs in their advertisements. The ministry announced last summer that the airlines could position themselves better in search engines due to the low prices they offered.

The investigations also focused on other practices that are considered to be illegal. These include, among other things, the surcharges for seat reservations, especially for those accompanying minors or people in need of assistance. The ministry’s decision can be appealed. ALA is also not ruling out legal action, RTVE reported, citing the airline association.

Source: Stern

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