How Ryanair can rape and pillage your pockets for in-flight calls
So the good news is that Europe is about to start enjoying the use of mobile phones on flights across the continent. The bad news is that it's courtesy of Ryanair, and as plenty of people have discovered, very little is ever provided as a courtesy.
More than 20 planes flying on routes out of Dublin will be offering mobile, text and email functionality, which Ryanair is hoping to roll out across all routes by late 2010. Passengers will make and receive voice calls at non-European Union international roaming rates of £1.50 to £3 a minute; texts will cost 40 pence and e-mails using phones and other devices will cost as much as £2 per message. No, your eyes aren't broken. They may as well go the full hog and burgle your home while you're on the flight.
Why non-EU international roaming rates? Aren't Dublin and Ryanair's other destinations within the EU? The EU international roaming tariffs agreed in 2007 state a maximum price of 32p per minute ex VAT for roamed calls originating and terminating in the EU. So how is Ryanair getting away with it?
Notes on EU international roaming reveal that the EU tariffs "deal with the issue of roaming on terrestrial networks... the definitions therefore do not apply, even though it is in many respects similar to a roamed service". They continue by saying that "in a market economy, prices for communication services should first of all be determined by market forces... the Commission therefore finds it preferable to give commercial forces the chance to work".
So Ryanair can charge what it likes while no precedent is set, in order to ascertain what customers are willing to pay. However, "it is clear that take-up would be best served if mobile network operators pursue from the beginning a transparent pricing policy and avoid prices which would be considered excessive by consumers or even represent shock bills."
What isn't clear in this instance is who will rake in the majority of the profits; Ryanair or the operators. Regardless, there's absolutely no doubt that at up to £3 a minute for a call, the prices will be considered excessive by most passengers. The question is how transparent will Ryanair make its pricing policy? We want your help to find out. If you travel on a Ryanair route covered by the scheme over the coming days, let us know exactly how the price tariffs are being advertised. Are there large signs on the backs of seats? A quarter-page tucked away in the back of the duty-free magazine? How are customers being made aware of the tariffs? If you can, take a photo and send it to [email protected]