Spain fines airlines €150 million for abusive practices against passengers

Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs has handed out a historic fine to four budget airlines, citing ‘abusive practices’ against passengers.

The airlines Ryanair, EasyJet, Volotea and Vueling, all companies that are major players in routes to and from Spain, have been fined €150 million between them by the Ministry following an investigation opened in June 2023.

The practices, deemed ‘abusive’ by the Ministry, include applying extra charges for taking hand luggage on board and for seat selection when accompanied by children or dependent persons.

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The investigation was opened following repeated complaints by Spain’s two biggest consumer watchdog groups, Facua and the OCU (Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios) dating back to 2018.

Rubén Sánchez, Facua’s general secretary, said in a statement: “It’s been almost six years fighting to get the authorities to act against practices in which airlines have been illegally inflating their profits and we have finally succeeded.” He also encouraged affected passengers to reclaim their money, a process that is for now unclear but consumer groups will lead on.

Following the announcement, OCU spokesman Enrique García recommended on Spanish TV network La Sexta that affected passengers should try and find any itemised receipts they have showing specific charges. He also added that any passengers booking flights with the affected airlines moving forward should keep a record of all payments and extra charges.


Although the Ministry has not published a full breakdown of the penalties, Spanish media reports that Ryanair, the first to start charging for carry-on baggage, back in November 2018, received the largest fine. Earlier this month Ryanair reported annual profits of €1.92 billion. 

Vueling had the next highest sanction, and then EasyJet and Volotea, according to Facua.

A note from the OCU gives more detail on the practices in question and states that the sanctions were imposed for the following abusive business practices:

1. Extra charges for booking an adjacent seat for accompanying minors or dependent persons.
2. Extra charges for hand luggage in the cabin.
3. Lack of clarity on the ticket price, meaning that the final price paid is often higher than originally advertised.
4. Not allowing cash payments both at the airport and on the plane.
5. Applying a surcharge for reprinting boarding passes at the airport (only in the case of Ryanair).

Spain’s Airline Association (ALA) has criticised the decision “to fine with disproportionate amounts this practice, as it will harm consumers by removing the option for passengers to get exactly what they need.”

It is the largest sanction ever handed out for practices against consumers, according to Facua and the OCU.

All four airlines have the right to challenge the decision, first before the Ministry of Consumer of Affairs and then before the Spanish courts, if necessary. 

The Local Barcelona News