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Ryanair Fly Into Turbulence

The Irish low cost airline faces criticism home and abroad...

The Irish firm, Ryanair Holdings, Europe's most successful budget airline, has come under fire from the UK Consumers' Association which alleged it had a "smoke and mirrors technique" for keeping fares low.
Under the heading "Ryanair's Flights of Fancy", the spring issue of the consumer watchdog's "Holiday Which?" magazine attacks Ryanair for using airports "that are often miles away from the destinations they claim to serve".
"No-frills airline Ryanair makes a song and dance about its bargain fares on certain routes. But it is not so outspoken about a smoke-and-mirrors technique it uses to keep prices down," the magazine said. It cites as an example Ryanair's use of Bologna's Forli airport, which is 37 miles (59 km) from Bologna, and alleged that passengers thinking they were flying Ryanair to the Danish capital of Copenhagen actually land in Malmo in Sweden.
The "Which?" broadside is the latest in a run of media criticisms for Ryanair, which has built up huge volumes of business in a relatively short time via a twin strategy of fearless price cutting and aggressive marketing. The Consumers' Association said it was taking its complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.
A spokesman for Ryanair dismissed the "Which?" article as "misleading and unfair", pointing out that its use of secondary airports was a means of keeping prices down and denied it advertised the Malmo flight as going to Copenhagen.
Led by its outspoken Chief Executive, Michael O'Leary, the airline is no stranger to controversy, and has tangled with the ASA frequently in recent years over its advertising campaigns. Usually the object of ASA referrals, the Irish carrier has itself complained to the body over a campaign being run by rival low-fare airline Go, which accuses Ryanair of misleading passengers about the airports it flies to.
The ASA rejected two of the complaints but upheld a third concerning a claim by Go that Ryanair tried to hide the airport tax paid by passengers. The Irish airline is also engaged in a high-profile battle with Germany's Lufthansa over advertising for Ryanair's new service at Frankfurt-Hahn airport.
Lufthansa, keen to defend its own turf, objects to Ryanair's use of the name Frankfurt-Hahn in ads for its service from the airport, which is 60 miles (100km) from downtown Frankfurt.
Closer to home, Ryanair, which expects to carry around 10 million passengers this year, was in court this month after a Dublin woman sued for damages over breach of a 1988 prize allowing her free flights for life.
Jane O'Keeffe, who was awarded the flights when she became the carrier's millionth passenger, said Ryanair was now refusing to honour the prize.
Lawyers for the airline argued the prize was a gift bestowed on O'Keeffe and that to enforce it would be unlawful under the Gaming Act, a defence rejected by the judge.
While judgment has been reserved, Irish media portrayed the affair as a case of "David vs Goliath".
In another domestic home goal, Ryanair last week prevented a teenage Irish squash champion from boarding a flight to Wales for an international competition because the girl was unable to produce photographic identification.