Ryanair’s policy of fining passengers who fail to print their boarding passes in advance has been ruled illegal in Spain.
A judge has decided the Irish airline must print the documents for free and cannot impose a 40-euro charge at check-in.
Barbara Maria Cordoba Ardao, sitting at a commercial court in Barcelona, said the fines were abusive because aviation law obliges airlines to issue boarding passes.
The test case was brought by Dan Miro Garcia, a Spanish lawyer who was charged 40 euros (£34) for a boarding pass last May.
Ryanair, which imposes a £40 fine in the UK, is to appeal against the ruling.
If it loses, and is unsuccessful in the European courts as well, the charges would have to be axed everywhere.
The budget carrier argued at a December 21 hearing that passengers were always well informed of the conditions attached to their ticket purchases.
The judge ordered a refund for Mr Miro Garcia and said the fact the company was a low-cost carrier did ‘not allow it to alter its basic contractual obligations’.
The judge gave Ryanair leave to appeal to the provincial court in Barcelona.
The budget airline has been criticised for charging extra for certain types of bank cards to buy tickets.
It also charges for checked-in luggage and has said it is considering charging passengers to use the toilet during flights.
Simon Evans, of the Air Transport Users Council, said: ‘You can’t board a flight without a boarding card, it is not an optional extra.
‘The idea of being hit with a charge of £40 or 40 euros if you don’t have your own is plainly horrible.
‘However, many people understand it is part of the deal you strike when you book a cheap flight.
‘This will be an interesting test case as it goes through the courts.
‘If airlines are told these charges will have to be incorporated in the headline ticket prices that will mean fundamental changes to the way budget airlines operate.’