Holidaymakers who book Ryanair flights from abroad are paying inflated fares after being slapped with rip-off exchange rates, a consumer group has said.

The budget airline is continuing to automatically switch currencies at the checkout, leading UK passengers to pay more, according to Which? Travel.

Similar to other carriers, Ryanair displays the price of the flight in the currency of the customer’s departure airport.

It means British flyers will be quoted a fare in euros if they are flying back to the UK from Spain or Italy. However, when entering their card details to complete the booking, this automatically switches to pounds.

Ryanair maintains its currency conversion presentation is “fully transparent” and complies with consumer protection laws.

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A spot check by Which? Travel of 10 popular airlines revealed that only Ryanair and fellow Irish carrier Aer Lingus automatically switched currencies at the checkout.

However, Ryanair’s poor exchange rates hiked fares by around 6%, compared to 3.5% for Aer Lingus customers.

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In addition, Aer Lingus clearly stated passengers were being charged in their home currency before they could complete the payment.

In all 10 flights looked at, Ryanair levied a higher exchange rate on its customers, the consumer group said. For a family of four flying from Alicante to London, this amounted to an extra £30.

A picture shows Ryanair logo as passsengers board inside a Ryanair plane
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The consumer group has raised concerns over Ryanair’s rate to aviation authorities

Which? Travel said passengers would be better off sticking to a payment in euros and letting their card provider do the currency exchange.

However, because the switch is automatic, it is likely holidaymakers do not notice their fare being bumped up.

The opt-out from Ryanair’s exchange rate was hidden under a box titled “more information”, the consumer investigators found.

But even if customers spotted this, a pop-up warned that letting the bank do the conversion could lead to a “significantly higher cost to you”.

It added: “We recommend you do not untick the checkbox so you receive our guaranteed exchange rate.”

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Which? Travel has raised its concerns over the way Ryanair presents the rate to customers with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), arguing it could be misleading and in breach of consumer protection legislation.

Neither BA, EasyJet or Jet2 were found to encourage customers to choose an almost certainly worse rate in this way, said the group.

Passengers were most likely to be affected when buying a single return fare, such as when splitting their outbound and return journeys with different airlines.

Aer Lingus passenger jets sit on the apron at Dublin Airport in Ireland
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Aer Lingus charged a much lower rate and were clear with passengers, says Which? Travel

Which? Travel found flights from Alicante to London Stansted for a family of four advertised as €565.81.

But at the point of paying, Ryanair switched the currency to pounds making the total fare £526.97, an exchange rate of 93p per euro.

On the same day, Visa had a euro/pound exchange rate of 88p for each euro.

Opting out of the Ryanair rate, the flight would have cost just £496.72 – £30 less.

Similarly, a single adult fare from Berlin to London would have cost £235.29 with Ryanair’s exchange rates, compared to £221.78 with Visa – a difference of more than £13.

A Ryanair spokesman said: “Ryanair’s currency conversion presentation is fully transparent and complies with all applicable EU and national laws on consumer protection.

“Customers have the option of paying in the currency of their payment card which gives absolute certainty of the final payment amount.”