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I’ve made no secret of my feelings about Irish budget airline Ryanair, from my own horrible experience flying Ryanair last year to TPG Contributor Lori Zaino‘s tongue-firmly-in-cheek post on 10 Ways to Survive a Ryanair Flight. However, if I’m going to criticize, then in fairness I have to praise when the low-cost carrier does something right. Rather than being charged for the privilege of printing out a boarding pass at the airport, Ryanair passengers can now use a free electronic boarding pass generated by the airline’s new smartphone app for iPhone and Android.

Ryanair’s new app is available for iPhone and Android.

An electronic boarding pass isn’t a stunning innovation, as many airlines have already offered  them for years, but Ryanair’s app represents the first time that electronic boarding passes will be used in Ireland – as well as a simple opportunity to avoid one of the most maddening airline fees around. Until now, Ryanair passengers have been encouraged to avoid fees by checking in online and printing their boarding passes anywhere between 15 days and 4 hours prior to arrival at the airport. Check in online but fail to print your boarding pass, and you’ll pay 15 euros (~$20); fail to do both, and that fee will rocket to a whopping 70 euros (~$95), which equals the average cost of a Ryanair flight. At Ryanair, it seems that “boarding pass” has become synonymous with “highway robbery.”

The illustrious Ryanair paper boarding pass is worth 15 to 70 Euros if you don
The infamous Ryanair paper boarding pass: worth 15-70 Euros if not printed prior to arrival at the airport.

For those passengers with iPhones and Androids, though, the new free-to-download Ryanair app (which is presently available in English, Spanish and Italian) will generate an electronic boarding pass that’s entirely free of charge. To access the app, you can either use the same login info from your “My Ryanair” profile on the airline’s website, or continue as a guest, opting not to store your contact and payment info.

Aside from providing a boarding pass, the app searches Ryanair routes and allows you to make bookings, add baggage, check in for your flight, and view live flight information. The app stores all of your flight information, and both online check-in and your boarding pass are accessible from clearly labeled buttons on the right side of the app’s opening screen. Each electronic boarding pass generated by the app – like all others of its kind – has a scannable QR code.

Ryanair’s electronic boarding pass is accessible from the new app’s opening screen.

Keep in mind that you’ll need access to your phone in order to show the electronic boarding pass at security and the gate and avoid getting stuck with that infuriating 70-Euro fee. Since Ryanair is thinking of opening service to the US, passengers will now have double the incentive to keep their phones charged.

I applaud Ryanair for taking one (albeit incremental) step away from gouging its passengers and toward providing reasonable customer service. Does this new electronic boarding pass option remove enough of the suckiness from the Ryanair experience to make it actually worth flying? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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