Budget airline Ryanair could ban passengers from flying who fail to print a boarding pass before arriving at the airport, if it loses a landmark Spanish court appeal.

A Barcelona judge declared last week the €40 per flight charge to print a boarding pass at Spanish airports for travellers who have not done so online is "abusive" and declared the requirement "null".

The charge in the UK is £40 per leg but there is no fee to print your pass before airport arrival (see the Budget Airline Fee-Fighting guide).

Ryanair will appeal the ruling but says if it doesn't get its way, it may stop all passengers across its network from flying who turn up without a boarding card.

Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara says: "Without these procedures, Ryanair would have to re-employ numerous handling agents at all airports to issue manual boarding cards for passengers who simply forgot to bring their pre-printed boarding passes or who failed to comply with their original agreement to check-in online. 

"We believe the Barcelona Commercial Court No.1 has no basis, as a matter of contract law, for its ruling that there is any obligation upon Ryanair to reissue boarding passes to intending passengers who have failed to comply with their agreement, except on payment of the specified reissue fee.

"If this ruling is upheld on appeal, Ryanair will be forced to cease offering a boarding pass reissue facility at airports and passengers not in possession of a valid boarding pass for their flight will not be able to pass security and will be unable to travel.

"These passengers will need to make a new booking for the next available flight at the current fare.

"In the meantime, the boarding card reissue fee will continue to be applied at all Ryanair airports for this tiny number of passengers who do not comply with their agreement."

Ryanair stresses that while the flying ban for those without pre-printed passes, if it loses the appeal, could stretch across its network, the exact scope of any prohibition would be reviewed.

A spokeswoman for the UK Civil Aviation Authority says the Spanish ruling must be upheld in the European courts before it can be enforced at UK airports.

Further reading / Key links

Make them play fair: Consumer Rights, Section 75 Refunds
Travel for less: Cheap Flights, Budget Airline Fee-Fighting, Cheap Trains