Price increase not consumer protection issue
Flights after 1 July 2022 (without ticket)
Flights after 1 July 2022 (with ticket)
Can airlines increase the ticket price after purchase?


The government recently issued a decree that introduced extra profit taxes in several sectors, including the aviation sector. The decree ordered an extra profit tax, which has been payable by ground handling companies since 1 July 2022 and is based on the number of passengers departing from Hungary, with the exception of transit passengers. The new special tax is 3,900 or 9,750 forints per passenger, depending on their final destination.

While the tax is payable by ground handling companies, rumours emerged shortly after the decree's publication that, in reality, airlines would have to pay and, therefore, pass the cost on to their passengers (presumably by selling the flight tickets with elevated prices that reflect these increases).

The Ryanair dispute with the government is central to this issue. The dispute arose following Ryanair's statement that, as of 1 July 2022, the passengers would have to bear the extra cost, even after tickets had been bought, irrespective of the date of the booked flight. Although passengers were also provided with the option of full reimbursement for the ticket, that approach did not satisfy the government. As a result, there is now a consumer protection case pending against Ryanair.

On this basis, would it be lawful to impose fines on airlines for incorporating the taxes into their ticket prices? This article provides an overview of the general legal aspects related to this question.

Price increase not consumer protection issue

Airlines, being corporations driven by the aim to generate profits, apply prices according to various factors, such as:

  • time (travelling within or out of peak season);
  • the recovery of costs (eg, fuel or staff); and
  • taxes.

The Civil Code also stipulates as a basic principle that the main purpose of companies is the pursuit of business, recognising that making profit is the basis for their existence. Therefore, the fact that the price of a flight ticket depends on certain factors and that flight companies increase or decrease prices in reaction to the changing circumstances is not an unlawful practice. In fact, this is not even a consumer protection law issue.

In principle, companies can set their prices at their own discretion. The consumer protection law only requires them to communicate this clearly and appropriately to the passengers (ie, the consumers). This is in line with, among other things, the provisions of Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008 on the application of free pricing in air transport.

Moreover, corporations may set their prices freely, even without being obliged to reveal the reason for a price change. The only exceptions to this exist within competition law. This is because competition law has explicit prohibitions that forbid market participants, among others, from colluding on prices or from setting prices along aspects falling outside of market conditions and costs incurred. Competition law also forbids dominant companies from applying their prices in an abusive way. Therefore, an undertaking must justify how it has set its prices to the competition authority. The diverse factors that can determine prices include:

  • inflation;
  • changes in taxation;
  • purchase prices;
  • raw material stocks;
  • human resources;
  • demand; and
  • market competition.

Therefore, costs and tax burdens are explicitly accepted aspects from a competition law point of view.

The underlying reason behind price increases in the airline market in recent years can largely be traced back to:

  • the mitigation of financial difficulties resulting from the covid-19 pandemic; and
  • increased fuel costs.

The current price increase is a result of the newly introduced extra profit taxes. This article examines this issue with a specific consumer protection law focus, while distinguishing between those who will travel after 1 July 2022 and:

  • have not purchased a ticket; and
  • already have their flight tickets.

Flights after 1 July 2022 (without ticket)

Flights after 1 July 2022 (without ticket)

Companies must comply with certain consumer protection law provisions when it comes to the communication of their prices. They are, for example, obliged to display the total prices in a clear, identifiable and unambiguous manner, including the currency.

Therefore, airline passengers must be aware of the total and final price of a flight ticket they intend to buy. This means that the visible prices must also include the charges for extra services, such as travelling in first class. Passengers must be aware of this when they make the purchase. If the passengers can see the total prices clearly and unambiguously when buying, the increase in the amount of the price is not a consumer protection issue. It is also not relevant whether the increase is due to issues such as the rise in fuel prices, the covid-19 pandemic or the extra profit tax.

Therefore, as long the passenger is aware of the prices clearly and unambiguously when making a purchase – irrespective of the exact amount of the price – that qualifies as being a lawful practice from a consumer protection law aspect. Passengers can also still choose not to buy the ticket.

Flights after 1 July 2022 (with ticket)

As the extra profit tax has been payable on flights that depart from 1 July 2022 onward, airlines theoretically had the possibility to increase their prices on 4 June 2022 or any time before 1 July 2022.

The price increase is lawful provided that the buyer is clearly aware of the total price of the journey. In addition, it is also lawful for airlines to raise prices at the same time or shortly after each other, provided that they do not do so in the context of concerted practices, which is strictly prohibited by competition law. However, the question still arises as to what happens to tickets purchased before 4 June 2022 for travel after 1 July 2022.

The tax will be payable in any case after 1 July 2022, even though the airline could not have calculated it before 4 June 2022 and thus could not have been reflected in their prices either. The above European Commission regulation provides that when indicating the price of the tickets, the airline is obliged to show, in addition to the fare, all taxes, charges, surcharges and fees that are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time that the price is published. Therefore, as airlines were unable to foresee the extra profit tax or that had to be paid by them before 4 June 2022, the failure to communicate this to the passengers in advance should not be regarded as an infringement.

Can airlines increase the ticket price after purchase?

Airlines, like other similar large companies, have general terms and conditions (GTC), which usually cover the possible cases of ex-post price increases and the circumstances under which they can be applied. Ryanair's GTC also includes such provisions setting forth the possibility to impose ex-post charges. EU and Hungarian legislation on unilateral contractual modifications in GTCs – in this case, unilateral price increases – stipulates that these can be regarded as unfair if the consumer does not have the possibility of cancellation or withdrawal. In other words, it appears to be lawful if the airline communicates the inclusion of the extra profit tax in such a way as to offer the possibility of a refund. The legal preliminary question that will probably need to be clarified in this context is whether this can be considered as a tax transfer or merely the inclusion of a newly incurred cost on the part of the airline.


Several other aspects will need to be considered to decide on this issue. Case law usually deems it unfair for a company to make the performance of an obligation subject to additional conditions. This could be compared to a situation where someone pays for goods in a shop, leaves and is followed the shop assistant, who asks them to pay again before taking the goods home – this is highly unrealistic. However, in this case, it will require a further analysis of case law to decide whether the payment of an extra profit tax could be considered such a situation. In this regard, it should also be considered that the passenger has the possibility to opt out and request full reimbursement instead of paying the tax. It would, on the other hand, be hard to find an airline that would take the passenger to the same place at roughly the same time for the same price (ie, without including the extra profit tax).

Even though the details of the consumer protection procedure lodged against Ryanair are not public, it can be assumed that the case will address some of the above questions. This issue will likely concern thousands of holidaymakers who arranged this summer's travel in the spring.

For further information on this topic please contact Alexandra Bognár or Dóra Balogh at Schoenherr Hungary by telephone (+36 1 8700 700) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Schoenherr website can be accessed at