Which? Travel reported that airlines are using premium rate 090 numbers, with Ryanair the worst offender as it charges £1 a minute for calls to its ‘priority assistance line’ from landlines.

Wizz Air’s UK contact number was the next most expensive at 77p a minute, and calls to BMIbaby’s sales centre came in at 65p a minute. Jet2.com’s general enquiries line and Air Malta’s web check-in support cost 60p a minute.

Acting assistant editor of Which? Travel Chris Gray said: “If you are paying through the nose while hanging on the telephone, it is just another rip-off.

“One of our team was on the phone for more than an hour to an airline recently and his experience will not be unique.”

The study found that three per cent of airlines are using the premium rate 090 numbers, and nearly a third have 0870 or 0871 numbers, which can cost up to 41p a minute from mobiles.

Researchers added that another 24 per cent were using 0843, 0844 or 0845 numbers, which also cost up to 41p a minute from a mobile phone.

Which? Travel pointed out that although many travel companies using these numbers will not be charging the maximum price, it is difficult for customers to know what they are paying.

This is because the landline cost is not always stated, and the mobile cost can be difficult to calculate because it depends on what network the caller is using.

Ryanair, however, seemed unimpressed with the findings.

Spokesman Stephen McNamara said: “In a shameful attempt to garner publicity for its magazine, Which? conveniently forgot to point out that Ryanair operates a 10p-per-minute customer phoneline.”

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