The Ryanair experience: better but still nasty

I committed the sin of flying on Ryanair last week to go to Italy and back, eschewing the long overnight train ride which has twice, recently, proved to be several hours longer than scheduled.

Amazingly, some aspects of the Ryanair experience have improved immeasurably since I last took to the air with the company (although actually I did not manage to because it cancelled the flight and has still not paid my refund but that is another story). In Stansted, a flock of little freestanding self-checking screens have emerged and that makes it far easier to check-in, a privilege for which you have to pay, of course. Then you drop your bag in at desks with absolutely no queues. And on the return, too, it was better, with the bags coming through almost as fast as you could get through immigration, which has also been speeded up.

But Ryanair itself still has the feeling of an airline which takes delight in being unpleasant. The Independent reported recently on a lad who had given his name as Rob rather than Robert when buying his ticket and since his passport said Robert he was not allowed on the plane. It seems like a deliberately vindictive and unpleasant thing to do without any possible suggestion that this is to counter terrorism.

And when you get on their planes, the experience is truly awful. Because the company charges for checked in bags, now everyone travels with hand baggage but if the idea was for the plane to save time, the opposite is true. The plane was delayed for at least ten minutes at Bologna Forli while people scrabbled about to find the last piece of locker space. ‘It’s because they don’t enforce the one bag per person rule here’ said the stewardess. But that seemed to be passing the buck.

As for the décor in the plane, that seems to be deliberately designed to encourage air sickness. The interior is bright yellow, and full of advertising for Ryanair, and could not be more hideous if they tried.

Ryanair is the nasty airline and I will desperately try not to use it in the future. But it seems like a mad business model. If the downturn is really as bad as expected, surely it will spell doom for an airline that everyone hates, even its customers. How much would it cost, Mr O’Leary, to make life pleasant for your customers – perhaps £2 or £3 more for each one. Surely that would be worthwhile – we would all pay that just to be treated pleasantly rather than as if we were intruders on your private space.

  • Jim Powrie

    I can’t believe 58 million passengers will hate Ryanair this year. I travel regularly with this company and I think, by and large, it gives great value for money.

  • William Shearer

    I think the line that Ryanair “takes delight in being unpleasant” is bang on.

    Another wonderful charge (but not a fuel surcharge, remember!) is the new debit card payment fee, of £4.00 per person, per flight. Ryanair quietly introduced this charge with a little note blaming the card companies (nonsense!), while at the same time taking BAA to course for, er, increasing their charges. But yet no sign of them taking the credit card companies to task…

  • Tony Baker

    I have never flown Ryanair because they do not fly from Edinburgh to where I want to go. (Ironically Bologna is one of the places that I do go to regularly). However, I do fly Easyjet a lot, regarding them as a cut above Ryanair, although getting nastier). I am prepard to suffer the indignities and inconveniences of budget airlines beause they get me around Europe and the World at prices that would not buy me a walk-on first class return train ticket to London.

    I do catch trains, but over the last year, I see that they have been in Malaysia, Peru, The US, France and Italy. The cost of train fares in this country is exhorbitant, but they have a captive ridership in the South East of England. They are also pedestrian, and I can drive door-to-door from Edinburgh to the South of England faster than train (and carry furniture!).

    Sorry to Hi-jack this thread, but with budget airlines, at least you know what’s coming!
    I used to fly BA regularly to London 20 years ago, with a free drink – but the fare was £160 then. The trains were faster then as well.

  • Kevin Steele

    It really makes my blood boil when Ryanair makes its infamous comparisons of its low fares which are never what they seem. I remember it once dissing both GNER and Virgin Trains on its website, and admittedly it was in the dark post-Hatfield years when the Pendolino/Voyager rolling stock was yet to come out and things were a lot, lot worse than they are today, but it summed up perfectly the company’s attitude – it was comparing its cheapest (i.e. its “free” fares which aren’t really free at all) with the full fare on the train.

    Ever tried finding those “free” seats on Ryanair’s website? They are as hard to find as the proverbial virgin in a maternity ward.

    Dig deeper and once you compare the real cost of flying Ryanair once all the hidden charges, taxes and the costs (and hassle) of travelling to and from secondary airports is taken into account its often cheaper to use the train between London and Scotland – on an Advance ticket! And of course if anything goes badly pear shaped on the train you will at least be entitled to compensation. On Michael O’Leary’s nasty little airline they will delight in telling you to p**s off.

    I concur with Tony Baker above – last time I flew to London (from Edinburgh) I went with British Airways….and booked well in advance it wasn’t all that more expensive than the total cost of the same journey that involved Ryanair…

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