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.

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