I’ve flown with Ryanair a lot. Some years ago I was near to being a commuter between England and Sweden and flying from Stansted to Sturup airport, near Malmö, was very convenient as well as being exceptionally cheap. So, when I booked flights well in advance, carried only an overnight bag and followed the rules for check-in, it was all pretty easy and frequently cheaper than commuting to the office in London. Admittedly, on occasion I had to sit next to a dreadlocked oik on his way to Christiania in Copenhagen but that is part and parcel of low-cost airlines.
I have to say, though, in all that time – I used Ryanair for years – I can’t recall a serious delay or a technical problem and they got me where they said they would near enough on time and in one piece. That’s all you can ask of an airline, isn’t it? Well, no, it’s not; funny as it may seem, most people want to be treated with respect and dignity.
We’d delayed and shortened our trip to Italy because of the ash-cloud problems so, in changing our flights, had to use Ryanair out of Treviso on the Saturday evening. It’s a late departure but it allows you a full day and we spent it in the ancient city of Padua, where we filled bags with asparagus, salami, prosciutto, bread, pasta and all sorts of culinary delights. Padua is the city where Galileo and Copernicus lectured, where Canova produced his first sculptures and where The Taming of the Shrew is based. There is a feeling of history in walking the arcaded streets between Prato della Vale, dominated by the Basilica di San Antonio and the markets nestling beneath the Pallazzo della Ragione, said to be the largest roof unsupported by columns in Europe.
Treviso is also a pretty town of narrow streets and busy piazze, very much regional Italy and more than just a small airport. Benetton originates in Treviso and is based here but I suspect that they use their own plane. Being commoners, we had to queue on the stairs with about 300 other disgruntled customers. I don’t know why flying with Ryanair is always so uncomfortable. No matter what I do or how I prepare for it I end up frustrated, angry and vowing never to use them again so I’ve thought of the reasons why I just hate them.
Here they are;
One; Ryanair dislikes its passengers. As a business the airline is immensely successful and generates huge profits. Its website reports as I write that profits are up 204% and passenger numbers up 14% but we, the customer, appear to be an unfortunate inconvenience. They treat us with disdain and disrespect and a traveller receives little more attention – sometimes less – than a sack of potatoes. Employees are often rude, too.
Two; the website is a minefield. As a web-based airline you’d expect the website to be smooth, sophisticated and easy for non-technical customers to use. It’s not; the option to accept or reject insurance is still buried in a list of destinations so if you follow the prompt to indicate where you reside it adds insurance – up to £14 – to the cost. Another prompt asks you to click priority boarding after you’ve entered passenger details and that will add more costs. Worse, the site is completely unforgiving of changes or errors – even typing errors – and you have to pay dearly if you make the smallest mistake. This is compounded by your being urged to complete the online check-in because once you’ve done that you are committed and further changes are not possible. It can be very expensive to correct or change a booking and a cynical man would think it was set up with that in mind.
Three; cheap flights aren’t really cheap. This is an old chestnut and is still an issue. When you see a flight advertised for an incredibly low price you need to consider a few points. How many seats are on offer at discount cost? How much are booking fees, card fees, baggage fees, online check-in fees, insurance and so on in each direction? Costs are frequently low but definitely not every time and sometimes like-for-like is cheaper elsewhere.
Four; the baggage allowances are low. You get 30Kg of checked baggage but it has to go in two bags of 15Kg each – but you have to pay £50 for it. Hand baggage is limited to 10Kg in one carry-on that has to include everything including duty-free or airside purchases. In the final analysis working to the minimum or cheapest option is inconvenient and barely workable if you are staying away for more than a day and travel with a laptop and camera like I do. Ryanair knows that.
Five; I can’t understand what the cabin crew say. I have no issues, per se, with crew coming from former Eastern bloc countries or anywhere else for that matter but I expect to understand what they say to me. Ryanair continually staff their aircraft with a compliment of individuals that could have filled the rostrum in a 1960s athletics championship and I can’t understand their announcements or what their replies are when I ask them a question. If I can’t understand routine announcements then what will I understand in an emergency?
Six; the flight is regularly interrupted by announcements. We are advised in loud, broken and mostly unintelligible English that we can buy food, so-called ‘tax-free’ gifts and – of all things – scratch-cards in a constant attempt to prize further money out of us. Ok, I guess, if you love Pot Noodles and don’t want to read.
Seven; they won’t allocate seats. Even allocating seats in the order people check in would be better than the unseemly scramble up the steps. I’ve watched couples forced to sit apart and children separated from parents for no reason other than Ryanair not giving a toss.
Eight; the seats are hard, they don’t recline and there are no pockets in front of you. Most flights are less than two hours so having hard seats is bearable – just – but I hate not having somewhere to put my book, a magazine, fruit or water and some of the other bits and pieces that one surrounds oneself with on a flight. Remember, you are not allowed to carry it on separately so it means unpacking your carry-on once you’re at your seat and spreading stuff across your lap.
Nine; customer service at airports is virtually non-existent. Actually, it’s non-existent anywhere. At Stansted I was once near the front of a queue for a flight when Ryanair changed the gate without an announcement. If you arrive at the gate late they just stop you boarding even if it’s their fault. At Pisa a flight to Stansted left thirty minutes early, for Heaven’s sake, costing me a tank of petrol in the rental car I didn’t have time to refill. Last week at Treviso a group of elderly folk who had been on a pilgrimage had to sit on an airless staircase for nearly an hour while we waited for Ryanair to let us board.
Ten; Michael O’Leary’s supercilious arrogance. Accepted that he is good at what he does and Ryanair’s success bears testimony to that but his arrogant trumpeting and lack of humility gets under my skin. In a society where money equals power he gets far more credibility than I can stomach.
By the way – the flight from Treviso was smooth and landed just ahead of schedule, as I think Olga or Svetlana or whatever her name was probably said in her incomprehensible announcement.
There’s a good website that addresses all these issues more comprehensively than I have interest in doing and if you love to hate Ryanair it will pass a half-hour when you have nothing better to do. Click here if you’re interested.
Really, they are a complete shower. A pox on them.