Ryanair - A Constructive Rant
In recent years, flying has become a stressful chore. What was once the enjoyable first and last leg of a much anticipated holiday has turned into an endurance test of patience and anger management. Central to this transformation has been our very own Ryanair. Much maligned for its no frills policy, Ryanair has been accused of turning a once pleasurable airborne service into a mini Guantanamo experience.
Backboned by their ebullient and sometimes offensive C.E.O. Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's pack them in cattle class style of service has always touched the raw nerve endings of its customer base.
The grievance list is a long one. Passengers constantly flirt with the punitive baggage rules where an extra kilo can lead to much fiscal turbulence. Holiday stress begins pre flight with the mental gymnastics required to navigate the labyrinth of a booking system and once more, grapple with baggage issues. Neighbours are called upon at unearthly hours where a working printer is urgently sought to print boarding passes while the government's national broadband roll out scheme is tested to the full as wifi starved rural dwellers chase an elusive signal to allow check in online or face the wallet stretching visit to the airline's customer desk on the day.
Charging is a virtue at Ryanair. Whether it be a micro box of Pringles or a standard bottle of water, pricing at 30,000 ft. is as inflated as Mr. O'Leary's ego. Never one to miss a trick, the scrooge of the skies even contemplated a charge for using toilet facilities, an untouchable given in any person's language.
If being held to ransom in the clouds isn't enough to infuriate the masses, conditions and staff practices add to the annoyance. Hard cramped seats certainly get the backs up and, like most rules at Ryanair, there's little leg room to manoeuvre. The confinement is not restricted to just luggage or seats either. There's a premium on headspace which is bombarded and assaulted throughout with aggressive sales pitches, all too frequent announcements and an insulting trumpet blast of the 'Charge of the Early Brigade.'
Personal space, both physical and mental, is the property of Ryanair for the duration of the flight. If passengers survive the guilt trip inducing selling technique of an over enthusiastic hostess, and manage to ignore the incessant requests to consult the toiletries brochure, the last obstacle to encounter is the Ryanair customer demographic itself. With the death of the class system, passengers endure the lottery of the seating system and risk being isolated, without recourse to a reshuffle away from the screaming baby, the seat kicking toddler or swearing stag party.
Yet despite all of the above, we retain a modicum of begrudging respect for Ryanair.Why would an airline that is voted the worst to fly with, still be posting profits 25% beyond the €503 million earned last year. The reason being they changed the game. They took what was the preserve of the few and opened their flight doors to the populace in general. Consider how in 1995 it cost £230 to fly from Dublin to London. Today, such a journey can be made for, on average, €45. Ryanair have created a route map that mirrors the Irish road network. We can catch a flight like we'd catch a bus. Frequency and accessibility are worth the few grievances.
Mr. O'Leary makes no apologies for his low cost approach. Ryanair does what it says on the tin. In these tight financial times, perhaps it's time to get over ourselves. Perhaps it's time we learned to be thankful for what the airline has achieved outside the narrow preserves of our comfort zones. Like a certain Irish comedy loathed by the critics yet baffling in its success, we should take stock and say, Ryanair, well done.
Ellen Ní Ghráinne