Thursday, 10 September 2015

My love-hate relationship with Ryanair

Michael O'Leary, the Irish man everyone love to hate. In a way, I admire him. He started from nothing, built a successful business and most importantly, completely democratised air travel. Now you can fly for less than a hundred euros to every capital in Europe (well, to a town in the middle of nowhere at least 45 minutes drive from a capital).

I almost always travel with Ryanair because at the end of the day, they are the only airline flying to my region all year long, and on a direct flight. It wasn't always that way though. When I went back to France the first time, I had to go through London, and land in a tiny airport in Brittany about 5 hours drive from my house. The tickets cost me less than 50 euros so I was willing to make that sacrifice (and I didn't have kids to run after or entertain in the airport).

Here are some of my thoughts about the low fare airline...

If you follow the rules, nobody will annoy you.

Have your boarding pass ready. Don't exceed the weight. Don't show up with a hand luggage twice your size and expect to go through. Don't try to blame the check-in staff because you thought you could buy a priority seat cheaper at the counter than online (I know that's ridiculous, but I've seen it).

You can get really good prices

If you travel on your own, are flexible with the dates, don't have luggage, don't buy a priority boarding or a seat or insurance. Yes, that's a lot of conditions, but it happens more often than you think.

Contrary to popular belief, Ryanair is almost always on time

Landing that is. Because when it comes to take-off, it's another story. But boy do they go fast when they're up in the air. Many times my flight was late departing, but arrived on time. I don't know how they do it...

They are not family friendly

I know they claim to be, especially in the last few months with their re-branding but more than once, I had to deal with unhelpful staff, especially in Nantes airport (so maybe that's just French Ryanair staff?!). Straight to my face they told me it wasn't their job to help me with a buggy, two kids and bags although I was travelling on my own.

Recently, I have discovered one of their dirty little trick... If you are a couple with 2 children and you book a flight all together, you might pay more than if you book two separate flights with 1 adult and 1 children. I know it may sound crazy, but sometimes they increase the price of a ticket based on the amount of passengers on the booking.

This is what happened to us last summer: we booked two separate flights because it was around 40 euros cheaper to do it that way. Ryanair now allocates you a seat when you check-in online and I must be naive, but I thought if I checked-in both flights one after the other, we might be close enough to each other in the plane. Well, we were 15 rows apart.
So basically, if you're a family of four, you have to pay 40 euros more to be seated together (and on their website they actually encourage families to buy seats to be sure they're together!) I know this is reverse logic, but it bugged me a bit at the time. 

Having said that, I'm not going to moan too much, it was only a 90 minutes flight. But still, this fare manipulation is a little trick that spoils Ryanair's supposedly new family friendly attitude...

But overall, Customer Service is good

I have to say, except those bad experiences in Nantes (and I think it's more due to the airport in itself than Ryanair), I always had to deal with pleasant check-in staff or customer service agents. I tried their online chat once when I stupidly misspelled my own name when booking a flight. They were very helpful and changed my reservation without any issues. One of my friend even received a refund when her suitcase handle got broken.

In the end, I think you get what you pay for. When I spend only 50 euros for a flight, I don't expect extra services for free. I take Ryanair for what it is: a low-cost airline that takes me from A to B when I need it. Not more, not less.