Editor’s blog: Ryanair’s hopeless case

Air travel is a wretched experience at the best of times. But Michael O’Leary of Ryanair is going out of his way to increase its hellishness to the point where it becomes completely intolerable. It’s six weeks to go before my Summer break to Italy and I’ve already got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach about the prospect of actually getting there. If I didn’t have three kids in tow, I’d be tempted to hitch the 1200 miles, or get me and the wife fired southwards off the white cliffs from a powerful human cannon.

This morning O’Leary announced that Ryanair is set to end baggage check-ins at airports completely. This means his customers will be forced to carry all their luggage through security and onto the tarmac in front of the aircraft, where they will be charged for performing the role of pack mule before loading into the 737’s hold. It’s claimed that such methods are common in the US for travellers flying into main hub airports and will help to reduce Ryanair’s costs by €30m. O’Leary also claims that only 30% of his passengers check in bags anyway.

Either he hasn’t thought this through, or he doesn’t care about the consequences. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning at Stansted trying to get onto a plane during July or August will know that the experience is already utterly wretched. Having to drink baby’s formula milk in front of stroppy, gloved BAA staff; suffering the appalling queues; having Italian exchange students slicing through your Achilles with their trolleys; being treated generally like a cow off to the slaughter.

If you add carrying suitcases through this scene of damnation, things are going to get far worse. Ever tried taking a trolley up an escalator while carrying a toddler, Michael? No, I didn’t think so. Maybe like the great Dean Swift in his ‘Modest Proposal’, he’d rather I just dispense with the two-year-old and his month-old sister by turning him into something nutritious to feed the Dublin poor.

I’ve used O’Leary’s airline dozens of times in the last ten years and have always been broadly supportive of his mission, which has shaken the old school flag-carrying airlines out of their complacency. When I first started travelling to our bit of Italy in Le Marche 15 years ago, it was either Rome or Bologna followed by a four-hour drive and you lumped it. Now, thanks to Ryanair, you can choose Ancona, Pescara or even Rimini and Perugia for your arrival. He’s eagerly aided in the destruction of Alitalia and is to be applauded for this. His cabin crew may be helpless muppets, the Bullseye Baggies they serve vile, his phone lines organised theft and his Euro scratch cards may drive you crazy, but I’ve paid my money and taken my choice. And only once have I been seriously delayed – at Pescara (albeit for nearly twelve hours).

But slowly and surely he’s pushed a loyal and supportive customer to breaking point. I can cope with his cynical disregard for the basic hygiene needs of his customers no longer. If he goes ahead with this baggage folly that will be it. He can kiss goodbye to my Brit behind and my business for good. I’ll be back to British Airways. And that’s a promise.

In today’s bulletin:

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Editor’s blog: Ryanair’s hopeless case

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    I agree – it’s bonkers. Do the maths:

    55 million passengers p.a. according to the latest figures I could find (for year to Sep 08)

    30% of whom check in baggage – 16.5m

    Saving – €2 per passenger. If you offered passengers €2 discount for carrying their own bags, how many would take it? I suspect hardly anyone.

    I think O’Leary’s problem is that once you decide it’s OK to insult and offend your passengers you lose any insight into how they think, which is a bit of a handicap when running a business. Sometimes he must regret being born at the wrong time in the wrong place – he’d have had real fun running Aeroflot in the 1970s.

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    Its insane, the writer is correct in what he says, sadly however many people wont know what they are in for until they have arrived at the airport. Gradually news will filter out however about this and business will be affected… http://www.qualityvillas.com

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    Silvio Berlosconi, reputedly, said that he would ‘never pay’ as it would ‘dininish the sense of conquest’. Perhaps Ryanair customers, or prospective Ryanair customers, will adopt a similar moral stance.

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    Why you complaining? You like the cheap fares that treat you as a sheep. You sowed the seeds of this by accepting a low level of service for a low price long ago. Your encouraged him. And does he go Ryanair I wonder. Why winge now? Its what you always wanted, really.

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    I was contemplating using Ryan Air as I too need to get to Ancona. Have been adding up the ‘benefits’ of £1.00 a wee, (my welt has started to perish) basicly having to holiday with only one change of underwear & same ole, same ole frock due to baggage allowance & now the privilege of loading my own suitcse. Just how much is my (dis)comfort & dignity worth? But how else do I get there? I do need to be back in the office before winter sets in.

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    O’Leary obviously subscribes to the “any publicity is good publicity” adage. He’s winding you up! This is a non starter. No one would get past the “stroppy, gloved BAA staff” with toiletries in their luggage!

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    I think it is a great idea, passengers will think about what they are packing, travel light & more importantly avoid those terrible check in queues.

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    Ever thought of holidaying in the UK and spending your money in the country where you earned it? Now there’s a novel thought.

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    Oh Matthew, don’t be such a pratt!

    As you yourself admit, 70% of customers already carry all their bags. You yourself have already dragged your baggage the half mile from the carpark by the time you get to checkin, what does it matter if you then have to drag it the last 100yds?

    Do you complain at having to carry your shopping to your car from the supermarket? No. Do you moan about the lack of porters on the railways? No. Do you whine ‘cos the No47 bus doesn’t offer a free bar? No. Why not?

    Long gone are the days when the “Jet Set” required, and paid through the nose for, airconditioned luxury from checkin to the plane. Aircraft today are flying busses. You get on, you travel, you get off; the flight is the tedious bit, not the adventure of a lifetime. Now the greatest desire is to get from your car at one end to your destination at the other in the shortest time, at the least cost, and with the minimum disruption.

    Think; if nothing else Ryanair will be immune to baggage handlers’ strikes. The potential misery this will avoid far outweighs the grief of transporting a suitcase an extra few yards, especially if you have kids in tow!

    If you don’t like it that’s your choice of course, but if you would rather pay BA an extra two hundred quid for soggy microwave mash and a cup of maxpax you need your head examined!

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    A pratt? The walk from supermarket check-out to car isn’t half a mile and involving escalators.


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    I am afraid that I have two conflicting opinions on the Ryannair story.

    1. I foresee a huge security risk by travellers loading their own baggage onto a plane. Does baggage go through any kind of check? Anything could be in those suitcases!

    2. Why does the editor need to take his three young children on a plane journey for their holiday? My children holidayed extremely happily within the United Kingdom until they were grown up enough to know how to behave at airports/on planes. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a plane close to a crying infant or having a child constantly kicking your seat from behind.

    What’s wrong with trains – they are supposedly more ecologically sound and provide a much more interesting journey.