Don’t worry folks. The blog is not going to turn just into talking about Ryanair, but recently I have received not just one, but two emails from Stephen McNamara with Ryanair and they have caused a lot of discussion on Twitter and the blogsphere [check out the BitterWallet.com opinion on the letters]. A lot of people have contacted me and commented about how crazy Ryanair can be, but I think they just would take it as a compliment. I haven’t had the opportunity to fly Ryanair, but my girlfriend Amy has been able to fly them quite a few times and I wanted to share her viewpoint:
Due to a study abroad experience, and later a work relocation for a family member, Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to travel a bit in Europe, flying on Ryanair about 15 times.
Ryanair has cheap tickets to various cities in Europe.Â They have a great business model â€“ no question about that.Â I think that anyone who is duly warned about the downsides of flying Ryanair and then complains about it is getting exactly what they deserve.Â Itâ€™s a low-cost airline, and they donâ€™t owe you anything.Â If you want a first-class experience, go ahead and pay three times as much to fly another airline.Â If your main concern is fast and cheap Point A to Point B service to another European city, then low-cost airlines like Ryanair or Wizz Air or easyJet or whoever is the cheapest that week will do just fine.
You should do your research whenever you plan a trip, thatâ€™s a given.Â There a few things to consider if youâ€™re deciding whether or not to fly a low-cost airline on your trip.Â For ease of comparison, Iâ€™ll refer to the points that David and Stephen McNamara were debating about Ryanair.
#1: Customer service â€“ Low-cost airline staff are primarily concerned with efficiency.Â You may be trading above-and-beyond friendliness for getting the plane off the ground in time.Â I donâ€™t exactly equate on-time arrivals with â€œcustomer serviceâ€ but itâ€™s important to recognize that Ryanair has a good on-time arrivals record.Â Ryanair doesnâ€™t do connections, so being on-time is pretty critical if youâ€™re hopping around.Â I was only on two late flights, and only one was a little catastrophic for my vacation plans.Â Did I go complain to Ryanair?Â No way.Â Did I expect them to pay for my 200 Euro cab ride because I missed my train?Â No â€“ I knew exactly what I was getting into when I bought that cheap ticket.
#2: Charging for the little things â€“ Yeah, there are lots of fees that make that cheap fare go up (though probably still cheaper than a larger airline).Â Hereâ€™s a list of Ryanairâ€™s fees.Â However, if you have no checked luggage, can find a promo fare with no check-in fee, donâ€™t need snacks or drinks, donâ€™t need priority boarding (which most families do) and have no sports equipment, musical instruments or baby stuff (including actual babies â€“ 20 Euros), you can avoid a lot of fees.Â Think 22 year old backpackers.Â This is their heaven.
#3: Flying to small airports â€“ Ever heard of Reus, Spain?Â How about Beauvais, France?Â Thatâ€™s â€œBarcelonaâ€ and â€œParisâ€ in low-cost airline speak.Â Many (but not all) of the airports that low-cost airlines fly to are outside of the major city where your hotel probably is.Â In this case, youâ€™ll probably pay about 15 Euros to take a bus for 1-2 hours.Â In Weeze, Germany, I believe the bus we took into Dusseldorf was also owned by Ryanair, which is pretty genius.Â When flying from London to Dublin, I booked a flight from Stansted and it required a one-hour train ride from London, adding another 30 BPs to the overall cost of the flight.Â It makes sense that flying to smaller airports keeps costs low â€“ and itâ€™s usually not a big deal.Â Just know how to get to the main city.
#4: Ryanair is popular â€“ Well, yeah â€“ Ryanair was kind of the pioneer in this market and their route coverage has just grown and grown.Â After awhile I would just assume that Ryanair had a better/cheaper flight than its competitors.
#5: Charging to make reservations over the phone â€“ I never called to book flights (Iâ€™d go to internet cafes), so I didnâ€™t experience that first-hand.Â I guess their argument is that people who use the online booking shouldnâ€™t absorb the cost of paying customer service representatives that answer the phones.Â Use the internet, itâ€™s 2010.
#6: Almost never giving refunds â€“ I would never have expected a refund from Ryanair.Â They are pretty upfront about being a bare-bones airline, and Iâ€™m sure the other low-cost airlines are the same.Â Also, if you donâ€™t get a refund, youâ€™re really not out that much money.
#7: People fly, in spite of their complaints â€“ For me, the positives (cheap, good schedule) outweighed the negatives (slight inconveniences, occasional fees, minimal customer service). Â There is certainly something to be said for the â€œif you donâ€™t like it, go somewhere elseâ€ approach.Â There were a couple of times I felt frustrated and declared that I would never fly a low-cost airline again, but that feeling only lasted until I got to a computer to try to book my next trip.
Low-cost airlines in Europe really are in a class of their own.Â For most routes, it seems like they compete more with ground and sea travel than they really do with large, long-haul airlines.Â I came to view the small airports like train stations â€“ lines arenâ€™t too long and you donâ€™t need to be there very early.
Basically, if any other airline could offer better customer service, fly to bigger airports, and still be cheap â€“ theyâ€™d run Ryanair out of business.Â But it doesnâ€™t look like thatâ€™s going to happen, so for now low-cost airlines like Ryanair are your only choice and they know it.Â Consider yourself warned and make sure to do your research.