Don’t knock Ryanair – it’s created a revolution in air travel that we should all be celebrating

It’s the airline that everyone loves to complain about, but here’s why it’s my favourite

Share
Related Topics

Favourite country: Scotland. Favourite airport: Singapore. Favourite city: Vancouver. So far, so predictable. But occasionally I am asked for my favourite airline, and the response is often taken as sheer affectation: Ryanair. Yes, the airline whose boss, Michael O'Leary, is delivering “customer service” in the shape of ever-steeper fees for checked-in baggage - and even talking of charging for cabin luggage.

There is plenty not to like about the Ryanair experience. I resent the way that the booking process seems to be constructed as a series of traps for the unwary, with a new twist: before you can even start surveying fares and times, you have to sit through an advertisement at the “security check” stage, where you also have to tap in a code to prove you are a human being rather than an automated screen-scraper algorithm.

Ryanair was late to the online booking game, persisting with travel-agent and telephone sales while easyJet.com was thriving, but now sees the internet as the first opportunity to flog “ancillaries”, starting with a £1.69 charge for a text confirmation.

Why pretend to offer me a “discount” for paying with a debit card, rather than portraying the reality that Ryanair – like its rivals – levies a credit-card surcharge? And if I want to buy overpriced travel insurance, I’ll ask for it, thanks; but the airline’s website requires me to know that I have to scroll down beyond Slovakia on a drop-down list in order to select “Travel Without Insure”.

In the event that you successfully buy a flight without unwittingly picking up a host of unnecessary extras, your problems are only just beginning. Both Ryanair and easyJet instruct passengers that they must print out a boarding pass in advance. But if you fail to do so, then easyJet will issue one for you at the airport free of charge. Ryanair will levy what looks like an on-the-spot fine: £70. Penalties for marginally exceeding cabin-baggage dimensions or weight are of a similar magnitude. The airline insists these are purely to encourage every passenger to toe the line, keeping the operation running at peak efficiency. But they also help Ryanair extract an average £6 profit from every passenger.

So how can I possibly admire an airline that makes travel so uncomfortable? Because Ryanair does something so important that its sins should be forgiven. The Irish carrier delivers safe and punctual air travel at average fares that are way below the norm, and therefore enfranchises a mass of travellers who previously were confined to overnight bus journeys from Dublin to London or Krakow to Manchester. Michael O’Leary did not re-invent a failing airline as an ultra-low-cost carrier in order to unify Europe, but that is what he has done much more successfully than any EU initiative.

Even if you are one of the many who say “I’d never fly Ryanair,” every air traveller in Europe benefits from its existence. While O’Leary’s claim to be in competition with British Airways is sheer bluster – the two compete directly only on a tiny handful of routes from Gatwick – the downward pressure on fares has forced all the previously over-priced “flag carriers” to treat their passengers with more respect.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam