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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'