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Stop whinging about Ryanair – unless you’re actually ready to do something about it

We refuse, for some reason, to accept that if we pay less for flight than a Big Mac and Fries then we’ve got no right to expect much in the way of service

Sean O'Grady
Thursday 21 September 2017 16:49 BST
Consumers have been stranded across Europe as a result of Ryanair's flight cancellations
Consumers have been stranded across Europe as a result of Ryanair's flight cancellations

At least he was honest, the guy on Radio 5 Live. He spent a good few minutes (it felt like an eternity) going on and on and on about how much money he was going to have to shell out because Ryanair had cancelled his flight, how awful it was for him and his girlfriend, and how disappointed he was to be stranded in some admittedly quite pleasant corner of Europe for a few days. I think he was supposed to be at an airport, symbolically, but I couldn’t actually hear any of the jet engines because his own whining was so loud it drowned them out. And naturally he blamed Michael O’Leary.

O’Leary, for his part, has disarmed his critics by admitting it was indeed his mess and admitting to being a “clown”. I admire his style: “I’m Michael. Fly me – if I’m not on leave”.

Then the Radio 5 Live interviewer asked this customer of O’Leary if he’d ever fly Ryanair again. He paused momentarily and then, to his credit, replied that, yes, he probably would just because it was so cheap.

There, ladies and gentlemen, we have a fine example illustrating the phenomenon of “revealed preference”, or the eternal lesson of judging people by their actions rather than their words. Think, for example, of all the times you’ve heard complaints about the utility firms, usually attached to a demand to nationalise them. Yet how many of those whingers ever bother to shift their energy supplier? How many ever bother looking for cheaper insurance for their car or home? (And might want the state to provide that for nothing too).

How many slag off the big supermarkets for victimising farmers, but sneakily nip into Tesco for a pint of milk? What sort of a world is it where we demand state ownership or regulation in preference to just shopping around?

If everyone who moaned about the cost of competitive services actually bothered to vote with their wallets and boycott the worst companies then we’d not need heavy regulation or Bolshevik-style nationalisation without compensation. Lenin didn’t have Go Compare, that was his trouble.

It is all, to me, quite symptomatic of a society that is generally sliding away from individuals taking responsibility for themselves. We refuse, for some reason, to accept that if we pay less for a flight than a Big Mac and Fries then we’ve got no right to expect much in the way of service.

Ryanair to take back pilots' holidays to prevent more cancellations

I do wonder precisely how many people who “pledge” never to get on a Ryanair flight again actually end up fulfilling that promise. Sometimes even the most adamantine of us crack after a time when boycotting a hated company. I pride myself that I made a solemn vow never to take an intercity train again after some officious East Midlands Trains steward told me off for snaffling a complimentary copy of the Evening Standard from the first class compartment on my way down the carriage towards “standard” class. That was in the days, by the way, when it was a paid-for title, and the cost of it was around the 20p mark I guess. It was almost a quarter century ago. Since then I’ve taken the train I think twice, out of bitter necessity when the alternative was sleeping in a park or, the ultimate horror, a coach.

Last time I made sure it cost me no more than £21, and I am determined not to take another one until the year 2042, by which time trains will have been replaced by autonomous cars anyway, and what we now know as railways will have been concreted over for new specially built safe motorways for autonomous cars. There’s a post-Brexit vision for you.

I digress. My point is that I was (mostly) consistent. Yes, I stole a copy of the Standard. But my preference was that if I couldn’t have a complimentary paper to read then I wasn’t going to use their poxy railway service again. I didn’t. If you follow that kind of line of principle, stubbornly and consistently and at some personal sacrifice in money, time and stress (the M1 being the alternative), then fine. If not, then you must be prepared for Ryanair levels of service to go with Ryanair levels of fares.

Ryanair boss demands airports drop passport checks for departing passengers

Me use Ryanair? No thanks. One day I am convinced O’Leary will make you pay extra to use the loo, thus giving a whole new meaning to the “mile high club”.

The whole budget/Ryanair/EasyJet phenomenon has, with the human degradation associated with British airports, robbed aviation of all of its vestigial glamour or charm. Given the sheer awfulness of getting through an airport these days I wonder why anyone would bother at any price. There’s the multi-hour check ins that are longer than the flight; the cost and uncertainty of parking; the additional time taken to get some bus from the car park to the terminal, if it ever turns up; the automated check ins with the passport readers that never ever work; the vast queues waiting for a human who can actually put you on the right flight and check a bag in; being asked to take your shoes, glasses and trousers off to get through security and have your packet of Maltesers confiscated because someone once tried to make a bomb out of them, plus the terminal seating deliberately designed to thwart anyone trying to put their feet up, let alone stretch out and get some kip while they wait for the crew to sober up and announce the usual delays to take off just because Heathrow is so busy; the queues at the other end to get through passport control (especially unpleasant in the US).

And then the flight itself; a sarnie and a tea for the best part of a tenner and the risk of deep vein thrombosis thrown in for nothing.

The truth is that we all know air travel is more of an ordeal than a pleasure; and I’d rather not bother even trying to get on board anyone’s plane if I have to pay for it. Enjoy your flight.

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