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The nightmare that is Ryanair

It’s interesting reading US weblogs when they wax enthusiastic about Ryanair, typically on the foot of this BusinessWeek article.

Here’s the thing — flying Ryanair is a deeply unpleasant experience. I’ve heard rumour that their staff are paid commission based on how many discretionary charges they can pile onto the basic fare — leaving you feeling nickled and dimed at every turn — and that certainly matches with my experience. I mean, I’ve had better service in train stations in Uttar Pradesh.

In our case, our “no more” moment was after a trip to Spain earlier this year, where we were humiliated for attempting to shift around luggage instead of immediately paying the charges liable once you exceed 15 kilos (33 pounds). (Naturally, there’s no weighing scales until you get right in front of the check-in desk…) Once it became clear we didn’t want to pay the fee, the check-in person screamed at us, and sent us to the back of the check-in queue — like bold schoolchildren!

This level of service is pretty standard, going by local word of mouth. Several of my friends have, like me, vowed never to fly them again, even picking more expensive flights to more distant airports to avoid it.

It’s certainly not comparable to JetBlue, or any other low-fare airline I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with — this is a level below. The BusinessWeek article ends with:

American long-haul discounters aren’t likely to go to the extremes Ryanair has gone to sell basic services, but they’re paying more attention to Ryanair these days. “They’re on the cutting edge,” says Tad Hutcheson, vice-president for marketing at AirTran, which recently assigned two marketing staffers to spend a week flying on Ryanair. “Charging for Cokes or snacks, blankets or pillows–I’m not sure Americans are ready for that.”

Well, I certainly hope not, for their sakes!