Thursday, 28 May 2015

Ryanair – celebrating 30 years of shitty service!

I swear, I don’t know what happens. I begin with the screen saying "OFFER! 65p to Barcelona" or something and click on it delightedly, unable to believe my luck, only to find myself ten minutes later approving a credit card transaction for £129.99. I steer my way with gritted teeth through all the traps - travel insurance; hire car – yet somehow I find myself purchasing a time-share in Portugal and a hang-gliding trip across the Alps. This is life in the Easyjet Set. Budget airline websites operate inside a confusing alternative universe where basic maths no longer apply. You couldn’t label a loaf of bread “£1.09” and then charge them £7.89 at the till.

I’ve been on them all, mind. The cheapos. Easyjet. Ryanair. Jet2. The kind of airlines where you’re not only expected to print out your own boarding pass but get out and give the plane a push. The ones where the pilot steps out of the cabin to jam one of the windows shut with his elbow. And boy, I hate them. The flimsiness. The grim Keep Calm and Keep Airborne cheeriness.  It’s like stepping into a flying Wetherspoons; and worse, shorthaul is a massive smack in the face for the planet – the environmental equivalent of a fifty-a-day habit for mother Earth. Now that a round trip to Lagos costs less than an off-peak return to Bristol, everyone’s doing it. People are commuting from Glasgow to London via air. Pretty soon it’ll be quicker – and four times as cheap – to take the Easyjet from Manchester to Leeds than it is to wait for the train.  

I say all this because relentless More4 ads keep reminding me that it’s Ryanair’s thirtieth birthday, as if this was some kind of patriotic event, a historic national landmark like the anniversary of Dunkirk or the death of Churchill. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this information: dance in the street? Salute the sky? Book an all-inclusive to Lanzarote? Perhaps I’d be more inclined to do any of these if I didn’t suspect Ryanair of being a relentlessly penny-pinching shitto-corp, a FTSE-100 conman rolling down the window of his Austin Maestro and asking if you’d like to buy some jewellery.

Take the whole philosophy of the "optional extra". Now, this phrase underpins quite a bit of the modern economy – sign up for nothing, get the premium service without the ads, etc. But  Ryanair excel at some creative, even Orwellian interpretations of the phrase. As far as Ryanair are concerned “optional extras” include being allowed to take a bag onto the plane, rather than having it confiscated at check-in as if you’d committed a crime; being allowed to enter the aircraft in your clothes; being allowed to breathe; being allowed to express bodily functions, or speak, or any of the other things generally prohibited inside a respectable concentration camp. Quite frankly Ryanair sometimes feels less like the future of air travel and more like a sadistic park janitor.

Never mind that their CEO seriously toyed with the idea of making passengers pay for the convenience of shitting in their toilets – pretty soon it’ll be standing room only unless you’re prepared to fork out another "optional extra" £29.99 for an actual seat, or just take your chances in the baggage hold. 

All of this comes hard on the heels of the news that Ryanair, despite their pay-per-shitting business model, have actually returned massive quarterly profits – the undisputed Poundstretchers of the Sky. Which leads to the more troubling question: where exactly do all these cost savings come? Balsa-wood fuselage? Pilot replaced with an iPhone? Budget carriers are already worryingly flimsy - I mean look at Easyjet’s fleet of aircraft; they resemble giant flying dinky-toys. I’m rather keen on a lot of money being spent on safety features. As far as I’m concerned the main safety feature of an aeroplane is staying in the air, and I’m keen on there being no variation on that scenario, lest I find myself screaming towards the ground in a hundred ton multi-party life-insurance claim.

30 years of Ryanair. Perhaps is is historic – after all, no company could better embody the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger than a shitty Internet-based venture flying cattle trucks over the Irish sea and back. Now cough up. This blog's actually £1.99 per read. Not my fault if you didn't read the stuff about optional extras.