After having an appalling customer service reputation for years, suddenly the Irish budget airline has implemented policies that are actually quite helpful. An improved website, card fees scrapped, a free second carry-on bag and the end of that bloody trumpet. It was time for me to give them another chance.
Everyone’s got one. A favourite dinner-party story about Ryanair’s comedy customer service.
Mine took place in 2012, shortly after I’d bagged two bargain return flights from Birmingham to Kaunas in Lithuania. The plan was to enjoy three nights in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius (read here on what to do in this beautiful gem of a city). With cheap flights and Lithuania’s extremely low cost of living, this had all the hallmarks of a perfect city-break for the credit crunch era.
But then Ryanair went and spoiled it all.
My carry-on case was judged to be 4mm too wide. Rather than show common sense and leniency like any good football referee would do, a member of the check-in staff barred my entrance to the plane until I’d made a £50 cash payment.
I’d heard rumours Ryanair staff earn 50p commission on every £50 fine they can get for oversized bags, but I’d always assumed this was an urban myth. The jobsworth’s eyes lit up at the prospect of making her 50p as she marched me to the nearest ATM, scuppering my plans for a bargain break.
Fast-forward three years – I’d read about Ryanair’s improvements, seen their cool TV ads and found a dirt cheap flight from Birmingham to Dublin so it was time to take the plunge.
The Ryanair website was famously cluttered before, with far too much information (and adverts) on the page. The site has now been smartened up, and is so simple I reckon even my Dad could use it (sorry Dad if you’re reading!)
Prices are still low, and I was pleasantly surprised not to be charged a series of booking fees and debit card fees which used to sometimes double the price initially quoted.
But perhaps Ryanair’s most useful change is the implementation of allocated seating for all. Boarding used to be a total pain, as passengers scrambled to be first on the plane. Now there’s no need to stand in a queue as soon as you get to the gate, as everyone is allocated a seat at check-in. You can pay extra to ensure you’re sitting next to your travelling partner, but there’s really no need to do this as long as you check-in on-line as early as possible.
Once seated, it was nice to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. There are none of those regular reminders to purchase Ryanair scratch-cards over the tannoy anymore, while the overhead lockers are no longer covered in garish adverts for Ryanair destinations.
One other policy Ryanair has implemented is a free second carry-on bag per passenger such as a handbag. I didn’t see any fines handed out for oversized bags either, and some trolley cases I saw looked much bigger than the quoted maximum allowable size. The downside to this is that there may not be room in the cabin for all these bags. If you are one of the unlucky ones who can’t find space, your bag will have to go in the hold and although there is no fee for this, you’ll have to wait for it upon arrival.
The only negative I could think of was that I wasn’t offered a copy of Ryanair’s in-flight magazine on the flight out – a pet hate of mine. I like reading the travel tips and staring at the destination map. Oh well, it was only a 40 minute flight, and I was given a copy on the return flight.
And the best thing of all? That annoying trumpet fanfare to announce “yet another on-time Ryanair flight” upon landing has been phased out.
To be perfectly honest, I was never too bothered with their shocking disregard to their paying customers. I know of some people (who have never been on a Ryanair flight) who refuse to fly with them on principle. Few Ryanair flights are over three hours long anyway (Canary Islands excepted), so I can put up with their rubbish in return for their low, low prices.
Without having the stats to hand, I’m guessing Ryanair is one of Europe’s biggest, safest and most profitable airlines. It has done this without having the customer in mind at all – let’s see what the airline can do now it prioritises customer service.