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Why we thoroughly dislike Ryanair a little bit less

We have always been very reserved in recommending Ryanair on euflyer.com. For many years it has been a pretty horrendous airline, piloted as it has been by the somewhat antagonistic Michael O’Leary.

ryanair

So, unless they have offered “too good to turn down” fares, we have generally avoided publicising their flights. Even when we have, it’s been with a slight sense of foreboding.

Change is afoot, however. At the last Ryanair AGM, CEO Michael O’Leary “nodded sheepishly as shareholders chimed in with anecdotes about family members refusing to fly Ryanair and verbal attacks they had suffered at dinner parties“, and accepted that it was time the airline stopped doing things that “unnecessarily piss people off”.

Subsequent to this “announcement”, and following a damning Which? survey, Ryanair has taken steps to improve its customer service, as follows:

  • A new, less tacky and easier-to-navigate website, that lets you log in and remembers your details.
  • The usually unreadable “Recaptcha” security code has been removed from the Ryanair.com website for individual bookings.
  • Customers who book directly on the Ryanair.com website (i.e. not via travel agents or screenscraper websites) have been given a 24 hour grace period, from the time of their original booking, to correct any minor errors (e.g. spelling) made in their original booking.
  • They are now operating “quiet flights”, prior to 8am in the mornings and after 9pm in the evenings. During these quiet flight periods no announcements will be made on board other than required safety announcements. They will also dim the lights during these quiet flights for customers wishing to sleep.
  • They now allow passengers to bring a 2nd small carry-on bag (small ladies handbag or small airport shopping bag) no bigger than 35 x 20 x 20 cms which will allow a bottle of wine or equivalent to be carried.
  • The airport boarding card reissue fee (i.e. for forgotten or non-printed boarding passes) has been cut from €70/£70 to €15/£15 for customers who have already checked in online. Customers who fail to check-in online will continue to pay a €70 airport check-in fee.
  • Standard airport bag fees have been cut from €60/£60 to €30/£30 at the bag drop desk, and from €60/£60 to €50/£50 at the boarding gate, (apparently) bringing them into line with competitor airline standard airport bag fees.
  • They have cut the excess baggage fee by 50% (from €20/£20 to €10/£10 per kg)
  • Finally, they will be introducing fully allocated seating on all flights from 1 February 2014.

These are some very tangible steps in the right direction. Having flown Ryanair this week, I can confirm that the “quiet flight” is exactly that. It’s also encouraging to see the various fees being reduced to slightly less eye-watering levels, although the position here is far from perfect and remains unduly punitive in certain areas, even at the reduced levels. The €15 fee to print your boarding pass is pure extortion, even at €55 per person less, while the €70 fee for airport check-in is also too much. While I accept the low fare “model” is that customers need to check in online, so there needs to be some sort of disincentive for those that do not, a €70 per-head fee for failing to do so is outrageous.

Ultimately, it’s probably not enough to bring the hardened Ryanair haters onside, but will certainly appease some of the waverers. From an euflyer.com perspective, we are generally encouraged (as O’Leary appreciates, so much of their previous rules appeared to be as much about being vindictive as they were about making money, and in many ways lacked foresight as they were bound to have a negative effect on repeat custom). Certainly, in light of these changes, we will be more inclined to announce impressive Ryanair deals as and when they arise.

Of course, Ryanair still pepper you with insurance, car hire etc options when you book. But then so do many of the “premium” airlines, including Air Malta…

If you have any experience of the new “friendly” Ryanair – whether positive or negative – feel free to share it in the comments section.

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