One boast made by Ryanair is that they are “the on time airline”, although my first experience of the carrier, from Liverpool to Porto in late June 2006, was one of lateness throughout. There are a number of ways that they keep those on time statistics up.
One easy way of keeping delays down is to fly in and out of airports which have little other scheduled traffic. It’s cheaper for carriers like Ryanair: they can beat the operators down on handling costs. Turnrounds of as little as twenty minutes can be routinely achieved. The problem with this approach is that there is a more finite pool of punters that will accept Girona instead of Barcelona, Hahn instead of Frankfurt Main, Charleroi instead of Brussels, and – a real biscuit taking example – Eindhoven instead of Schiphol.
Another contributor to performance is to refuse to wait for late comers, and in this respect Ryanair are no different to EasyJet, or any of the other low cost carriers. And the drive to charge for checked luggage, together with online check in, means less time waiting for the stragglers to get airside, and less wait for the hold to be loaded and then emptied.
However, the refusal to wait for late comers in Ryanair land includes their own passengers when those same punters have been delayed getting their bags through the drop off area, as happened in spectacular fashion at Stansted in early August. Ryanair, characteristically, blamed someone else for the farce, which left over 700 passengers stranded, merely because they couldn’t get to the bag drop. Armed police, there to protect the public from terrorism, ended up having to protect Ryanair from the public. Whether the carrier contributes to policing costs is unknown.
Ryanair were also in typical blame shifting mode when protestors got inside the airport perimeter at Stansted earlier this year: this was also someone else’s fault. The fact that Ryanair got away with cancelling a number of flights, kept the money paid over by the unfortunate punters and then told them to “go home and rebook” (that is, pay yet more money) seems to have been overlooked.
Moreover, Ryanair are not always cheaper than the competition, as I noted from my visit to Prague in June. It is possible that those treated so shabbily at Stansted recently have recourse to compensation under EU rules, but expect Ryanair to only comply after being dragged kicking and screaming to the door of the court.
Moral of the story: potential passengers, you have been warned.