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Sunday 17 April 2011

Spring Splutterings

As many in the UK gear up for the upcoming bank holidays, they might be forgiven for missing a potential travel industry storm brewing in southern Europe, another chapter in the long running saga of Spain’s airports versus Ryanair, the Millwall of air carriers (everybody hates us and we don’t care).

Ryanair’s Spanish adventure had a bad start to 2011, when a court found adversely on the airline’s imposition of additional fees for printing out boarding passes. But stopping the carrier from hitting its long suffering passengers with a 40 Euro a time charge was only the first of several setbacks.

Then, hardly had Michael O’Leary’s finest thrown a bullying strop over the efforts of Alicante airport to provide a more pleasant experience for its customers, than another dispute kicked off, this time affecting the whole of Spain, over the trivial looking matter of carrying tax free shopping onto aircraft. And there might be yet more confrontation to follow.

Unlike the Alicante dispute, the row over airport shopping affects the whole of Spain, and Ryanair only have themselves to blame for it. They want rock bottom handling charges, but to deliver these, the airports have to find ways of getting more revenue from other sources. More sales from airside shops help plug the gap, but then, Ryanair won’t let passengers on board unless they pay a baggage fee – they class the shopping as an extra bag.

As Ryanair have recently pulled out of their last base in France, and have eight bases in Spain, their room for further bullying is limited. But the appetite for a scrap remains undiminished, as witness a “briefing note” suggesting that the Spanish are demanding “free of charge checked in baggage” (they aren’t) and telling of “unlawful interference”.

And there is a further “briefing note” on the subject of the EU compensation ruling, otherwise known as EU261. Again, the carrier is complaining about the Spanish, so it appears that a dispute is brewing there, too. Of course, had Michael O’Leary’s finest merely slipped another 2 Euro onto the cost of each flight, and not made such a show of their additional charge, they could have avoided any controversy.

But confrontation is the Ryanair way. If they are indeed facing yet more problems with the authorities in Spain, once again it is their own fault. Carriers like EasyJet, Jet2 and BMIBaby just get on with business, and one day Ryanair might learn to do likewise.

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