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Wednesday 5 September 2012

Ryanair Both Right And Wrong

It is hard to claim the high ground in an argument and then spray it up the wall in a demonstration of customer disservice, but Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, the Millwall of air travel (everybody hates us and we don’t care) is the uncrowned king of the unsubtle. And if he has to interject the odd expletive, well, he’s the boss, and what’s anyone going to do about it?

Playa Levante, Benidorm

As reported by the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, a Ryanair customer called Suzy McLeod had to have the boarding passes for her party’s return flight from Alicante to the UK printed out at the airport. This incurred one of Ryanair’s eye-watering excess charges, and at €60 a throw, she ended up having to pay an extra €300 for the privilege (that’s £237.68 at today’s exchange rate).

Yes, the charge is priced to rake in a bit of handy incremental revenue for O’Leary and his mob. But Ms McLeod effectively signed off on the Terms and Conditions that include that charge when she made her booking. So, whether it’s fair or not, Ryanair is entitled to charge it. And from my own experience at the same destination, the excuse that there was nowhere to print the passes off beforehand is baloney.

Because, although I don’t often fly with Ryanair (in fact, not at all if I can find a decent alternative), I too have had to print out a boarding pass for a return flight from Alicante, this being down to BMIBaby, the low cost subsidiary of BMI which makes its last flight next Sunday. I complied with the requirement by finding an internet cafe around five minutes’ walk from my hotel. Job Done.

And I’m sure that Ms McLeod could have done the same, wherever in the region she was staying. But I’m also sure that Michael O’Leary didn’t need to tell his customers who didn’t print their passes off to “bugger off”, and he certainly didn’t need to respond to Ms McLeod’s request for compensation by telling her that it was “her f*** up”. That’s bang out of order.

It’s almost as if Michael O’Leary goes out of his way to be as offensive as possible to any customer who has the temerity to object to, shall we say, the Ryanair experience. Perhaps he wants to make this hostility part of his company’s USP. But all it does is drive potential business to look at his offering after trying the competition first. And there’s still plenty of that, even with BMIBaby bowing out.

And had it not been for BMIBaby, O’Leary wouldn’t have been gifted his boarding pass printout wheeze. Nor would EasyJet have got the idea of allocated seating, which enables some seats to attract a premium and thus generate more of that incremental income (the subject of one of this blog’s first posts). They’ll both be happy to see the carrier close its doors, but didn’t mind nicking its ideas.

As for Suzy McLeod, she’ll check the T&Cs next time, whoever she flies with.

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