Years ago, I wrote an admiring post about Ryanair. Please read it before continuing with this post. I’ll wait…
Finished? Okay. Last week I flew Ryanair again, and it struck me that the fine line I mentioned in the last paragraph – the line between passengers who put up with it and passengers who won’t fly with Ryanair – has shifted, perhaps to the point where they’re going to lose passengers.
Note: Since I wrote this article in 2013, some things have changed. I’ve added the changes here and there to update it to 2019.
There was a rumor going around on internet a while back that Ryanair (or it might have been Easyjet, I’m not sure) was planning to start charging to use the toilet. It wasn’t true, and still isn’t, but this trip I saw why so many people believed the story. If the discount airlines could get away with it, I think they would do it.
Pushing the envelope
The flight was full, and the company is still doing well, but they’re pushing the envelope. The tea still costs 3 euros, and the cattle car treatment remains the same, but they’re getting more extreme in terms of their money-making efforts.
When you book the flight online, you are taken through a series of many steps, all of which ask you to spend more money. Do you want insurance? Are you sure you don’t want it? Do you want to choose your seat? Do you want to book transportation to or from the airport? Do you want to pay for cheaper international phone calls? Do you want to buy a suitcase or three?
In 2008, when I wrote that earlier post, it cost €15 to check a bag. Now it varies from €15 to €35 each way, depending on season and destination. On this recent flight, it was €25 one way. (In 2019, this costs €10-12 for a 10-kg bag if you book it ahead; €20-25 if you pay at the airport. A 20-kg bag is €25 booked ahead, 40 at the airport.)
Even if you check in online, you can be sure they weigh every piece of luggage: it’s to their advantage to notice if your bag is overweight so they can charge the €20 per kilo fee for overweight luggage (This fee has gone down to €11 per kilo.)
These days they’re more careful with carry-on bags too. They didn’t weigh them on either of my flights, but I had to put my bag into the metal box posted at the gate to show that it fit within the set size limit. If not, back to the desk and pay the fee for checked baggage: €60 to €130 since you didn’t check it online.
(In 2019, the prices have gone down, but only one carry-on bag is free, and it must fit under your seat. If you want to bring a bag for the overhead compartments, you’ll have to pay the 10-kg fee: €10-12 if you book it ahead. The price may have gone down, but now that you can’t take a bag for the overhead compartments for free, they’ll end up collecting fees from far more people.)
On the flight
On board, I noticed they’ve added the tray tables back on. Why? Because they sell food frantically, all of it prepackaged and overpriced. I say frantically because most of their flights are quite short: mine, between Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Marseilles, France, was only an hour and a half. To sell as much food and drink as possible between take-off and landing, those flight attendants keep busy!
They sell duty-free perfume, liquor, makeup, jewelry and so on as well, even though it’s not really duty-free within Europe. I spotted one flight attendant with individual packets of cigarettes, walking down the aisle asking if anyone wanted to buy them. It seemed strange on a flight where smoking is prohibited.
And they run their own lottery too: the flight attendants hawk the lottery tickets during the flight, making a sales announcement about it over the intercom and walking down the aisle with them.
Thoughts on flying Ryanair again
I spent about €110 on the round-trip ticket. I could easily have doubled that spending with all of these pre-flight or in-flight add-ons. I had to wonder this time, though, with all of this selling going on around me, whether they weren’t going too far. This didn’t feel like clever marketing anymore, as it did when I wrote that first post. It felt like harassment.
Having said that, I probably will fly on a discount airline again. I’ll just say no to everything they’re selling, as I did this time. I’ll put up with the cattle car treatment and draconian weight limitations. I’ll do it for the cheap airfare.
But I wonder where my limit is. And where theirs is. How far will they push that fine line?
After I wrote this article, I traveled several times on their competition, EasyJet. Read my review here.
Do you fly with budget airlines? What’s your experience? Add a comment below!