Many travellers have a love/hate relationship with the Irish budget airline, but after decades of controversy and shocking customer care, are recent problems with the carrier and thousands of cancelled flights the straw that finally breaks the back of Ryanair?
Budget airlines are a good thing. Let’s get that straight from the start. They allow us to travel very cheaply and have opened up wider travel to a lot more people. No one can argue with that. In that respect I absolutely love budget airlines and to a large extent am not completely against the no frills model that they use.
In that respect I don’t have a problem with Ryanair.
But just because airlines run on a no frills basis, that does not mean they can get rid of their moral responsibility toward customer care and ethical treatment of passengers, and whilst all airlines have many things to answer to on this count this is something that Ryanair has been particularly notorious for.
Ever since its infamous CEO Michael O’Leary took the reigns, Ryanair has courted controversy after controversy with a public image that Hitler and Pol Pot would be ashamed of but that Teflon shyster seems to shrug off with a two finger salute and a fat wad of cash.
Ryanair has had the dubious honour of being voted the worst brand for customer service repeatedly for years, and has even been voted the second worst brand in the world for service and treatment! (Only beaten by an insurance company!) it has even been fined many times for the shocking level of service it has given. Fines that are so laughable that it is surprising O’Leary didn’t laugh like a cartoon villain as he shipped truck fulls of pennies to pay it, but fines nonetheless.
Ridiculous schemes such as trying to charge people to use the toilet on the plane or having all passengers stand on flights to squeeze more people on became the norm, rather than the mad dreams of a manipulative cartoon conman.
The budget airlines reputation got so bad a couple of years ago with such a strong public backlash that even the normally belligerent O’Leary was forced to apologise to customers and admit that their customer service was just not good enough.
This ‘nicer’, ‘friendlier’ persona that Ryanair tried to adopt didn’t last long though, and they were soon back to their old tricks. They were enveloped in a controversy about purposely splitting passengers up in order to force them to pay extra to choose seats, and not only were they repeatedly caught in a lie about it, O’Leary dropped any pretence of being nice as he returned to form to bully and insult customers.
Ryanair were forced to defend themselves again soon after that after denying passengers a carry on bag, unless they were paying for priority boarding of course. Ironically your carry on bag now costs as much as the sale price of your seat.
And as if all that isn’t enough, Ryanair is now facing legal action over one of their biggest controversies to date.
After a supposed ‘roster’ mix up, and for ‘mix up’ read ‘half their pilot work force walking out when they didn’t have enough to cover routes in the first place’, Ryanair simply cancelled more than 18,000 flights with no warning or notice, affecting over 400,000 passengers. And as of the time of writing that number could still go up significantly.
After the initial anger and confusion, tensions rose as Ryanair essentially tried to wriggle out of their responsibilities and even downright mislead affected passengers, a fact that has been repeatedly expose and has even forced the Civil Aviation Authority to finally get off their backsides and admit they may have to do their job, as their chief exec Andrew Haines states he is ‘furious’ at the airline for misleading customers. Well actions speak louder than words, don’t they?
But none of this matters as long as you get a cheap flight, right?
Ryanair’s share price has barely wobbled after this controversy, which means that those in charge of the airline don’t care in the slightest about what has happened to their customers.
O’Leary knows he will continue to get away with possibly the worst treatment of customers by any brand in the history of capitalism, as long as he dangles a sparkly carrot of cheap flights in front of the lemming like masses.
Ryanair will continue to undercut everyone else on basic flights so the vast majority of people out there will still blindly fall for the flashy £9.99 sales and develop selective amnesia about the many, many extras that they are often forced to pay for. Unwilling to admit that after those often necessary extras flights are often no cheaper than any other airline with better service and facilities.
The airline even still dominates certain routes making it almost certain people will have to choose them if they want to fly to a specific destination.
So yes, of course Ryanair will survive this and people will still fly them.
But the issue isn’t whether Ryanair will survive, the question is should it?
What will it actually take for customers to finally stop putting up with the (lack of) service Ryanair provides and the sheer contempt they are treated with by the company?
We as passengers are treated with absolute contempt, given the worst customer service imaginable and constantly bullied, insulted and goaded by a conniving conman, yet we are complicit in this. We allow this status quo to continue!
Budget airlines are on the whole a good thing, as is the no frills model they use, I would even go as far to say they are an essential part of the aviation industry today. But that does not in any way mean that they are exempt from the moral and ethical duty to treat passengers humanely and provide a fair level of customer service.
But Ryanair is not the only budget airline.
And this goes far deeper than just the way passengers are treated by one airline, this is a symptom of a disease that infects the entire airline industry.
In an industry that is on the whole allowed to write it’s own operating rules, passengers have had an extremely raw deal for a very long time. Airlines know they can get away with treating passengers however they like because they have them over a barrel. Ryanair is just one of – if not the – worst culprits of this.
Ryanair needs to be punished severely for the recent cancellation debacle, for such an unprecedented cock up and subsequent passenger treatment the CAA needs to enforce unprecedented punitive measures, and I don’t just mean a fine that O’Leary can pay out of his petty cash.
Ryanair does need to be heavily punished, but the CAA also needs to be used to send a message to the rest of the airline industry that it cannot be allowed to get away with using and abusing passengers any way it likes any more.
And punitive measures that affect the airlines license to operate would certainly do that. Even significant changes to the rules the airlines operate under and the help and compensation they are forced to give wronged passengers would send a strong message.
It will send a message that customer care and treatment are an ethical essential in any business. That passengers deserve better.
Do I think this will happen? Not a chance.
Ryanair will get a slap on the wrist and be allowed to operate as normal, and all this will be forgotten about the next time someone gets a £9.99 flight to a random airport 60 miles outside of the destination they actually want to go to. (Let’s just ignore the £200 odd ‘optional’ extras).
Which is a shame, because we as passengers deserve better than this. Or do we?
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