A Tribute to RyanAir: Decoding the Perfect Business Plan
When a traveler faces threats such as food poisoning, being sold into slavery, discrimination based on sports preferences, ridiculously priced transportation and theft so rampant that open-air passport kiosks line the streets of certain cities, it’s easy to forget that we must also worry about the threat of discount airlines.
Any harried, penniless traveler instantly recognizes the value of cheap travel. But as airlines struggle to offer the cheapest fares with the lowest overhead, travelers must ask themselves if the 50euro round trip ticket from Brussels to Barcelona is worth the white-knuckled, jaw-clenching journey through the clouds. Our bank accounts rejoice while our hearts palpitate in fear. It is therefore fit to celebrate and acknowledge the greatest cheap airfare monger of them all: RyanAir.
I haven’t yet decided if RyanAir is a pro at what it does and can therefore afford to be the semi-inept, come-what-may airline that I’ve experienced; or if they really are just a bunch of poorly trained 20-somethings who are as confused and hung-over as the majority of their passengers. It appears as though RyanAir’s upper management tactic is simple, and I’ve managed to decode their business plan.
This means airplanes swathed in primary colors, first of all, but more importantly, to save those crucial extra euros on everyone’s plane ticket, it’s essential to do away with reclining seats. They have also perfected the art of the Discreet Cattle Car, where they stuff just enough chairs into one space that it’s two rows short of violating the Geneva Convention. RyanAir knows just how to pull on our delicate heart-and-budget strings: travelers will suffer through anything for a good deal.
Step Two: Staff Almost No One
The majority of my luggage-drop and passport-check experiences have been overseen by a single employee. This hapless soul will inevitably arrive, unannounced, terrifyingly close to the departure time so that anyone not accustomed to RyanAir’s style will seriously question what is going on and contact all nearby airline agencies until someone sighs and says ”˜Yeah, they never open until 2 hours before the flight’. In more remote airports, the passport and terminal shuffle often feels like an awkward school dance with no music and only one uniformed chaperone.
Step Three: Don’t Waste Money Training Aforementioned Staff
It always surprises me when I find a RyanAir worker who appears to know what they’re doing. The majority of my experiences involving the airline have required me, the passenger, to remind the desk clerk to either check my passport or direct me to the necessary visa stamp kiosk.
I even once asked a worker, in a tone somewhere between amused and horrified, “Don’t I have to get a visa stamp before I board this plane?” The fine print on my e-ticket warned me about not being able to exit the country without such a stamp, but the RyanAir worker seemed unconcerned, unaware … or perhaps both.
Several times I have, in a state of tentative bewilderment where I asked myself if this was really happening, actually offered my passport to the desk clerk after I’d both checked my luggage and had my ticket in hand. I mean, they’re legally obligated to look at it, right? It’s a LAW”¦RIGHT?! CAN JUST ANYONE WALTZ ON THE PLANE, RYANAIR?!
RyanAir’s fees for excessive luggage (re: any checked items) or overweight luggage (re: anything larger than a milk jug) seem to be the foundation of their profiteering scheme. One of the few things the employees know how to do is spot bags that are too large, too bulky, or too heavy. But even this skill is limited to select airports.
Oh, how many euros I have saved from cleverly disguising my carry-on bulk! While most RyanAir employees don’t actually give a shit about your 26kg carry-on, some will force you to shamefully unpack your articles and rearrange the contents so that your luggage complies with the guidelines.
Step Five: Distract the Passengers In-flight
While all the passengers are glancing around the plane, struggling to shove knees behind seats and trying to get a feel for their neighbors through the shared elbow (and arm, and thigh, and foot) room, RyanAir flight attendants saunter through the aisles boasting an array of beverage, food, and luxury items – all for a price. While those passengers accustomed to free peanuts and beverages with too-much-ice in them eye the stewards hungrily for any hint of Snack Time, the flight attendants are cleverly manipulating us.
The logic is simple and nearly infallible: If the plane ticket costs only 20 euro, then what’s the harm in a 7euro bologna sandwich? And while you’re itching to get out of your seat and onto solid ground again, why don’t you deter thoughts of your own demise by buying a new Chanel perfume?
And really, since your neighbor is munching happily on a square bread sandwich and drinking a 15 euro thimble of alcohol, maybe we should all buy some lottery tickets for a chance to win more RyanAir plane trips? (After all, the tickets are buy one, get one!)
Step Six: Arrive on Time So Nobody Can Say Otherwise (and Mum’s the Word!)
RyanAir apparently is the “on-time” airline, which is a good slogan and makes people feel like they can trust the airline. Sure, maybe the planes are on time (even though sometimes they’re not by a long shot), but the slogan really leaves a lot unsaid.
Arriving on time isn’t what you’ll hear travelers gushing about once they’ve landed. Really, what they’re gushing about is that they landed at all, and probably tittering a bit about that rocky landing and whether or not the pilot was actually awake.
What travelers tend to mention next is usually related to their newest location, and how it seems a bit different than what they’d expected. Oh, you mean Barcelona (Girona) isn’t Barcelona at all? And Glasgow-Prestwick is actually one hour outside of Glasgow? These are important facts that sometimes fall through the cracks, especially on their website when you’re gobbling up that 1euro deal that lasts only until midnight.
I understand why these things go unsaid (really, billboards don’t have enough room for all the clauses RyanAir would need). But here’s what the slogan more closely resembles:
RyanAir: the on-time airline, due largely to the fact that we’ve constructed exclusive airports in almost every country designed to service only our flights and position you so far away from your destination city that the fleeting joy you feel at saving euros on your airfare will quickly be replaced with malice once you see how much you’re gonna spend on that two hour bus ride to the capital.
If you don’t have a good RyanAir tale, maybe you didn’t really experience Europe.
The cons of the discount airline world are often significant (did I mention the 100euro fee to switch the name on a 5euro ticket? Or the mysterious 100% increase in ticket fares once midnight hits?). Yet RyanAir has proven to travelers that it stakes a significant claim in the airline industry. Despite the lack of reciprocity in the customer/airline relationship, it seems it has struck gold in a few key areas.
Not only is “discount airline” a buzzword in the travel world, it’s become a rite of passage to get dicked over by RyanAir or one of its counterparts. If you don’t have a good RyanAir tale, maybe you didn’t really experience Europe. At the very least, it has one thing to rely on, and this may be the only thing that will prevent it from floundering: there’s no better feeling than purchasing a ticket from Paris to London for only 15euro, even if it means you’ll spend half a day and twice as much in getting to the freaking RyanAir airport in the first place.