The ‘tyranny’ of Ryanair

Apologies in advance as what follows is a bit of a rant… but it’s either this or becoming one of those people who post their woes on Facebook 😉.

Like many people who live, have a second home or holiday in France we have flown with Ryanair on numerous occasions, taking advantage of their regular service from either Leeds/Bradford or Manchester airports to Limoges. Often these flights have been remarkably cheap, particularly if we are travelling light, and therein lies the rub. There are several reasons why flights with Ryanair are often cheaper than other methods of transport or other ‘budget’ airlines.

We’re probably all familiar with the ‘no frills’ approach; the seats themselves are cheap, as long as you don’t want to sit next to your travelling companion or carry more than a pair of clean socks, a paperback and your passport or want to check-in earlier than 24 hours before you fly. These are choices we can all make and, if it doesn’t suit us, we can choose to pay to choose where we sit, for hand-luggage or for early check-in.

What we can’t choose is how Ryanair treats us once we’ve decided that saving a few quid is more important than our experience as customers. As we have done many times before, we recently booked return flights to the UK, this time to attend a wedding. Ryanair’s schedule enabled us to fly a couple of days before the wedding and then return to France the day after, albeit at 9.30am and no doubt with sore heads. This we were prepared to accept as we’ll be moving house a few days later and have plenty to do before the removal men arrive.

Then, amidst all the uncertainty about quarantine restrictions for people arriving from France, we got an email from Ryanair informing us that our flight had been rescheduled for 6.15am! That would mean leaving the hotel at 4am after a wedding celebration; not ideal I’m sure you would agree. The email offered us the choice of accepting the change or moving our flight to another date and time, neither of which work for us. The email provided a link to click to accept the change or, if we wanted to change flights, we were directed to what Ryanair laughingly call ‘Customer Services’.

The first few times I tried to call I had to listen to recorded voices giving me the usual options, opportunities to visit their website and advice about travel regulations relating to Covid; the latter amounting to little more than “Google it”. When the message got to the end, rather than putting me in a queue as I expected, it simply said they were too busy and to try again later before hanging up. I tried this for several days before pretty much giving up. This, after all, is the price we pay for cheap flights. Then, this morning, I thought I’d give it another go and got through, though only to muzak for the first 25 minutes.

When my call was finally answered, I explained the situation and said that neither option suited us and because they had made what I considered a ‘significant’ change to our booking I would like my money back please. It was politely explained to me that, as the change was less than five hours, it was not in their opinion a ‘significant’ change and that therefore they were unable to issue a refund. Obviously, it wasn’t the person answering the phone’s fault so that was that. My next thought was, as if returning a faulty Parrot to a pet shop, “I wish to make a complaint”. So, I clicked on the link that says, ‘Online Complaint Form’.

This link took me to a couple of drop-down menus no combination of which provided me with any sort of complaint form but guided me back, in a Sisyphean loop, to other options such as ‘Manage my Bookings’ or ‘Call Customer Services’. The only option, it seems, is to write a letter providing details of my complaint to Ryanair HQ in Dublin where I imagine they have a crack team eager to leap to my assistance. The upshot is, I’m giving up, just as I imagine they expect most people to. I don’t expect writing to them will make any difference. I’d probably get a pro-forma letter back in a month or two saying the same thing as I was told on the phone.

That’s the tyranny of Ryanair. Because we want cheap flights, we’re prepared to sacrifice the kind of customer service we expect from other outlets, retailer, banks etc, and often they are far from perfect. Ryanair know this; indeed, they’ve made a virtue of it. They can’t afford to be customer focused when their margins are so small. It would be like asking for a warranty from a jumble sale. So, we just have to suck it up, gird our loins and move on. But next time we plan to travel to the UK, we’ll think twice about flying with Ryanair… we still will, but we might hesitate, just for a minute.

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