(Another) Ryanair rant

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Customer service hasn’t soared at Ryanair, says Kaye Holland

Two years ago Ryanair – the low cost airline that everyone loves to hate – decided to turn over a new leaf and stop treating its customers with indifference.

The Irish carrier claimed it had seen the light and no longer viewed customers as a nuisance. Rather than being rude to passengers, Ryanair actually begun to be nice – as a part of an extensive rebranding programme aimed at re-positioning the airline as a more customer-friendly business.

It was about time too. Ryanair, after all, is the airline that used to impose an unpopular €60 fee for reissuing boarding passes at the airport. (“We think [passengers who forget to print their boarding passes] should pay €60 for being so stupid,” O’Leary – the airline’s abrasive boss – explained at the time.) The fee has since been lowered to €15 but, even so, Ryanair is the only airline in Europe with a ‘boarding card reprint fee’.

Ryanair also has one of the lowest baggage allowances – they’ll let you check in a 15kg bag for £15 – and the highest excess luggage fee (£10 per kilo) too.

Thinking of stuffing all your belongings into the bag you’re taking on board? Be careful: Ryanair has a smaller hold baggage size (55cm x 40cm x 20cm compared to BA and Easyjet’s  56cm x 45cm x 25cm) than any airline, save for Wizzair. Translation? The case you use as carry-on luggage for most major airlines, won’t be allowed on Ryanair.  But don’t despair! In a bid to deplete our bank balances even further, O’Leary’s airline has teamed up with American luggagge company, Samonsite, to create a bag that’s the correct size for the Ryanair cabin.

Remember the airline that once announced it was considering charging passengers to use the toilet (“One thing we have looked at is maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door, so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in the future. Pay-per-pee…” ), in addition to offering discounts for passengers prepared to stand up…. That was Ryanair too.

Needless to say that if any airline needed to examine its attitude, it was Ryanair. To its credit the airline tried to transform its image by making changes to its maligned website, and introducing allocated seating among other improvements.

But has Ryanair really changed its spots? If my recent experience is anything to go by, I’d argue not.

Back in March, I booked a return flight (with Ryanair, natch) to Berlin for my best friend’s hen do at the end of July. Alas the bride to be has been unceremoniously ditched by her fiancee and consequently cancelled our weekend away…

I wasn’t expecting a refund from Ryanair – partly because while my mate Maz, aka the jilted bride, may feel as though she has died, the fact of the matter is that we haven’t suffered a bereavement (the scenario in which Ryanair will provide full refunds).

And partly because Michael O’ Leary – never one to shy from controversy  – has in the past shared his stance on refunds with us all in no uncertain words: “You’re not getting a refund so f** off. We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”

However I was expecting to be able to change my flight from Berlin to Biarritz, where a friend from my Beijing days is now living and working, without too much hassle.

After consulting the Ryanair website, it appeared that I could fly out from Stansted on Thursday 21 July for £59.99 and back on Monday 25 July for £36.99, making for a total of £96.98.

Factor in Ryanair’s ‘change of flight’ fee charges (an extortionate £80) and the price shoots up to £176.98 . However I have £111.16 worth of credit from my Berlin flight, bringing the amount down to a do-able £65.82.

Or so I thought…. until I tried to change my flight using Ryanair’s ‘Live chat’ function where employee ‘David I’ insisted that I would need to pay £189  for the flight change.

When I pointed out the website evidence to the contrary, ‘David I’ claimed that flight prices weren’t showing correctly on Apple products (I had logged in using a Macbook) and had I checked them from a Windows PC? I promptly did so  only to find that, as expected, the proposed Biarritz flights were still available for £96.98. To which ‘David I’ – clearly at a loss as to what to say or do – decided to abruptly terminate our chat.

Undeterred, I took Twitter in an attempt to elicit an answer from the airline. After two tweets, I received the following reply:

“Hi Kate [sic], sorry about this. Please contact submit a complaint form on the website. LR”

Only – and you can see this coming a mile off  – the complaint section of the site was down and subsequently I was informed:

The http://contactform.ryanair.com  page isn’t working

http://contactform.ryanair.com  is currently unable to handle this request.

Fast forward five days and I’m still waiting for a response. I suspect I’ll be waiting a while for, as the Irish business motormouth, once said:

“Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? Absolutely not. I don’t give a shit if no one likes me.”

It seems as though Ryanair has had enough of singing from its new PR tune and reverted to form. Sadly, thanks to Ryanair’s consistently low fares we’ll probably all continue to put up with the not-so-nice airline…

How has your experience of Ryanair been in the past two years? Let us know by posting a comment below!

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