I previously wrote about the various annoyances inflicted on passengers by Ryanair (see here and here).  The main one that bugs me is the failure to have either allocated seat numbers or, at the very least, to board passengers according to a ticket number issued as they arrive at the gate.  If my local butcher can do this, why can’t Ryanair? The cattle-like queuing at every Ryanair departure counter from about 30 minutes before boarding actually starts is a complete pain .

But now I am almost equally annoyed by the nonsense they go on with as regards cabin baggage.  Firstly, they try to catch you out by having a smaller than expected limit on cabin bag dimensions.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) standard hand baggage allowance is 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, but Ryanair allows just 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. This means that the bag you have used without a problem on Aer Lingus, easyJet or British Airways may not be allowed on a Ryanair flight.  And if you fall victim to this trick, they will charge you dearly for putting the bag in the hold.  Ryanair are practically the only airline not to follow IATA guidance on this.

Then there is their insistence on passengers putting absolutely everything in the single piece of hand baggage before you board: your laptop,  handbag, paperback book, duty free, camera etc all must be squashed into the bag.  Most airlines are not so demanding; Aer Lingus, for instance, says that “additional small items (camera, personal stereo, overcoat, handbag or laptop) are allowed”.  And the net result of Ryanair’s policy is that boarding is slowed down while passengers, having selected their seat,  extract from their cases the items they will need on the flight – books, iPads, magazines, personal stereos etc.

So at first I couldn’t understand Ryanair’s logic for the strict enforcement of this rule.  But light dawned on me recently, when it became apparent that the rule does not seem to apply at certain airports, and in fact “duty-free” shops at these airports advertise that a duty-free bag is allowed on all flights (including Ryanair’s it would seem) , in addition to the normal cabin bag.    Not surprising that they would make a point of this, as people are much less likely to buy stuff at airports if they are forced to squeeze them into an already full cabin bag.

So here is what I believe is happening.  Ryanair negotiates individually with airports for handling charges.  Airports kick up about Ryanair’s cabin baggage policy as it deters passengers from patronising the airport’s retail tenants, who are thus less able to pay the exorbitant rents to the airport.  Ryanair says: charge us less for handling and we will allow passengers to bring purchases on board separately.  Result: more money for Ryanair, higher rents for the airport, higher prices at the airport shops.

I have no documentary proof of this scam, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence.

It’s time to fight back!  Here is what all passengers should do: after being forced to put everything into the single piece of cabin baggage, make sure to take as long as possible extracting what you need when you arrive at the seat.  Don’t be afraid to block the aisle in so doing.  There really is no rush.  After all, if you hadn’t been the victim of Ryanair’s arbitrary and oppressive cabin baggage policy, you wouldn’t have to  cause a delay at all.  So take your time.  What are they going to do, throw you off for being a little bit slow and bumbling when you get to your seat?  Hardly.

If sufficient people were to fight back in this manner, Ryanair would find their turn-around time stretching out and causing them flight delays.  A hit to their bottom line, in other words.  The only thing that will get their attention.

So come on Ryanair passengers, stop being sheep, and give them a taste of their own medicine!

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Airline joke

27 June, 2011

A guy is sitting in the bar in departures at Heathrow. A beautiful woman walks in and sits down at the table next to him.

He decides that because she’s got a uniform on, she’s probably an off duty flight attendant.  So he decides to have a go at picking her up by identifying the airline she flies for thereby impressing her greatly.

He leans across to her and says the Delta Airlines motto: “We love to fly and it shows”.   The woman looks at him blankly.

He sits back and thinks up another line.   He leans forward again and delivers the Air France motto: “Winning the hearts of the world”.  Again she just stares at him with a slightly puzzled look on her face.

Undeterred, he tries again, this time saying the Malaysian Airlines motto: “Going beyond expectations”.

The woman looks at him sternly and says: “What the f**k do you want?”

“Ah!” he says, sitting back with a smile on his face, “Ryanair”!!!

I had the dubious pleasure  of flying Ryanair again recently.  I repeat all my previous comments (here) about how they manage to make travel annoying.

This one is a particular bugbear:

The baggage weight limit.  For an item of checked baggage, 15kg is ridiculous and seems designed to annoy passengers – an allowance of 20kg should be the minimum, or at least 18kg. Ryanair’s policy leads to people maximising the 10kg limit on carry-on baggage, and adds to stress levels on boarding, with passengers chasing inadequate overhead locker space. This is one of the causes of the cattle-like queuing referred to above. And the thing is, 15kg is a totally arbitrary limit. What’s the difference in cost for the airline between carrying a 90kg man with a 15kg suitcase, and an 85kg man with a 20kg suitcase? They don’t charge for passengers by weight.

The Economist had a piece recently about Southwest Airlines:

Southwest’s main advantage is that its rivals often treat passengers like cargo. Not only do they squeeze them into seats that make dentists’ chairs seem comfortable, but they do so with an air of ill-concealed resentment. …….It is the small things that make the difference. Southwest still gives out free peanuts, an oddly emotive subject among travellers. It lets passengers switch their flights often, for no extra charge. Most importantly, perhaps, it does not charge for checked-in luggage. Bob Jordan, Southwest’s vice president for strategy, reckons that charging for bags would have given the airline an additional $300m a year. But bag fees are so irritating that Southwest decided to go without.

And to think that Southwest Airlines was supposedly the model that Ryanair originally followed!  Michael O’Leary has obviously cherry-picked the bits that suit his unusual worldview, and discarded the bits that involve being courteous to passengers (even where it costs nothing).

Not in any particular order, here are the things that annoy me most about flying with Ryanair. A complete list would be too long for me to write and for you to read.  Yes, I know it’s been done before ad nauseum, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference to the way they run the airline, but just let me do it anyway;  I feel it may be therapeutic for me to unburden my bottled up frustration by writing about it.

Inability to pre-book seats. Every other airline seems to be able to offer the possibility of assigned seat numbers. If you are travelling with another person, there is the sweat about whether you will be able to sit together. Yes I know you can pay for priority boarding, but this doesn’t work in places where you are delivered to the airplane by bus.

That infernal queue to board. The cattle-like queuing you see at every Ryanair departure counter from about 30 minutes before boarding actually starts is a pain for everybody. Why can’t they call people to board based on the sequence number printed on the boarding card, or based on a ticket collected at time of arrival at the gate? Not difficult for Ryanair, but I suppose treating passengers with a bit of dignity might ultimately cause a bit of inconvenience to the airline if the pesky passengers get the idea that they matter in some small way. Treat them like s**t and they won’t talk back.

The baggage weight limit.  For an item of checked baggage, 15kg is ridiculous and seems designed to annoy passengers – an allowance of 20kg should be the minimum, or at least 18kg. Ryanair’s policy leads to people maximising the 10kg limit on carry-on baggage, and adds to stress levels on boarding, with passengers chasing inadequate overhead locker space. This is one of the causes of the cattle-like queuing referred to above. And the thing is, 15kg is a totally arbitrary limit. What’s the difference in cost for the airline between carrying a 90kg man with a 15kg suitcase, and an 85kg man with a 20kg suitcase? They don’t charge for passengers by weight.

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