July 29, 2007

Flying The Unfriendly Skies

I'm just back from holiday discourtesy of Ryanair, the low-fares airline. I usually reply to complaints of their legendary poor service with a certain impatience. After all, we can hardly accuse the brand of being misleading. Everything about it screams of where you stand as customer in the pecking order.

So normally, I pay the low fare and take my chances. But I was struck yesterday by the more sinister side of the brand and its cheapskate values. We had paid a little extra to secure priority boarding and smugly made our way to the head of the line. As we stood waiting to climb the gangway at the front of the plane, there was a hurried consultation between cabin crew and groundstaff. The steward then indicated that boarding would be by the gangway at the back of the plane instead and the fairly orderly line broke ranks in an 'every man for himself, to hell with women and children' dash down the tarmac. Once inside the plane, the pushing and shoving continued as we battled to keep families together and secure good seats.

I sat in my seat shaken and not a little ashamed by what had been unleashed in me and my fellow passengers. I looked around and saw a mix of decent people like myself who had been reduced only seconds before to a selfish rabble.

Ryanair would probably argue that they had nothing to do with what happened but I can't help feeling that there's something in the brand that brings out the grasping and the mean-spirited in us all. They lead and, I'm not proud to say, we follow.

As a family, we've resolved not to fly with them again. Whilst their low prices are tempting, and they can certainly be credited with shaking up a complacent industry and opening up a whole range of routes, there's something unhealthy in the pressurised Ryanair that leaves me sick to the stomach.

I'll pay a little extra for the basics in courtesy that I get elsewhere and fly friendlier skies instead.

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