Why I (sort of) like Ryanair

Folks love to ridicule Ryanair, but by the millions squeeze themselves into their seats and endure a flight chock-full of sales pitches for lottery tickets, smokeless cigarettes and truly disgusting sandwiches.

However, and here is the rub, they carry tons of folks around; more than British Airways, many more than Air Canada and for remarkably low fares. We flew from Carcassonne to London and back a couple of days ago for $140 each, including $10 for priority boarding, a very well-spent tenner.

Nobody could ever describe Ryanair as being customer-friendly, but then again London Transport isn’t either, the CTA in Chicago most certainly is not. And in either case, one can spend as much time in the process of getting from A to B, with no pretence at comfort, style or ambience. Actually, I have spent more on a tube journey in London than a Ryanair flight; it costs £4.15 for a one-way ticket from Heathrow to London (unless one gets an Oyster Card), and last September I flew from Carcassonne to Bournemouth for €5, all-in.

Ryanair make no pretence at meeting images of air travel conjured up by the improbable advertising of the major airlines; they are efficient, to a point of brutality. They pay airports pretty well the absolute minimum revenue required to operate, and certainly insufficient for any expenditure on comfy seats for their passengers to use; these small Ryanairports (sic) are reminiscent of aging public swimming pools, with instituitonal paint, spartan seating and elderly vending machines offering dizzying weak coffee or tea. Upon return from London, the incoming aircraft in London, and I was amazed to see them turn it around, disembarking 180 passengers, boarding another 180 (without seat selection or jetway-boarding) in 30 minutes, and away we went.

180 passengers to Carcassonne! And three hours later, there would be another 180. Where on earth do 360 passengers each day come from who want to travel to Carcassonne? Beats me, but they do. As they do on every other route that this remarkable airline serves at rock-bottom prices.

And it is the prices that do it; low, low low they are, but are they too low? They really are a perfect mirror of society’s contemporary problem of wanting salaries and lifestyles on a personal level that are impossible without relying on Chinese or Ryanair labour rates.

Ryanair staff, with few exceptions, can’t buy houses, cars and an increasing lifestyle on the salaries that are paid, and without those salary levels, fares would rise to a point that the seats would empty. It really doesn’t bode well for the future. British Airways current dispute centres on this paradox; the desire to be paid a living wage in terms of the country in which one lives, being pressured by salaries and operating costs from the world’s lowest-cost regions.

And one other thing; I thought that Ryanair’s seats were disgracefully small, and decided to grumble about this, but accept that it was part of the cost of the low price; however, a quick look at the comprehensive seat-chart-web-site Seat Guru tells that Ryanair’s seats are 17” wide with a 30” pitch. Tight, but EasyJet are 18”/29”, WestJet offer 17”/32”, Delta’s are configured at 17”/32” and by way of contrast, the much vaunted Malaysia Airlines offer identical space on their B737 fleet of 17”/30”.

Size does matter.