A Tribute to RyanAir: Decoding the Perfect Business Plan

When a traveler faces threats such as food poisoning, being sold into slavery, discrimination based on sports preferences, ridiculously priced transportation and theft so rampant that open-air passport kiosks line the streets of certain cities, it’s easy to forget that we must also worry about the threat of discount airlines.

Any harried, penniless traveler instantly recognizes the value of cheap travel. But as airlines struggle to offer the cheapest fares with the lowest overhead, travelers must ask themselves if the 50euro round trip ticket from Brussels to Barcelona is worth the white-knuckled, jaw-clenching journey through the clouds. Our bank accounts rejoice while our hearts palpitate in fear. It is therefore fit to celebrate and acknowledge the greatest cheap airfare monger of them all: RyanAir.

I haven’t yet decided if RyanAir is a pro at what it does and can therefore afford to be the semi-inept, come-what-may airline that I’ve experienced; or if they really are just a bunch of poorly trained 20-somethings who are as confused and hung-over as the majority of their passengers. It appears as though RyanAir’s upper management tactic is simple, and I’ve managed to decode their business plan.

RyanAir Airplane Seats
RyanAir Seats © Matt From London

Step One: Get Crazy Cheap Airplanes!

This means airplanes swathed in primary colors, first of all, but more importantly, to save those crucial extra euros on everyone’s plane ticket, it’s essential to do away with reclining seats. They have also perfected the art of the Discreet Cattle Car, where they stuff just enough chairs into one space that it’s two rows short of violating the Geneva Convention. RyanAir knows just how to pull on our delicate heart-and-budget strings: travelers will suffer through anything for a good deal.

Step Two: Staff Almost No One

The majority of my luggage-drop and passport-check experiences have been overseen by a single employee. This hapless soul will inevitably arrive, unannounced, terrifyingly close to the departure time so that anyone not accustomed to RyanAir’s style will seriously question what is going on and contact all nearby airline agencies until someone sighs and says ”˜Yeah, they never open until 2 hours before the flight’. In more remote airports, the passport and terminal shuffle often feels like an awkward school dance with no music and only one uniformed chaperone.

Step Three: Don’t Waste Money Training Aforementioned Staff

It always surprises me when I find a RyanAir worker who appears to know what they’re doing. The majority of my experiences involving the airline have required me, the passenger, to remind the desk clerk to either check my passport or direct me to the necessary visa stamp kiosk.

I even once asked a worker, in a tone somewhere between amused and horrified, “Don’t I have to get a visa stamp before I board this plane?” The fine print on my e-ticket warned me about not being able to exit the country without such a stamp, but the RyanAir worker seemed unconcerned, unaware … or perhaps both.

Several times I have, in a state of tentative bewilderment where I asked myself if this was really happening, actually offered my passport to the desk clerk after I’d both checked my luggage and had my ticket in hand. I mean, they’re legally obligated to look at it, right? It’s a LAW”¦RIGHT?! CAN JUST ANYONE WALTZ ON THE PLANE, RYANAIR?!

Excess Baggage
Excess Baggage © geishaboy500

Step Four: Punish Passengers for Bringing Luggage

RyanAir’s fees for excessive luggage (re: any checked items) or overweight luggage (re: anything larger than a milk jug) seem to be the foundation of their profiteering scheme. One of the few things the employees know how to do is spot bags that are too large, too bulky, or too heavy. But even this skill is limited to select airports.

Oh, how many euros I have saved from cleverly disguising my carry-on bulk! While most RyanAir employees don’t actually give a shit about your 26kg carry-on, some will force you to shamefully unpack your articles and rearrange the contents so that your luggage complies with the guidelines.

Step Five: Distract the Passengers In-flight

While all the passengers are glancing around the plane, struggling to shove knees behind seats and trying to get a feel for their neighbors through the shared elbow (and arm, and thigh, and foot) room, RyanAir flight attendants saunter through the aisles boasting an array of beverage, food, and luxury items – all for a price. While those passengers accustomed to free peanuts and beverages with too-much-ice in them eye the stewards hungrily for any hint of Snack Time, the flight attendants are cleverly manipulating us.

The logic is simple and nearly infallible: If the plane ticket costs only 20 euro, then what’s the harm in a 7euro bologna sandwich? And while you’re itching to get out of your seat and onto solid ground again, why don’t you deter thoughts of your own demise by buying a new Chanel perfume?

And really, since your neighbor is munching happily on a square bread sandwich and drinking a 15 euro thimble of alcohol, maybe we should all buy some lottery tickets for a chance to win more RyanAir plane trips? (After all, the tickets are buy one, get one!)

Food, booze, and gambling. Clever.

Budget Airline Graffiti
Airline Graffiti © R▲▲S

Step Six: Arrive on Time So Nobody Can Say Otherwise (and Mum’s the Word!)

RyanAir apparently is the “on-time” airline, which is a good slogan and makes people feel like they can trust the airline. Sure, maybe the planes are on time (even though sometimes they’re not by a long shot), but the slogan really leaves a lot unsaid.

Arriving on time isn’t what you’ll hear travelers gushing about once they’ve landed. Really, what they’re gushing about is that they landed at all, and probably tittering a bit about that rocky landing and whether or not the pilot was actually awake.

What travelers tend to mention next is usually related to their newest location, and how it seems a bit different than what they’d expected. Oh, you mean Barcelona (Girona) isn’t Barcelona at all? And Glasgow-Prestwick is actually one hour outside of Glasgow? These are important facts that sometimes fall through the cracks, especially on their website when you’re gobbling up that 1euro deal that lasts only until midnight.

I understand why these things go unsaid (really, billboards don’t have enough room for all the clauses RyanAir would need). But here’s what the slogan more closely resembles:

RyanAir: the on-time airline, due largely to the fact that we’ve constructed exclusive airports in almost every country designed to service only our flights and position you so far away from your destination city that the fleeting joy you feel at saving euros on your airfare will quickly be replaced with malice once you see how much you’re gonna spend on that two hour bus ride to the capital.

In Closing

If you don’t have a good RyanAir tale, maybe you didn’t really experience Europe.

The cons of the discount airline world are often significant (did I mention the 100euro fee to switch the name on a 5euro ticket? Or the mysterious 100% increase in ticket fares once midnight hits?). Yet RyanAir has proven to travelers that it stakes a significant claim in the airline industry. Despite the lack of reciprocity in the customer/airline relationship, it seems it has struck gold in a few key areas.

Not only is “discount airline” a buzzword in the travel world, it’s become a rite of passage to get dicked over by RyanAir or one of its counterparts. If you don’t have a good RyanAir tale, maybe you didn’t really experience Europe. At the very least, it has one thing to rely on, and this may be the only thing that will prevent it from floundering: there’s no better feeling than purchasing a ticket from Paris to London for only 15euro, even if it means you’ll spend half a day and twice as much in getting to the freaking RyanAir airport in the first place.

About The Author

Shannon Bradford

Shannon Bradford is a twenty-something with a fondness for open air markets, ancient ruins and foreign tongues. She is currently living creatively in South America where she is completing several novels, mastering the Spanish language, and learning the ins and outs of the ex-patriot lifestyle. Check out her blog, Taking the Leap.

12 Responses

  1. Abone

    Oh Ryanair, Ryanair….. Last time I used it I flew from Dublin to Eindhoven (The Netherlands). I booked online and decided to get their priority seating for 6 euro. Really what it meant: you get to run into the airplane first to get the emergency seat for extra leg space….. Hmmm…. Well, that works for me….. ;)

    Reply
  2. Shannon OD

    This is so spot-on!! Love the article and I have definitely had the “holy crap” moments wondering if a Ryan Air employee was ever going to show up!!

    Reply
  3. John Bardos - JetSetCitizen

    This is an awesome post!

    Sometimes it is worth remembering that you do indeed get what you pay for.

    My experiences with RyanAir have been good, just because the prices are so low that I expected much, much less. I was actually surprised that it was bearable.

    Airlines like United are so terrible that the little money I save just aren’t worth it anymore. I would rather pay a couple hundred dollars more to avoid the inevitable harassment.

    Reply
  4. Garrett

    Ah, the joys of discount European airlines! When compared to American versions, these truly are DISCOUNT companies. But, as a traveler, you’re willing to sacrifice comforts for cash and Ryan Air fits that bill.

    Whether in Ljubljana, Barcelona or the central London hub, I’ve had these exact same experiences.

    This is so true!

    And I happily accept it.

    - Garrett

    Reply
  5. Lindsey

    I know there are tons of cons with discount carriers, but I figure if you are willing to book the flight, you are willing to risk it.

    I traveled from Barcelona to Milan for under 30 Euros, and though it didn’t seem to be a wonderful experience…it was worth it.

    Reply
  6. Leslie Russell

    haha shan this was hilarious. “They have also perfected the art of the Discreet Cattle Car” amazing line. I fully back you in every assertion. I do believe it was through a series of Ryan Air brand mistakes, I was stranded trying to get home from Rome. A 15 euro plane ticket quickly turned to a desperate 400 euro shotgun flight. ahhh memories.

    Reply
  7. Hillary

    Ah Ryanair, last summer you took me all over Europe yet again. Spent more than I care to count on overweight luggage, what is it, 10 Euro per kilo now? I have to say, the cherry on top of my travels was boarding the plane to Stockholm, only to have the attendant check our boarding passes at the top of the staircase and start to freak out that we didn’t have a visa stamp and that we might not be allowed in Sweden. Thanks Ryanair. Good thing she let us on the plane and forgot about it halfway through the flight. Oops. Til we meet again.

    Reply
  8. Laura

    OH Ryan air is even more clever than ever. I recently flew from Germany to Spain on Ryan air. Passed the luggage inspection leaving Germany cringing as they weighed it. Then when I was leaving Spain going back to Germany they said “your luggage is not the same weight as when you checked in at Germany”. They wanted to charge me!!! What??? So I had to remove about 5 pounds of stuff. Basically it was 2 travel books I had initially carried to spain in my purse. So I took them out and shoved them in my purse and now I could check in my luggage. I mean what’s the difference? The plane is still going to carry my two books!

    Reply
  9. MIGUEL

    I wouldn’t know if to call ryanair and passenger plain or a cargo fleet. You do literally feel like a cow, jammed into a plane, along with the rest of the herd. I had a very misfortunate situation with ryanair aswell. It all happened when i flew back from Bangkok. For starters, I was amazed with the 40€ fine for not printing your boarding pass. (something that had just changed during my stay in South east asia and wasn’t aware off). My luggage was to big to go on board so another 20 0r 30 euros… at the end after all this time in South east asia with with the most humble people i have met on the planet, so far… I have never felt so ripped off. Right infront of my face, in my own country, with my own “aproval”… my 1o euro ticket turned into the worst cargo transport ever.At the end i found out I should of bought my ticket with a better, more expensive airline, where I atleast get treated like the human I am!
    … definately DOUBLE AND TRIPLE CHECK BEFORE YOU FLY WITH RYAN AIR!

    Reply
  10. sin

    People are moaning about Ryanair, but they should do it about themselves. If you didn’t read terms and conditions, if you forgot to print the boarding pass, if you took too heavy baggage… Don’t you simply understand that it is the way Ryanair makes money? Do you think your 10EUR ticket covers all expenses incl fuel, administration etc? It’s normal that for this price you get only hand baggage, which strictly has to be no more than 10kgs. If you are well organized, are able to sit down not so comfortable for few hours (Ryanair flies just across the Europe, so no flights are longer than few hours), to travel to an airport which is not very close to the townm to take only most necessary things into your hand baggage…then ryanair really offers best price and really good service. I’; glad ryanair grew so fast – i travelled all around the Europe for pennies, thanks to them.

    Reply

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