Comment: Ryanair's current flight drama won't turn me off flying with them again
It hasn't been the best week for Ryanair.
The Dublin-based carrier announced that it is cancelling up to 50 flights daily over the next six weeks in what chief executive Michael O’Leary has called "a mess of our own making" in planning pilot holidays. Thousands of unhappy customers were left to deal with the issue at the last-minute. It didn't help that at the start of the crisis, Ryanair chose to drip-feed information to its passengers, leaving them stranded or with little notice to make alternative arrangements.
It is an awful mess and while I feel sorry for those who have been affected, it hasn't turned me off flying with Ryanair. Even at the height of the controversy I was looking up flights to Edinburgh in November.
Ryanair means cheap flights. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to travel as often as I do. In the past 15 months, I've been to Lisbon, Seville, Paris, Copenhagen (twice) and London (three times). Each round trip - apart from Lisbon and Seville - was priced in double figures. It's easy to overlook their shortcomings when you can fly to a European city for less than a taxi fare to the other side of Dublin.
In the past five years, I haven't suffered any delays and I've noticed an improvement in their customer service, especially with the introduction of the new app (no more fear of the €50 fine for not printing off your boarding pass).
On a recent flight from London Gatwick, they mislaid my suitcase. It was the one time I had checked in my luggage through. I was fuming when after 40 minutes of waiting at the carousel, I realised it wasn't going to show up. Cursing them under my breath, I marched to the Ryanair desk and complained to ground staff that my case was missing. They apologised, took my name, number and address and promised it would be resolved quickly. I had little faith.
I resisted the urge to send them an irate tweet but continued to seethe silently on the bus home. Two hours after arriving home I got a phone call from a taxi driver to say that he was outside my house with my luggage. Ryanair had located my bag and sent it out to me ASAP. And that was the end of that.
In the most recent flights I've booked, I've been allocated a seat miles away from my travelling companions (something that never happened before) and while I don't always pay for the privilege of sitting with them, it doesn't make a dent in my overall budget when I do. Although I know for families travelling with children, it makes a difference.
I know a lot of people who refuse to fly with Ryanair for reasons that are valid. People don't like Michael O'Leary, they detest their aggressive marketing campaigns, they've had genuinely bad experiences and, for the most part, they don't want to use an airport miles outside their intended destination. Cancelling hundreds of flights at the last minute is a turn-off too.
My mother always swore she'd "never fly with Ryanair". The mere suggestion of flying with them was met with a firm "no". Earlier this year I booked flights for the both of us to Copenhagen. I didn't tell her we were flying with Ryanair until after the sale had gone through. Did she survive? Yes. Was it as bad as she thought? Not at all. We got to where we needed to be on time and she slept for most of the flight.
It's never an amazing experience (is any flight?) but it's pleasant. It does the job. I could do without being asked to buy scratchcards, the headache-inducing yellow interior (although this isn't an issue on the new aircraft), braving the elements to board the flight and I miss leafing through Cara magazine when I'm not with Aer Lingus but these are hardly complaints.
For a short-haul flight, I just want to arrive at my destination on time and unscathed, without any hassle. And that's what I get.
The cheap cost of the flights doesn't excuse how badly Ryanair treated their customers this week. It should never have happened.
Some customers may think twice about booking another flight with Ryanair but, for me, the cheap cost means I'll probably book that flight to Edinburgh once this mess is resolved.