Pól Ó Conghaile: Ryanair at 30
A big birthday
Did you know Ryanair turns 30 this year?
Since launching with a single, 15-seater plane back in 1985, the airline has gone on to average some 1,600 flights a day throughout Europe, with profit forecasts of over €840 million for this year.
It's not just an aviation colossus, it (along with its CEO) is a cultural phenomenon.
The media spotlight is on Aer Lingus right now, what with IAG's takeover bid being batted around, but there's no doubting the steamrolling influence Michael O'Leary's airline continues to exert.
Last year, Aer Lingus carried over 11 million passengers. The figure for Ryanair was over 86 million. It could become the first European airline to carry 100 million passengers in a 12 month period in the not-too-distant future.
That's an astonishing number, and it's due in no small part to the customer service u-turn effected over the past 18 months. Business Plus and Family Extra services, allocated seats and carry-on bags are just the beginning of a revamp we couldn't have imagined back when O'Leary was threatening to charge customers £1 to spend a penny on his planes.
Of course, we still have gripes. Ryanair's interiors are still too yellow. Like Aer Lingus, it still hikes its baggage fees in summer. Unlike Aer Lingus, it doesn't command the same love and loyalty as a former State airline.
But credit where credit is due. I know I'm not alone in revelling at the thought of the next 30 years.
Did you know Independent Travel is on Facebook? In recent weeks, we've brought our blend of travel features, tips and photos to a growing number of fans - and Facebook is also where you'll hear about flash sales first. When Ryanair launched its new Dublin-Copenhagen route (starting March 18), it did so with 3,000 promotional fares from just 30 cent. We had them on Facebook within minutes, giving our fans the heads-up on a fabulous travel deal. With more to come in the months ahead, follow the link from independent.ie/travel and like us on Facebook.
Poulnabrone dolmen, The Burren
April and May are two of the best months to visit the Burren in Co. Clare. That's when the National Park's awesome carpet of wildflowers is in full bloom - with a festival to match in Burren in Bloom (burreninbloom.com; April 30-May 18). If you're looking for an excuse to get there early, however, Sheedy's Country House Hotel in Lisdoonvarna (sheedys.com) re-opens on March 13. It's got a two-might package bundling B&B, one dinner at its two AA Rosette restaurant and a day's electric bike hire from €175pps.