If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ll let you in on today’s activity: RyanAir is advertising another of their “no taxes, no fees, no charges” sales. Included are flights for the month of April only. Tickets must be purchased by midnight tonight. The good news: despite the booking engine being overloaded and causing me to panic several times, I was able to make my six-leg booking and I’m headed to Spain! All told, this will come to under 30 euros. Being able to travel so inexpensively and quickly across Europe is why I love RyanAir. Compare to Deutsche Bahn, who can’t even get me anywhere in Germany for under 58 euros round-trip . . .
The bad news: RyanAir is busily charging me both taxes and fees on these flights. You can read the ad above as well as I can. On all previous “no fees” flights, that has included the so-called “handling fee” charged for using a debit or credit card (as if you had a choice). Before, my 1-cent itineraries have truly cost 1 cent. Not this time — make that 1.51 euros, with 1 cent for the flight and 1.50 euros for the charging of my debit card. That’s four legs of my six-leg trip: should have cost 4 cents, is costing 6.04 euros.
The other two legs are Berlin-London (Stansted) and back. Fare is 1 cent, taxes and fees are 9.99 euros. Should have cost 2 cents, is costing 23 euros.
So for the mathematically challenged, advertised price (and the price I’ve received multiple times in the exact same type of sale): 6 cents; RyanAir final price: 29.04 euros. It’s most certainly illegal advertising. But can you see why I’m disappointed?
It’s not just the money. I cost RyanAir far more then they overcharge me. Since last September, I recollect 10 flights on RyanAir for which I paid a total of 8.06 euros (six 1-cent flights, four 2-euro flights). They were all purchased on “no taxes, no fees” sales. In reality, taxes on each of those flights approaches 20 euros each, so RyanAir paid 200 euros on my behalf. Further, I give the airline no opportunity to collect any other money from me: I always carry on my luggage, so they can’t charge me the airport check-in fee or the baggage handling fee. I never opt for priority boarding. I bring my own snacks and beverages. I am a loss for the airline every time I fly. In five months, I cost RyanAir 192 euros!
Looking at this next set of flights, the same story holds. I may pay 30 euros, but I am actually costing the airline 180 euros. In just over two weeks, I will rack up another 150 euros in the hole for RyanAir. Aren’t they glad to have me as a customer?!
In my previous posts on online check-in and carry-on limits, I have perhaps failed to make the following point clear: in many respects, dealing with low-cost carriers such as RyanAir is like playing a game. In order to play well, you need to know the rules (how much luggage you can carry on, each additional checked bag costs extra, you can’t check-in online if you’re not an EU citizen or you’ll be denied boarding, etc.). Most complaints about the airline come from people who don’t know the rules. So yes, you can be angry that RyanAir’s rules are different from everyone else’s, but you’re not going to get a whole lot of sympathy from me if you don’t know or follow the rules of the game. RyanAir makes a ton of money off of the folks who don’t know the rules.
What I hope I illustrate by example is that once you know the rules, it is easier 1) to flout them and 2) to beat the master at his own game. YOU FLOUT RULES AT YOUR OWN RISK, but you are much more in command if you know where and how to bend and tweak as needed. On the second point, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note RyanAir has been paying me to fly and not the other way around. In six months, they’ve paid 342 euros on my behalf so that I could visit Belgium, Italy, England, Sweden, and Malta. For my 38-euro investment, I’d say that’s a pretty good return.
Because I honestly appreciate the service they provide me every time I fly, it disappoints me that they resort to what seems like cheap tactics in order to scrape together profits. Why bait and switch with the advertisement above when you are in all honesty only offering 1-cent, no-tax fares on a limited number of routes while charging a fee on every leg purchased? I would have gladly paid an upfront 2 euros for each of the flights I booked, but instead they sneakily tacked on the “handling fee,” leaving me unhappy with my 1.51 euro tickets. What is not to understand here? They not only lost 49 cents on each purchase, they left me with an impression of dishonesty I’ve felt the need to write 1000 words about!
What is more, it is clear that each of these flights leaves a larger carbon footprint than the equivalent train or bus journey. Nevertheless, I am constantly frustrated by the inability of national transport to get me from point to point nearly as efficiently or cheaply as RyanAir gets me halfway across the continent. Despite increasing taxes and fuel prices, incentives remain incorrectly skewed towards plane travel. And while I would agree that environmental taxes should be levied on every flight, in order to rectify the situation I believe that ground transportation needs to become more competitive. For many journeys, I would in fact prefer to take the train, if the train weren’t so expensive! The Eurail pass is not on its way out because fewer people are interested in traveling around Europe . . .
Finally, RyanAir has yet to rectify or clarify their stupid and discriminatory online check-in policy. The airline’s website was upgraded last month, noticeably without any change in this area. I know of no other airline in the world that discriminates based on nationality and disability. There is no reasonable explanation for these policies, nor for the limited 44-hour window for online check-in. Again, it reeks more of a dishonest and implorable way to make a few euros than of reasonable business practice.
RyanAir is the most-searched term leading people to this blog. If you’ve been in Europe long enough, you most certainly have your own story to tell. Leave your balanced deliberations and love/hate machinations in the comments.