There are some people who would argue that Ryanair has revolutionized the budget airline industry. However, numerous consumer surveys conducted in the UK over the years have shown that there is little appetite for the airline in its home market. Both UK and Irish flyers have been left repeatedly disappointed by the level of service provided by Ryanair. In terms of the amount of money made and the number of passengers flown, Ryanair has been undeniably successful. However, these figures hide the fact that the actual passengers are less than impressed with what the airline has to offer.
For this author, there are three things in particular about Ryanair that mean I won’t ever be flying with them again. First of all, there are constantly changing carry-on luggage rules that seem to get worse every time they are adjusted. Then there is the way that Ryanair treats its employees. Finally, Ryanair has planted itself firmly on the wrong side of the open data debate and has been involved in litigation with a number of businesses whose only crime is to use data that Ryanair has made publicly available.
Its Carry-On Luggage Rules
Ryanair has changed its carry-on luggage rules a number of times already. These latest changes are the second time this year alone. Since November 1st, any passenger without a priority boarding pass is only able to take one small personal bag (such as a handbag or backpack) into the cabin. Before the introduction of these new rules, any non-priority passenger could also bring with them a bigger wheelie bag.
The bigger bag would be tagged at the gate and then stored in the hold of the plane. There was no extra charge for any of this, but passengers will now have to pay £6 if they want to secure the priority boarding pass they need when they book their tickets. Otherwise, they will have to pay £8 at any point before their flight.
Ryanair will be applying these new rules to all flights going forward, regardless of when they were booked. This has left a lot of customers unhappy as they had booked a flight with Ryanair on the understanding that they would be able to bring luggage on-board with them free of charge. Well, at least it was a win for other travel airlines.
The change seems to have been motivated at least in part by the fact that it will now be much harder to accurately compare Ryanair’s prices with those of their competitors. Flight comparison sites allow users to filter the results according to the arrangements for hold luggage. However, they don’t account for differences in hand luggage rules. Users who are comparing the prices of flights including Ryanair should add an extra £8 onto the cost of a Ryanair flight to account for these new charges.
Its Treatment of Employees
Ryanair was recently involved in two court cases – one in Dublin and one in London – trying to prevent its staff from striking. The airline was successful in Dublin, where it was able to secure an injunction against industrial action. However, it was unsuccessful at the high court in London, meaning that strike action in the UK can go ahead.
While Ryanair contends that the pilots’ union in question did not ballot its members properly, 61% of the union members voted in the ballot. The judge in the case also complained that he felt rushed by the airline, having to make his judgment within a week of the case first being brought to his attention.
For its part, Ryanair referred to its pilots as being on “six-figure salaries” and ruining the travel plans for families who earn significantly less. The implication was that the pilots should take their money and shut up, despite their strong support for the action.
Its Attitude to Open Data
Ryanair is one of a number of businesses that have started to use litigation as a means of controlling access to its data. In September of this year, Ryanair and Expedia settled a lawsuit out of court that had been filed by the airline a few years prior. The exact terms of the settlement remain confidential, but the case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it can’t be brought back to the court again. Outwardly, it also appears as if Ryanair considers this to have been a win.
Ryanair filed lawsuits against Expedia in both the United States and Ireland, alleging that Expedia’s use of scraping to access flight data was a violation of the computer fraud and abuse act. The airline also alleged copyright infringement and sought damages as well as an injunction preventing Expedia from scraping data from Ryanair.
These types of lawsuits are nothing new. However, most of them stem from a time when the data landscape was very different. In today’s world, it is very hard to make a compelling argument for preventing individuals and businesses from using publicly available data.
Ryanair has not exactly endeared themselves to the flying public. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I consider the above three points to be particularly important. In the first instance, Ryanair is trying to make it hard for customers to accurately compare their prices with other airlines. In the second, Ryanair is suppressing the legitimate right of their workers to take industrial action. And finally, Ryanair is displaying an attitude towards data that is not only unhelpful but also unsustainable. I for one will not be using the airline for the foreseeable future.