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THIS IS THE SAME REVIEW AS BEFORE - JUST SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM IF YOU WISH TO SEE HOW THINGS WERE RESOVLED....
To set things up I must say that I have used Ryanair on numerous occasions and until my last flight I had never had any problems. These I will go into later, first a bit about Ryanair.
*************** The Company *************** Founded in 1985 Ryanair are based in Ireland and are currently Europe's largest low-cost carrier (according to wikipedia anyway). Certainly I remember in the news over the past year or so that they seem to keep purchasing new aircraft suggesting that business is booming. They fly between 114 airports in 22 different European countries and I guess I'm dead lucky living in Cambridge because their main hub airport (e.g. that with the most routes) is London-Stansted which is only 40 or so minutes away. As an aside I've no idea how they can get away with calling this "London"-Stansted as it is nowhere near London, however, this is quite common with Ryanair in that they rarely fly you to a city's main airport.
Their planes are white with blue and yellow colouring, a scheme which is also worn by the crew both on the ground and in the air.
**************** Booking flights **************** As an idiot of economics I think that one reason why Ryanair and other low-cost airlines offer such great deals is that virtually everything is conducted over the phone or on the internet thus decreasing overheads. Anyhow you can book your flights online, I will only go into this briefly as there is a separate space to review the wesbite, www.ryanair.co.uk
The website is very easy, there are flags at the top denoting the different countries and thus languages that you can view the screen in, my German may be increasing, but I'll stick to English! The main page is divided into 3 columns, the fattest, middle, column is devoted to deals currently being run e.g. 75 % of our lowest fares, must end midnight tonight is currently flashing (best get on there quick!); the right hand column is a list of links to useful things such as travel guides, airports and tourist boards etc. and finally the left hand side is the important one: the booking menu.
Very simple to use, you select whether you want a return or one way flight by clicking in a box, origin and destination airports are selected in pull down menus as are departure dates and the number/type of passengers. Next, you simply click on "search flights", the next screen shows you available flights on those dates and the prices without tax, you click a box to select those you wish to get , click "continue" to the next screen where you get given the total cost of the flight...this is the upsetting bit, on my recent flight to Berlin, going out was £1.99 and the return was £0.99, however, taxes pushed the overall price up to £35, still a bargain, but it is worth remembering this when looking at initial costs/deals you read in the papers/on the website. Once confirming that you've read the terms and conditions you then proceed to a screen where you enter payment information and billing address details and that's about it, one more continue to confirm and then purchase. You are left with a screen with your booking number, you print this sheet off and then along with your passport (or photo I.D. such as a driving licence for internal flights) this bit of paper is all you need. No worries if your computer crashes, this information is sent to you in an email so you can print off copies to your heart's content if like me you are forever thinking that you will lose it and thus stash copies anywhere and everywhere!
************** At the airport ************** So you've booked your ticket for that bargain price, packed your bags, labelled your luggage, left the house (gone back 3 times to pick up things you forgot) and then head off to the airport. For me at Stansted it's great, being a poor student I have no car and so I take the train. This is actually better, under a tenner with a young person's card from Cambridge for a return and the train station is underneath the airport terminus so a simple escalator trip later you are in the airport, no hassle parking a car, walking for days and forgetting where you put the damn thing when you return! I assume the procedure is roughly identical for all airports Ryanair use, but I can only speak for Stansted, Berlin-Schonefeld and Glasgow-Prestwick. Once your check-in desk is announced you join the massive queue. Massive because unlike most arlines, low-cost airlines tend to work on a first come first served basis, e.g. you are all guaranteed seats, but whoever is first in the queue will get boarding card number 1, second number 2 etc...when you eventually get to boarding people are put in groups, e.g. numbers 1-45, 46-90 etc, and you board like that, so if you want that emergency exit leg room best get to the airport early and make a dash to that desk the minute the announcement is made!
So, back to the desk itself. The lovely lady or man, always polite in my experience, asks for your printout (although I have seen people get on without this and just I.D.) and some form of I.D., this must be a passport or equivalent for flying outside the U.K., but within then your driving licence will do so long as it is a photo one. Check-in is normally rapid, the usual questions about did you pack this bag? Did anyone ask you to take anything for them? Has your bag been left unattended? Never sure why they ask these you are only ever going to give one answer! Briefness is key because there is no chatting about where you would like to sit (you can't reserve) or confirming meals (there aren't any) you just show your face, proove you are who you say you are and then get your baggage checked-in (15 Kg allowance, none for infants, £5.50/kilo for excess, max. 32 Kg) and show them that your hand luggage, I assume this is so they can decide whether it will fit into the boxes they have to proove it's the dimensions, but when you get on the plane people always seem to have things of all sizes! So yes, they are not too stringent in my experience on that front. Once that's done you get given your boarding card with the important sequence number (number 1 for the first person to check in etc.) and info, about the boarding time and gate number.
Until you reach the boarding gate the security procedure is common to the airport, not the airline so I will skip this and move onwards...
********** Boarding ********** So there you are waiting, often it has to be said in a boarding gate area which has too few seats for all the people that have gone through boarding and are waiting for that all exciting moment of, "we would like to call passengers taking flight xxx to xxx". First up are people with children or those with disabilites which seems fair enough. Next up are those in the first batch of numbers, normally 1-45 and so forth, but this will depend upon the size of the plane and number of passengers. Once you're in the queue there is usually a fair bit of pushing and shoving which I never really understand, you're all going to have a seat and if it isn't right by the window on the 5th row back that you love so much then it doesn't really matter, it's unlikey you'll be flying for too long anyway!
Once on the plane you are greeted by the ever welcoming cabin crew, I've certainly never had reason to complain about the cabin crew that's for sure. I always think they are less stuffy and more up for a giggle than "proper" airline crew, but maybe that's just my experience.
********** The flight ********** Up, up, up and away! Barring any technical difficulties you will now be flying hi off to that sunny beach or romantic city break depending upon your choice of destination. On board you have the usual flogging of drinks and food. Ryanair have a fairly modest, yet expensive selection, e.g. £3.50 for sandwiches! There is an in-flight magazine handed out before the food and drink comes round listing what is available as well as a lilst of duty free which can be bought on board towards the end of the flight. The magazine usually focuses on a few destinations each month (think that's how often it changes, but I could be wrong) as well as giving you info. about where Ryanair fly to etc.
All in all I've always found the flights and staff nice enough and never had any problems.
*********************** Landing and luggage *********************** After a hopefully smooth landing and a cheery goodbye you're on your way. Luggage picked up from the carousel you're off to do whatever it is you want to do while away. But no, what is this I see before me? Yes. that's right, my bag coming off the carousel ever so slightly mangled with some newly developed holes and tears! Thankfully this was on my return to Stansted, not my outward flight. Needless to say that flying back is much the same as flying out so I won't go into details about this as I think I've pretty much covered it. So, back to the bag.
I took it over to the desk saying Ryanair int he luggage hall and the lady was very friendly - point to note, she wasn't actually working for Ryanair, just on behalf of. If I had had a wheelie bag she could have replaced it on the spot, but needing a rucksack she said she would fill in a report form and I should just send it to Ryanair's customer service division in Dublin and all would be grand. She filled in the form about my poor, battered bag, the ripped boxer shorts and the smashed chocolates that were a gift for my lab mates, but were now nicely smeared over most of my clothing! With a smile of "these things happen" I toddled off, report form in hand, still glowing about having just been offered a job and thus less angry than perhaps I would have otherwise been....
******************** Customer service ******************** So, this is what prompted this review. I sent my letter explaining my problem along with my report form and my luggage tag/boarding card as proof on the day I landed back in the U.K., February 22nd. I happened to have read in the in-flight magazine that 90+ % of complaints were dealt with within 7 days. I was therefore a bit bemused when I didn't hear anything until yesterday, March 8th. I was somewhat staggered to receive an email rather than a letter, but it was an email letter, not just a simple email. Upon reading I wasn't sure whether to get angry or laugh. "Thank you for your letter dated March 2nd". Hmmm, I think not, maybe that is why they respond so efficiently when they make the dates up! Cutting a long story short, they asked for proof of purchase for my bag and did not mention anything about any of the damaged clothing, all of which was recorded on the report form!
So today I sent my reply, first asking why things had taken so long and why they had got the date of my letter wrong, I sent the original again to proove my point. However, what really got me was the lack of dealing with any issues other than the bag so these I raised again. Also do they really expect people to keep receipts, I said that I accept that wear and tear affects refund value, but before I flew I had a functional bag, post-flying I have the remains of one and several damaged items (not to mention the smashed chocolates, some present!)
I obviously haven't received a reply yet, I may well update this review when I do. To be honest though I am one disgruntled customer, I thought filling in the form at the airport would be enough, I'm only asking for £70, bag, clothes and inconvenience, it's hardly going to make them bust, plus the whole business of changing the date of my letter, that's just plain wrong, do they think I am stupid and will not notice?!
************* Conclusion ************* Bag incident aside I think Ryanair are great. Bag incident taken into account I still think they are great, in the main. I mean they offer stupidly cheap flights (as I said £35 return to Berlin) for littel hassle booked over the internet in minutes. Even if I get nothing off them for my damaged stuff (which I admit is most likely) they have me over a barrel, I want to travel for fun, I need to get to Berlin for work, therefore I will fly with them again. I couldn't even use Easyjet should I wish to, they don't do Stansted-Berlin. Anyhow, having flown both Easyjet and Ryanair I certainly prefer the latter, always a bit cheaper and perhaps this is shown with the more aggressive queuing techniques, but I've had more punctual flights and I think their colour scheme is better than all the orange Easyjet use!
So in conclusion I highly recommend Ryanair for cheap, no frills flying. Yes I've had customer service issues, but I don't think it would be much different with any other airline although having not had hassles before I am only guessing.
So yes, let's fly!
UPDATE Okay so in response to my original letter I received an interesting reply...the reason I say interesting is that it was almost laughably inept. I had written my letter on the day of flying, Feb. 22nd yet in Ryanair's letter (email letter!) dated March 8th, it stated, 'thank you for you letter dated March 2nd'. The letter then turned out to be a bog standard affair asking for a receipt for my bad and making no remark about my other possessions or any of the specific issues I had raised.
So, back to Word and letter number 2. I stated that I though the letter was completely unacceptable and that I thought the reason for them changing the date of my letter was to fit in with their guarantee of replying within 7 days, a date they had clearly missed. So I explained that I no longer had the receipt, afterall, if one purchases an item and it works you do not keep receipts for months in the same way that you assume leaving your baggage in the care of a company that deals with baggage, it will not be damaged. While I accept that "wear and tear" is a factor affecting the degree of any possible refund, the fact was that before I flew with Ryanair I had a fully functional bag and now I did not. So, off went letter number 2.
Reply number 2 came somewhat more rapidly and was really quite amusing. The customer services person apologised for confusion over the date, "we operate on the post mark that is on the envelope" which made the date of my initial correspondence 23rd February and that this must have been misread. I found this totally unbelievable. How 23rd February can be mistaken for 2nd March was beyond my understanding. So I thought, time for a closer investigation. I figured that a more likely explanation was that as I read in the Ryanair in-flight magazine there is a reported record of dealing with customer complaints within 7 days. Pretending that my letter was dated 2nd March and then Ryanair replying on 8th March fits in with this target nicely. As I wrote, Point 6 on Ryanair's Passenger Charter states: "Under normal circumstances Ryanair will provide a substantive written response to complaints within 7 days from the date of receipt". I could not imagine that my case was anything unusual, the reply was 13 days after the date of receipt and was not in any manner substantive as I had already told them in my previous letter. I added on that I would contact the Air Transport Users Council shortly to point out that in my opinion, and admittedly it is only that, it is highly possible that the figures provided by Ryanair with regard to dealing with customer complaints are based upon fixed data. By this time I had purchased a new bag in a sale for £19.99 and so I sent them the receipt stating my reimbursement wish. Off went letter number 3.
Bingo. 4 days later a cheque for just under £30, no real response to my letter, just sorry about inconvenience blah blah blah. Now okay I realise this all seems a bit petty over a bag, but I think it prooves that if you think you are in the right and stick to your guns that you can win, just don't get brushed off first time round!
Great work, sir. I've used Ryanair a few times before, for flying to Ireland and although it's not the most comfortable airline i've ever travelled with, it's fine for the short haul flights. Didn't have too many problems. Excellent detailed review.
Dan_ep 02.09.2006 22:49
Excellent review. I travel a lot but have never been on a no frills airline! Need to give it a go (never ends up being cheaper when ive tried to book in the past) Cheers, Dan.