Wednesday, 12 September 2007

My wings are like a shield of cack

Two friends of ours have just been ripped off by Ryanair. They were at the end of their holiday and were due to fly back from Santiago de Compostela with Ryanair on a £20 flight on Thursday. Ryanair cancelled the flight and told them that they wouldn't be able to fly until Tuesday. They also have them no help with food or accommodation, meaning that they would be out of pocket for that time. The bigger problem was that they were due to start new jobs on Monday. Since Ryanair was the only airline to fly from there to Blighty, they had to get a standby flight to Barcelona and fly home from there. It took them 24 hours and EUR1000 to get home. Worse still, when Thomas phoned Ryanair to complain , he was told that he could only complain by fax. He asked for written confirmation of what happened, so that he could claim from his insurance company, and was told that he would have to pay EUR20 plus postage to get that.

They said that Ryanair told them that they wren't liable because it was a technical problem, and therefore not the airline's fault. I can't believe that any company would so willingly waive its ethical responsibilities to its customers, let alone a company whose whole business model is aimed at budget passengers - who often can't afford that sort of unforeseen expense. They said that behind them in the check-in queue was a family of seven. How much will it have cost them to stay an extra five days and nights?

Where does this leave my friends in terms of trading standards? They were sold a cheap journey that eventually cost them more than a schedule airline fare.

The key to a successful budget operation in any industry is volume. In the long term, that can only be achieved through accuracy and availability. This means minimizing errors and ensuring that where they do occur they are rectified without customers - who have already identified themselves as price sensitive by flying with a budget airline - having to pay more.

This is penny-pinching by Ryanair. If it is not, i.e. if the cost is too great for them to bear because too many customers need this sort of help, then they need to change their business model. Either way, such sharp practice as this will not work in the long-term.

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