Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ryanair licks donkey bottom Pt2


Stansted - altogether the classiest of the World's great airports
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Ryanair does not allocate seats ...
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This may sound like a trivial gripe but the consequences are profound. From the moment they check-in, Ryanair passengers are driven by a ruthless desire to be the first one on the plane. Every sneaky little stunt people can conceive of to jump queues is employed. The sick, the old and the lame are trampled underfoot. Darwinian competition rules in the World of Ryanair.
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Some people say that the worst of mankind's nature is demonstrated in times of war. Not true. Every war has its stories of compassion, bravery and kindness. There is no nobility in the Ryanair embarkation process.

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The aggression and borderline panic often strays into the realms of the ridiculous. All it takes is one person in the lobby to stand by a vending machine or stroll over to a water fountain and a disorderly queue will form behind them; so paranoid are people that they will miss out on securing some degree of advantage.

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And when a real queue forms and starts to move what a sight. Humphrey Bogart's performance as a gold-fever crazed, murderous paranoid in the last half of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is but nothing compared to a Ryanair queue on the move. Satan must have a hand in this somehow. OK, passengers don’t quite offer their bodies to check-in stuff or grovel in the mud with pigs for worthless trinkets but I can’t help thinking some them would if they thought it would get them on that plane first.

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If Ryanair ever introduced a customer loyalty program they could do worse than issuing complimentary knuckle-dusters and elbow pads to their frequent fliers.

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Bizarrely, I actually was the first person to take a seat on the return flight. I owe my success to two key insights into human nature:

  1. people are dicks
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  2. people are sheep
The dick part means that once someone has secured an advantage they slow down and take their time, revelling in their victory. This means that once someone is on the stairs leading into the plane they will walk up the stairs very, very slowly; confident in they knowledge that they cannot be overtaken. They are then even slower selecting a seat and putting their luggage away. The universal rule is that the people most likely to push in front of a queue are also the slowest when no-one is in front of them.
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The sheep part means that even if there are two sets of steps leading into a plane and one set is empty, 95% of people will choose the steps with someone already on them. We were treated to a particularly fine example of this syndrome whilst in Sardinia. The two of us were standing on an old city wall taking pictures when a German couple stopped less than a metre away from us and started loudly discussing their restaurant bill. There was absolutely no-one else anywhere along the entire 200m length of wall. I have the same problem in chemists shops. It's an absolute certainty that if I stand next to some shelves, another shopper will appear from nowhere with a burning desire to check out nappies, suppositories, home brewing kits or whatever I am standing next to. Their interest invariably evaporates within seconds of me moving on.
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Anyway, I basically shoved my way off the bus and legged it to the back of the plane and got on that way, with Tracy giggling behind me. I have seen The Battle of Britain enough times to know how to scramble effectively onto a waiting 'crate'. As soon as my feet hit the bottom step, a horde of fifty people lumbered after me, but they were too late. I was on and sitting down with my bag safely in the overhead locker, long before the people from the front stairs had even got passed the cabin crew.
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But is it all worth it?
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Ryanair flies to pointless destinations offering an unreliable service. You couldn’t trust them for business or a serious holiday, particularly with old people or kids.
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Ryanair's success is driven by two factors
  1. People will buy a sack of cat turds if they think it’s a bargain
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  2. Britain is becoming such an awful place to be that people are prepared to be treated like cattle just so that they can spend a couple of days in even the skankiest European towns
Talking to a couple of people in Alghero they are profoundly grateful for the Ryanair phenomenon, even if holiday home buyers have kicked up local house prices by a fair bit. Unemployment in Sardinia is running at something like 30%. The daily arrival of ten planeloads of Brits and their legendary lack of concern over their credit card debts is a Godsend. The same thing is taking place in dozens of backwaters around Europe.
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Every weekend bog-holes like Trieste, Limoges and Malmo are filled with aimless British tourists wandering around looking for something to do and practising such key phrases as:
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'Do you have a tourist menu?'
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' What interesting activities take place in your town on a Sunday morning?'
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'Do-o you-o speak-o English-o?
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Visiting foreign toilet towns is firmly a British thing. Europeans do use Ryanair but only because it serves London. I couldn’t see there being many takers in France and Italy for cut-price weekends to Coventry, Bradford or Northampton.
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My brother runs a café in central London and he refers to the twentysomething office workers who flock to Ryanair as the 'Easyjet Generation'. This is a little unfair on Easyjet which is admittedly also a cut-price airline but looks positively Grecian in terms of civilisation compared to Ryanair. The members of the Easyjet Generation do rubbish, pointless jobs, live in cramped, expensive flats and are treated like cattle on their daily commute. But that's OK because they get pissed a few times a week, have a cool new mobile phone and pop off on 'exotic' weekend trips with Ryanair every month or so. That's pretty much all they talk about in my brother's shop. It's all he can do to stop himself vomiting into their cappuccinos.
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It's a fad.
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And like all fads it will pass. The end result will be unemployed hotel staff, people stuck with 2nd homes they can’t get to, a little less oil in the ground and ozone in the atmosphere, and a huge increase in the number of souvenir ashtrays knocking around London apartments.

Ryanair is cheap and nasty. As is the nature of things, one day it will just be nasty. All companies, even those run by the Saintly Michael O'Leary, find it much easier to increase prices rather than service standards.
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Ryanair sucks donkeybottom.
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I'd rather walk

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3 comments:

JamesK said...

Hi Stef - I read your post with amusement and agreement (for the most part) about your experiences with Ryanair. I have used them a few times and understand exactly what you mean. I have developed a surefire way of beating these people to be first on the plane - you need to obtain a kid. Only temporarily, you can hand it back/let it go as soon as your through onto the gantry. I think people with kids are allowed on first, and if willing to risk child abduction laws (which I don't know if apply, since you must be on interational territory by then) you are pretty much able to take your pick of seats. On a slightly more serious note though - I thought Alghero was actually a lovely, friendly & welcoming place, as was Sardinia in general. Also, for those of us with extremely limited resources, they've allowed us to see a little more of Europe that we wouldn't otherwise be able to - even if, as you say, they "lick donkey bottom".

Stef said...

First off, I agree that Alghero is a lovely, welcoming place - no doubt about that. I hope my blog didn't give any other impression. Speaking as someone who has spent a fair bit of time in Italy, I was heartened by the complete absence of people trying to rip us off. Tracy even received too much change from one bar (which she gave back) - this is almost unheard of.

And how can I argue against someone who maintains that Ryanair has opened up Europe to people on limited resources?

That's got to be a good thing but there is a price to be paid. The price is being treated as cattle; particularly stupid cattle at that. I'm one of those cynics who would really love to believe in the essential decency of mankind; a trip with Ryanair can really knock a project like that back by several years.

All companies treat their customers like daft sheep but, to me, Ryanair represents the most naked, dehumunanised expression of commercialisation. Are seat scrums and scratch card sales that integral to a business? What does that say about a company? Or its customers?

Could anyone honestly look forward to a World where every company behaves like Ryanair and every person behaves like a typical Ryanair customer? Now that's a really scary thought.

PS Liked the kid tip. Will get the other 1/2 to try that one next time.

Anonymous said...

For the record from Tracy: I would like to point out that it is the receiving of too much change from a bar that it almost unheard of, not my giving change back.