Tag Archives: Michael O’Leary

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration

This challenge is so easy!

Ivan Petcher (1932-2003)

When I was a boy I developed a desire to see interesting places after visiting them through the stories that my Dad used to tell me. He was a well read and an educated man who passed on to me his love of history and geography. The family house was never short of books and encyclopaedias and he always had an abundance of time to enjoy them and share their stories with me. Through his inspiration I learnt about Paris, Rome, Athens and Madrid and travellers like Marco Polo and Captain Cook and I vowed that one day I would see these places for myself.

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Travel Tips When Flying Budget Airlines

I am always interested and thoroughly bemused to read the postings and message boards about Public Enemy No. 1 – Michael O’Leary and Ryanair.

Despite the fact that over forty million people fly with Ryanair every year, it has been voted the world’s most disliked airline and  subject of more complaints than any other airline in the EU. The BBC has reported that 56% of respondents said Ryanair caused “the biggest headaches” for air travelers and 60% of all complaints to Ireland’s Commission for Aviation Regulation are about Ryanair.  This is so unfair!  If people want a flight for 1p what realistically do they expect.  I read somewhere that the airline works on a profit margin of £5 per passenger so naturally, common sense says that somewhere along the line there has to be some additional charges for passengers.

One of the biggest complaints is about hidden extras and Ryanair must have an office full of staff dreaming up the next scam but they are not alone because all low cost airlines do exactly the same thing.  Outwitting the scammers is all part of the fun of booking a Ryanair flight and here are my top tips:

Find the cheapest flight in the first place.  The best way to do this is to set an evening aside to search the web site for the very best deals.  This takes some time because Ryanair don’t make this easy; the web site is awful and there is no site facility for prompting the cheapest flights so you just have to keep speculating with dates and destinations until something interesting pops up.  And unless you really do want somewhere specific then be prepared to go anywhere because this is where some of the real bargains are.  In 2006 I went to Pula in Croatia for £15 return and then to Friedrichshafen in Germany for £13, both times including all the taxes and fees.  I had never heard of these places before I flew but they were both excellent places to visit.  Later I went to Santander in Spain for £10 and  my cheapest ever deal for £8.02 return to Baden-Baden in Germany (and that included the rip-off £8.00 credit card booking fee!)

Don’t take hold luggage.  This saves almost £40 on a return flight and with 10 kilograms allowed free as cabin baggage this is a much more sensible option.  Let’s face it most of us take far too much luggage with us when we go away for a couple of days anyway, I know I have taken clothes with me that I have never worn and I have been working hard to make sure that I now only take what I know I will need rather than a bag full of contingency items.  Also if you take hold luggage you have to queue up in a rugby scrum to get your bags checked in and this a complete no-brainer because what sane person would pay to spend an hour in a queue when they could be in the bar instead?

Don’t buy a Priority Boarding Pass.  This is a complete con and saves another £12 or so on the return flight.  Think about it sensibly for a moment, there is a seat for everyone on board anyway, have you ever seen anyone standing on an airline flight? No of course not.  All of the seats are exactly the same and an average flight is about two hours.  How can it possibly matter where you sit?

Don’t buy travel insurance from the Airline.  I am not suggesting that you don’t buy travel insurance at all just shop around a bit because there are much better deals available elsewhere.

Don’t exceed your baggage allowance.  If you really must book in hold luggage you need to be really careful about this because going overweight is a real dumb thing to do, the penalty is extortionate and they are really, really strict on this because it is a fantastically good earner.  If when your bags are weighed and the allowance is exceeded my advice is to take some clothes out of the bag and wear them instead.  This might be a bit uncomfortable for a few minutes and make you look fat but it’s worth remembering that you don’t pay excess baggage charges for being obese!   Alternatively just throw them away and replace them when you get back home.

Don’t buy food and drink on board.  Have a good breakfast at home before you set off and have a drink in the duty free bar before flying.  I agree that this one might be a bit more difficult but bear in mind that Ryanair now charge nearly £3 for a cup of tea!  That’s a ¼ of a litre of lukewarm water and a cheap tea bag.  You can probably get about 200 tea bags for £3 at a Supermarket, even more if you go to Aldi!

Don’t queue up too early and rush to go through the departure gate.  This one doesn’t save you any money but it can really piss people off because this is about getting the first seat on the plane, even those you have rashly purchased priority boarding con cards.  While everyone pushes and shoves about in the queue it is much less stressful to hang about at the back and go through the gate last, now, admittedly this only really works when there is a bus transfer to the plane, but get on the bus last and stand by the door and then purposefully get off first when the doors are opened and without looking left or right at the moaning minnies on either side be one of the first on board the aircraft.  This really gets people complaining I can tell you especially when they have been standing on that bus for five or ten minutes or so.

Once on board try and get a seat in the first available row because this does have a bit more legroom.  If the plane isn’t full it is normal practice to stop passengers sitting in the first few rows to balance up the weight in the plane but still take the first available row because once the aircraft is airborne it is possible to move into these bigger leg room seats for the duration of the flight.  This is guaranteed to get people really worked up!

Always sit down in an aisle seat, spread yourself out and don’t make eye contact with other passengers looking for a seat because this deters them from climbing over you to get to the window seat.  If the plane isn’t full there is a good chance that you will have an empty seat next to you and a lot more personal space.  This one works especially well when there are two of you because it makes it doubly difficult for people to push past.

Whatever you do, do not sit next to children.  I realise that you cannot prevent them sitting close by if they get on after you but by looking as child unfriendly as possible this can deter parents from sitting next to you with their loved ones.  The problem is that there is nothing for them to do you see so they quickly become bored and a pain in the ass to fellow travellers.  If you fly with a full price airline kids get fun packs and crayons and when they get fed up with that there are cartoons on the in flight TV to amuse them but with Ryanair all there is to read is the emergency evacuation procedure stuck on the back of the seat in front and that doesn’t keep a child amused for very long.

Keep an eye out for lost loose change.  Because the seats are so cramped a lot of people spill coins from their trouser pockets when they buy food and drink and they are quite unaware of it.  When you leave the plane look carefully on the floor and at the backs of the seats and you will be surprised just how often you find money.  I once paid £20 for a return flight to Riga and I found £2, that’s a 10% discount on the fare.

Let’s be honest we all know that Ryanair have got to pay for the cost of flying somehow and zero charge flights are just a bit of a gimmick.  These simple tips will make flying with Ryanair a lot more rewarding and might help reduce the unjustified number of complaints that are made.  I hope so.

Thumbs up for Sixt Rent-a-Car

Thumbs down for Ryanair Transaction Charges

The Ryanair Sleep

The Ryanair Sleep or How to Deal with Flight Boredom

“An aeroplane is nothing more than a bus with wings on…we trying to blow up the notion that flying is some kind of orgasmic experience rather than a glorified bus service?

These are the words of Michael  O‘Leary and although I am a big fan of Ryanair I think it has to be said that he has achieved this objective because flying is not the same as it was in the days before low cost airlines when it still felt exclusive and glamorous.

The pilots were all ex RAF and called Toby or Douglas and the air hostesses were tall and elegant, wore smart uniforms and looked like catwalk models.  The seats were comfortable with generous leg space and there was a free meal thrown in.  These were in the days before terrorist threats or CRB checks so children used to get to go and visit the captain and crew in the cockpit and for adults there was a drinks trolley at below UK prices (today a gin and tonic on Ryanair costs over £8) and a genuine duty free service for spirits, tobacco and perfume.  Little children had colouring books and crayons and by the 1980s there was in-flight entertainment and every passenger had their own personal copy of the in-flight magazine.

 As an experience flying has mostly deteriorated since the first holiday charter flights began except, that is,  in one important area where there has been massive improvement.  It may seem bizarre now but until relatively recently passengers that smoked were still allowed to light up a cigarette on board which meant that everyone else had to as well.  To be fair the smokers did all have to sit at the back of the aircraft, a bit like Dante’s Inferno, and puff away together but after a couple of hours there was a horrible acrid odour of stale tobacco and the entire cabin smelt like an ash tray.  Actually it wasn’t just cigarettes but pipes and cigars as well and even the cigarette smokers complained about this.  Pipes and cigars were banned in 1979 but a ban on cigarettes had to wait for another ten years.

People used to be able to smoke pretty much anywhere and it is a bizarre fact that the Hindenburg, an airship full of highly combustible gas actually had a smoking room in the passenger compartment.  OK, it was lined with asbestos, there was a guard on the door and the lighter was chained to the floor but it still sounds a bit reckless to me.  On May 6th 1937, in front of thousands of spectators in New Jersey, USA, the Hindenburg caught fire, and within seconds burst into flames killing thirty-five of the ninety-seven people on board.   No one really knows exactly what caused the fire.  If I had been the accident inspector I know where I would have started.

Anyway the point I am getting to is just what to do on a Ryanair flight to pass the time?  For me the only problem with a Ryanair flight is what to do to amuse myself for the duration.  The in-flight magazine (if you can actually get one because there are only about twenty copies per flight it seems) holds my attention for about ten minutes but after that the whole event becomes rather tedious and boring.  It is important to find something to do because it is essential not to get tricked into making a purchase from the overpriced drinks trolley just for something to do.  Earlier this year I caught Kim with a cup of tea and a kitkat that had cost her£4.80!

To cope with this I have developed what I call the Ryanair sleep!  This isn’t difficult on an early morning flight after a sleep deprived night and a drive to the airport or on a late night flight home but it can be a bit tricky for middle of the day flights at more sociable hours.  I always consider that if I can lose half the monotonous journey nodding off then I have had a successful flight.

It isn’t proper sleep of course because the flight is so noisy and uncomfortable.  To begin with the head Flight Attendant is forever on the cabin intercom trying to persuade passengers to spend money; the drinks and snacks service, scratch cards, duty free gifts, smokeless cigarettes and rail tickets and then they are forever walking up and down the cabin pushing the noisy trolleys about and this is because they don’t really want passengers to sleep because if they do then they won’t spend money.

The Ryanair sleep involves a lot of head rolling that wakes you up just at the moment of going over into the unconscious state (I have considered one of those blow up neck supports but they do make you look awfully stupid) and lots of weird and wonderful hallucinations and dreams.  It is a bonus if just once in a while I can drop into a proper sleep but when this happens it is inevitable that someone in the next seat will either want to go to the toilet or get something from the overhead locker.  Then there are children that cry and those annoying passengers in the seat behind who want to talk for the entire journey and now, horror of horrors, there are flights on which the use of mobile phones is permitted.  I have flown on one of these but thankfully no one used the service because predictably it was too darned expensive!

When I can’t read the best alternative is to read a good book.  Interestingly I have just finished a book about Ryanair, written by Paul Kilduff and called ‘Ruinair’.  It is an entertaining book but can get rather confusing as it constantly changes direction; part travelogue in the style of Bill Bryson, part rant about Ryanair (borrowing heavily from other people’s stories and blogs) and part admiration of Michael O’Leary.  For all that, it’s very funny, well worth a read and I recommend it because I like Bill Bryson, I enjoy reading people’s ridiculous Ryanair complaints and I admire Michael O’Leary.

Travel Tips For Beating Budget Airlines At Their Own Game

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