BA flame the budget airlines with their online MacGuffin

22 June 2009

Stop everything, right now. Close the curtains, lock the door, call your mother, your boss, call your MP and the police for crying out loud. You're about to witness a spectacle never seen at Bitterwallet before, and in all honesty you'll never see again. You might want to sit down.

We're going to defend Ryanair.

I know, I know. It's the kind of revelation that's probably aged you fifty years, but there we are. This U-turn in apparent BW policy comes about because of British Airways; keen to plug the £401 million gap in their profits, and not content with asking staff to work for free for a month, BA have now decided to attack the budget airlines.

Our biggest beef with Ryanair is that their prices aren't transparent, that the cost of your flights may be a small percentage of the price you eventually pay; we don't think that's a particularly good way to do business and that is what BA are trying to highlight here. The result is the British Airways Value Calculator, which on the surface may prove what a ridiculously good deal you get by flying BA, but once you start picking away at their logic it does no such thing:

For example, Ryanair (and Easyjet) will charge passengers if their hold luggage is over 15kg; British Airways' weight limit is 23kg. So to skew the figures, the value calculator displays the additional charge you'd pay for a suitcase weighing 23kg on a Ryanair flight; the answer is a staggering £260. The point is that BA's baggage policy can be made to look equally stupid if taken out of context; BA will charge up to £90 per bag over your allowance on long-haul flights, whereas Ryanair (which operates flights lasting four hours) will charge you no more than £40 per bag. If you bag is over 32kg then BA can make you ship it as cargo, and if you're a single kilogram over their weight allowance, BA can choose to charge you an additional £25.

Ryanair's baggage allowance may be absurdly stingy, but if you choose to fly with them you abide by the rules rather than rack up £260 worth of charges on a single suitcase. And so it is with most of the examples BA cites; these aren't fixed costs, but costs that passengers can choose not to pay. If Ryanair want to sting you for an outrageous £40 to check in at the airport, doesn't it just make sense to check-in online?

Ultimately, people don't fly with Ryanair because of a 23kg baggage allowance, free coffee or polite staff, they fly because they have a semi-permanent sale going on and they fly to destinations other airlines (including BA) don't service - two points BA obviously fail to mention. When was the last time you picked up a return flight to the Mediterranean for under £50? Take the average cost of a flight into account, and BA's argument doesn't look as solid as their value MacGuffin makes out.

Of course we still despise Ryanair, their lousy customer service, the nonsense spouted by Sky Captain O'Leary and his attempt to rob you at every turn, but that hardly makes British Airways the white knight of the airline industry.

TOPICS:   Travel

10 comments

  • Bruno
    I do still think Ryanair's policy towards customers and future customers, extremelly poor. Besides only letting you do a online check in and paying for it, you still have to pay the credit card charges which is 10 pounds... How come that high? And also the fact that if you want to contact them, you can't email them which goes against the e-commerce regulation that states that a business should have an email available for people to contact them. I think its riddiculous how they treat the customers. If you opt by contacting ryanair, you either have to send them a letter via recorded post or call them which will cost you a staggering £1,50 per minute. I hope another budget airline, comes along, which is actually better than Ryanair.
  • goodgrr
    Come on!!!! You can't really be defending Ryanair here. I am not a fan of BA only a fan of the best prices. It's important to know what you get for your money. It's all about value. So many people I know will never fly Ryanair again because of their hidden charges. I applaud BA in highlighting these "sharp practices".
  • Paul S.
    I completely agree and I don't say otherwise, but BA have made a sow's ear of presenting their argument. The bulk of the difference in the comparison comes from sticking 8kg of extra weight above Ryanair's limit. If you're going to point out how differences in policy drastically alter the cost of travel, then surely it'd be worth BA comparing its average ticket costs with Ryanair too, although I suspect that would undermine their entire point.
  • Dave
    Bruno "I hope another budget airline, comes along, which is actually better than Ryanair." Like Easyjet?
  • bob
    And with stealing air you now pay to check in online. note below. Going Out Adult 59.99 GBP Thu, Jun 25 Flight FR7777 18:15 21:25 Depart Arrive Birmingham (BHX) Marseille Provence MP2 (MRS) Coming Back Adult 24.99 GBP Sat, Jun 27 Flight FR7778 17:20 18:30 Depart Arrive Marseille Provence MP2 (MRS) Birmingham (BHX) Important Information All passengers must check-in online and bring their printed boarding passes to the airport If you do not check-in online you will be required to pay the relevant fee to re-issue your boarding card at the airport.(Euro 40/ GBP 40) Flight dates, times, routes and passenger names are changeable subject to applicable charges - please see Terms and Conditions of Travel for details. All fares, airport taxes/fees and charges are non-refundable. On unused tickets - the only refundable element is the Government Tax, which is subject to a reasonable administration fee. Important! I have read and accept Ryanair's Terms and Conditions, Website Terms of Use, photo ID policy and the above Important Information and I will advise all other passengers travelling as part of this reservation of these conditions. (Please check box to continue.) Pricing Going Out (Web Fare) 1 Adult @ 59.99 GBP 59.99 GBP Taxes/Fees details 27.13 GBP Coming Back (Web Fare) 1 Adult @ 24.99 GBP 24.99 GBP Taxes/Fees details 23.37 GBP 2 x (Web Check in) 10.00 GBP Total Cost of Flight 145.48 GBP
  • Paul S.
    Yeah, it's odd that BA missed that - they claim it's free to check in online with Ryanair. My point still stands - if you want to work out a fair comparison, you need to throw in the average cost of the actual tickets too, not trump up the baggage allowance to make your argument stick. My issue with BA isn't what they're attempting to do - they want to point out that Ryanair isn't all that cheap because there are plenty of additional charges on top of the ticket price - and having flown the two like most people, I know which is the better experience. They're just going about it all wrong, and they've distorted Ryanair's position to make themselves look good when they're really wasn't any need to. From a marketing point of view, they'd be better off saying "The price you pay for a Ryanair flight is on average 70% higher (or whatever it is) than the ticket price advertised. With British Airways, what you pay is the price you see, with all the benefits you'd expect from an airline." Instead they'd come up with some convoluted value calculator that only has a leg to stand on if the passenger is stupid enough to put 50% more luggage in their suitcase than they should.
  • CompactDstrxion
    What I don't understand is why don't Ryanair have to put £5 on every flight now it's a mandatory charge? Before there was a way to book and fly without paying anything more than the fare but now that's impossible.
  • Paul S.
    Yeah, it doesn't make sense. They should just build it into the fares, but they don't so the fares always look lower. If they did build it in, I reckon they'd wait about six months then "introduce" the online check-in fee again. Don't go suggesting that to O'Leary, he'll do it.
  • Michael
    Does the London Airways website tell me how much it costs to get from Leeds to the cesspit that is Heathrow to catch their flight, rather than catching the Ryanair flight that takes off (almost literally) from my back yard.
  • Phil
    When booking our holiday a few months ago, BA were actually £50 cheaper than O'Liary's mob with the "boarding fee, breathing fee, departing fee, seat fee, non-wing seating fee, emergency exit upkeep fee, lifejacket rental (I swear if those aren't real fees yet, they soon will be)..." but there was one major drawback - we'd have to travel from Birmingham to London and stay overnight in a hotel to be able to take the offer up as BA only fly from Gatwick to Malaga. For 2 adults and a child that would instantly wipe out (and then some) the saving. So we begrudgingly went with Rynair.

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