Budget airlines - what's a fair price to fly cheap?

9 February 2009

Ryanair has much in common with the unfamiliar brands of foul Russian vodka sold in your local disheveled off-license; it gets the job done, but it wouldn't be your first choice if you had more money. It's also likely to make you go blind which again, is not unlike Ryanair, who are often accused of taking your eyes out.

As we know, a cheap flight with the Irish airline is exactly that, and only that; if you're some kind of freak who insists on luggage, it'll cost you. If you don't book your luggage in before arriving at the airport, that means more pennies. And if you want to pay by any means other than the near-obscure Electron card, prepare to cough up. Yes, in the world of Ryanair (and several other airlines, to be fair) their no-frills policy includes no luggage and no easy way of providing payment.

And now, no duty-free. Actually, that's not quite true; you can still buy duty-free before boarding your flight, but according to recent press stories you'll be charged £28.50 for carrying this additional hand luggage onto the plane; if you can't fit the booty into your carry-on bag, you'll be asked to put your existing hand luggage in the hold and pay the appropriate fee for doing so.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary, described by Sky Money journalist Nic Cicutti as "one of the rudest people I have ever come across... indulging in some of the most disgraceful charging practices I have ever come across in my life," defended the practise when speaking to the Telegraph:

"We are not running around like Nazis targeting people. We are doing this because, people with extra bags are slowing down the boarding of our planes. If you turn up at the gate with a bottle of Asti Spumante, all we are saying is shove it in your bag."

Does carrying a bottle of Asti Spumante really stop a plane taking off on time? Does Duty Free even sell it? It's more likely that we're talking about a couple of bottles of Bolly or 200 fags, which can't really be "shoved" anywhere. Or maybe they could.

If the charges are perceived by customers to be a deal-breaker, it'll be bad news for the airports used by Ryanair; many of the smaller terminals pay the airline to fly from them, in order to generate revenue from passengers spending money at the airport. Ah.

It once again raises the thorny issue of budget airlines and what we're prepared to accept to fly for less, so we'd like to know your thoughts about flying on the cheap:

  • In these environmentally-conscious times, should flying be a privilege, rather than a right?
  • As far as budget airlines are concerned, what basics should be covered by the cost of your ticket?
  • What charges, hidden or otherwise do you object to most?
  • Which airlines would you recommend, and which would you avoid like the now legendary plague?

Ultimately, do budget airlines still represent an affordable and worthwhile way to travel? Let us know what you think.

[Telegraph] [Sky Money] thanks to Bitter wallet reader bedlam

TOPICS:   Travel


  • Liddle m.
    Apols, an anecdote. Coming back from Morrocco last month with Ryanair, I was queuing to pay an extra baggage fee (my problem, I accept that) and a young backpacking couple were reduced to tears in front of me. Their backpacks had been checked in and they were trying to pay the extra 255 Euros (yes, 255!) that the extra weight was costing them. They didn't have a credit card, only cash, but Ryanair's agents refused to accept the cash, despite the fact that these people would be stranded in Morocco and that their baggage could not be retrieved (it had been checked in and they would get their boarding cards after receipt of payment). They were point-black refused both options and treated with utmost contempt ("move aside please, there is nothing we can do.". Luckily for the couple, I stepped in and paid for them using my credit card and accepted the cash. I had no desire to be burdened with all those Euros in cash (I still have them in my travel pouch, and it annoys me to think of them!), but these two people were in such distress that I felt compelled to help them. Needless to say, my help is not the point here. The sheer inflexibility and lack of concern for their customers in this case infuriates me. I have used them often in the past and have always claimed that you get what you pay for, and, if you are a 'smart' traveller, they are a good option. But no more will I defend them after this. And I'll go out of my way to use other options when I can. Bastards! Sorry - I feel a bit better sharing that :)
  • Dave T.
    Use Ryanair all the time - they are great. If people want the extras then fly BA or similar. Fed up of people going Ryanair when there are more expensive options around and then complaining. if you don't like Ryanair then don't use them. FFS
  • Ste
    I flew with RyanAir to Dublin and found it reasonable, in a kind of you-get-what-you-pay-for type way. Coming back I lost my passport and found the staff at RyanAir really helpful and were happy for me to fly back on the strength of my credit card proving my identity alone. It was a bank holiday weekend so I could have been really screwed but after appealing to their better nature with the credit card ID (no photo, remember), I ended up being fast-tracked through the airport, straight on to the plane and the staff couldn't have been more helpful. All for the price of about £83 which may sound a lot but given it was a bank holiday weekend, arranging additional accommodation, obtaining a new temporary passport then purchasing a new flight back when all had been sorted out, £83 seemed surprisingly appealing! I would fly with them again and would happily recommend them.
  • Plane c.
    They have become real money screwing bastards, used to be no probs to have loads of hand luggage with bottles clanking about in all the lockers. Suddenly now they can make money we can't have it anymore. Ryanair has had shit loads in subsidies to fly into rodez for the last 4 years !!! as well as other places, so Mr o' LEARY is making money hand over fist. My response is piss off to them I now use sleazy jet, who aren't nazi bag spies. :)
  • Simon
    If you fit the Ryanair profile of ideal customer, then you'll get a good deal from them. Personally, I love it. Of course, there are unfortunate incidents. The prior two posts show very bad customer service, and very good customer service. This range of 'skills' happens on every airline around the world. Certainly I've had more problems with bigger airlines in terms of delays and inflexibility. I too, was stung with the excess baggage charge - it is something like 15 Euros/kg. I was four kilos overweight, and my solution was to transfer stuff into the hand luggage (which is never weighed) and to wear more jumpers. I don't begrudge Ryanair this, as it was my fault that I was overweight and I didn't read the rules properly. That's been the only 'fine' I've encountered. If you play by their rules, you should avoid most of the charges, save for the transit bus costs.
  • MB
    I've worn three shirts and two pairs of trousers (one unbuttoned) and a large coat with lots of stuff pushed into the pockets to go through their checks before as my bag was too fat, only to shove them back in my bag on the other side. I don't buy "Duty Free" any more, as you can usually buy the same stuff cheaper in Tescos (I don't smoke).
  • Derek
    having enjoyed a few penny flights with ryanair coming back from dublin two weeks ago at the boarding gate they were insisting that people place their hand luggage into that metal cradle thing and if it didnt fit they were refusing to let them board unless they checked them in to the hold, no idea if they managed to do that before the flight went or if they were left behind. luckily for the first time in ages i had taken just a small bag instead of my normal flight bag (size ok, but the shape of which wouldnt have fitted). so be warned!
  • aya
    My best flight experience is with Malaysian Airlines a few years back. I was going to Kuala Lumpur and the service was top notch. Really hospitable lot. I sat near this two Malaysian students who burst into tears when the pilot welcomed them back to the country, and the stewardess actually gave them hugs.
  • Callum
    I'm always amused that people aren't aware the service you get from a budget airline isn't as good as the likes of BA. If you don't like, don't use it and stop moaning. Plenty of people obviously do like it, otherwise it would go bust.
  • emasu
    Ryanair are a basic A-B airline. They do it, and normally very cheaply. If you want extras, you pay for them. A lot of the furore seems to arise from them simply being 'Ryanair' - they can easily be blamed as the travelling public know them to be cheap. Cyprus Airways charge £10 per person CC fees, easyjet near on £6 so they're not actually horrific compared to others. I have absolutely no problem with them and have had many flights with nothing going wrong, apart from one time in Cornwall which was actually the staff at NQY not knowing that children could travel on an adult passport. I think a lot of the problems, particularly hand baggage would be solved if people did a small bit of research beforehand about what to expect when they turn up. Bad customer service stories are across all airlines, but seem to come out more just because of who Ryanair 'are' in my experience. It also needs to be remembered that at a lot of airports (particularly abroad) the agents and staff are not Ryanair themselves, which often leads to a lot of confusion in procedures. Full Service airlines are quite scarce in existence now for the short haul European traveller - normally leaving the national carriers and a few others 'full service'. Low Cost airlines still represent great value for money if you follow their rules and use them properly. Ryanair Guide To Travelling & Flying for reference:- http://www.hotukdeals.com/item/222085/flying-with-ryan-the-guide-to-booki/
  • andy y.
    Ryanair's rules are clear.follow them and fly cheap.Don't and you pay more or are denied boarding.Make sure your bags are the correct size and weight, arrive at the gate in time,have the right paperwork ,don't screw up when you book.I,ve flown (Ireckon 22 times with them in the last 8 years) ,1 flight 90 minutes late ,the rest within a 30min window.I,ve paid a lo more for much worse. Imagine what BA and the rest would charge now without competition from sleazy and the mad mick
  • andy y.
    In these environmentally-conscious times, should flying be a privilege, rather than a right? ..honestly what a stupid fucking middle class shit question.

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