Dear Stephen McNamara, Head of Communications, Ryanair...
We've been enjoying your email exchange with the American blogger David Parker Brown at AirlineReporter.com. Because Brown's blog is syndicated to the Seattle PI, his article about Ryanair caught your attention. In your latest email, you attempt to correct Brown by - and let's be honest here - pouring an awful lot of PR horseshit down his throat.
So true, Stephen! So to break with tradition, and since Brown asks for feedback from people who have flown Ryanair, we're going to mix facts with our opinions, as we pick through your latest critique of Brown's post:
1. "They provide sub-par customer service (and are almost proud of it)" Wrong. Ryanair has the best on-time record, the least lost bags and the fewest cancelations of any major European airline.
Sorry Stephen, but immediately I have to call bullshit on you. And we've barely got started!
Customer service isn't about simply satisfying a company's own operational targets. The customer benefits in the situations you mention, but it's in Ryanair's best interests to address these areas - doing so keeps costs down. Customer service is about heightening the consumer experience before and after the flight, as well as during it.
2. "charge for everything" Wrong. Ryanair allows passenger to avoid paying for any of the services that are factored into the cost of high fare tickets, the average fare with Ryanair (which includes a 25KG baggage allowance) is just €32 -- compared to the next cheapest airline at €60.
If you can explain how to avoid the cost of online check-in, at £5 per person per flight (for which the customer has to print their own boarding passes with Ryanair's advertising on them), we're all ears, Stephen. As for the credit card charges - you hardly make it easy to avoid them, do you? A pre-paid Mastercard, hello? Ryanair is charged for processing credit card purchases per transaction, not per person, so charging £10 per passenger is utterly disproportional.
While we're on the subject of your online booking system, why does the website pre-select one item of hold luggage per passenger? Why is 'no travel insurance required' not pre-selected? How does making the consumer jump through hoops - or increasing the probability of them making a mistake - constitute good customer service?
3. "fly to smaller airports." Wrong. In some cases we do, but we also fly to many main airports (e.g. Berlin, Edinburgh, London and Madrid etc) and passengers, especially those who travel frequently realise that it is more comfortable and quicker to travel through smaller airports -- while it also allows for cheaper fares which passengers would walk over hot coals to get to.
Stephen, really. Ask somebody attempting to reach Barcelona with Ryanair how comfortable and quick it is to travel through smaller airports. It's neither, and it's more expensive. You don't fly to Heathrow, you fly to the smaller London airports. It's not wrong, it's simply fair comment.
4. "but are one of the most popular airlines in the world" Wrong (but almost correct). We are the world's favourite airline per IATA statistics which show that Ryanair carried more international scheduled passengers than any other airline last year.
You need to learn the difference between popular and favourite. Passengers choosing to fly with you makes Ryanair a popular airline, but not necessarily their favourite. When I flew with Ryanair to Gothenburg last year, it wasn't because Ryanair was my favourite airline - it was because my favourite airline didn't fly to that destination.
5. "They charge customers to call their customer service hotline." Wrong. We don't have a customer service hotline; passengers can contact customer service in writing only.
If not, why don't you have a customer service number? That's the very definition of sub-par customer services, right there. 'Writing only'? Are you communicating to the world from the 18th Century?
6. "and are well known for almost never giving refunds." Wrong. While our fights are non-refundable we do provide refunds in rare cases of weather related cancelation (per EU 261 legislation) and in cases where they are entitled to a refund of government taxes and charges. However, if a passenger is looking for a refund because their cat/dog/grandmother is sick they are not entitled to one, and won't get one -- per the Terms and Conditions they agreed to.
A heart as big as the ocean, that's Ryanair. No, wait.
7. "Yet, they provide super low fares and passengers keep flying them." Correct, almost - it should really say and an increasing number of passengers fly them -- Ryanair continues to grow thanks to our low fares while other airlines' passenger numbers continue to collapse.
The latest figures from the Civil Aviation Authority would seem to tell a different story about other airlines. Difficult for the consumer to tell up from down, eh?
The thing is, Stephen, Ryanair isn't bad at what it does. It provides cheap flights and there are bargains to be had, it flies to destinations other airlines don't and for that, we like Ryanair. We even like some of your puerile stunts, which place you top-of-mind above other airlines.
The issue for most people is how much their travel costs them. Price sells, not service - we get it. The problem is that you get it a little too well; Ryanair is fully aware that low-cost fares are something "passengers would walk over hot coals to get to", and that realisation is used to justify the unjustifiable; ludicrous charges, minimal customer services and an inflexible, cynical attitude. Some people are happy to overlook this and fly with Ryanair. Some people aren't.
So let's just man up and be honest, Stephen - some people disagree with the way Ryanair treats customers, and that doesn't look like changing any time soon.