O'Leary wins the spin, Ryanair beats the BBC

Bitterwallet - Ryanair free flights after Panorama wet blanketWell, what can we say, eh? We're still going to be holding our head in our hands this time next year when Ryanair announces passengers must donate organs or their least favourite child to board their flights, but last night's hard-hitting investigative journalism from Panorama turned out to be insubstantial, pointless and bound to leave most the audience saying "and your point is...?". The press seems to consider Ryanair as the victor of past few day's media slagging match, and that a simultaneous kick in the baby-maker has been dealt to the BBC.

Sky Marshall O'Leary promised to give away 100,000 free seats for every false claim he deemed the BBC to make - hence at midnight, 1.1 million free seats went up for grabs on the Ryanair website. O'Leary wins the battle of the spin once more. Unsurprisingly, it's not quite as straight forward as all that. Read through the correspondence between the two sides (as published by Ryanair) and you'll notice that Ryanair's defense of their policies isn't always convincing, or indeed, true:

"Any additional charges over and above our guaranteed lowest fare (with no fuel surcharges) are discretionary. All passengers can avoid these charges should they wish, by declining those services."

If Ryanair can explain to us how a mandatory £5 online check-in fee each way is discretionary (without changing the meaning of the word to something meaning the exact opposite), we'd be happy to let everyone know. Oh, and remember - you might be lucky enough to bag a seat for free, but Ryanair will still charge you £20 to carry your infant on your lap. Infants under two years old aren't allowed their own seat, which a) allows Ryanair to sell another seat, and b) means it can cost more for a child to fly with no seat, than an adult who has one. But of course this charge is also discretionary, since toddlers can be left at home alone for up to several days at a time.

If you haven't read it yet, have a read through the email tennis as the BBC becomes increasingly desperate to find fault and justify their programme budget. Our favourite retort from Ryanair is:

10. Is there an “ideal” Ryanair customer?

10. Yes. Any human being with a brain, a pulse and a credit card, who doesn’t want to be ripped off with BA or Easyjet’s high fares and frequently delayed flights.

Stay classy, Ryanair.


  • adr0ck
    what a pointless programme by the BBC last night my favourite bit was when the bbc were having a go at ryanair for paying as low a price as possible for new aeroplanes i think this must have gone against the bbc's in house policy of paying as much as possible for useless presenters
  • Reg W.
    Having read all the hype I watched the programme and thought that it was pretty well balanced. Mr Ryanair may like to say that there are no hidden charges but Ryanair certainly do not make it as clear as they could about some of the charges you have to opt out from and have got pinged by the EU over the misleading aspects of their web site. It is easy enough to say that the passenger has agreed to all the conditions, but in a lot of the cases people did not fully know what they were agreeing to. So I would say case is proven. Other aspects were just good business on Ryanairs part. They bargain hard and walk away if they don’t get what they want. Similarly airports and plan manufactures etc. do not have to do business with them so I see nothing wrong either way. Ryanair are in effect targeting a particular segment of the population, how much longer they can continue to grow is debatable as eventually they will reach saturation point in that market segment. With all the extra charges they are not family friendly and will have difficulty expanding into that area because by the time you add in all the extra charges they will not be cheaper than their competitors. As for BA etc. copying them, I do not think the sort term monetary gain will be sustainable in the long term. BA had a good reputation for running a quality service, take this away and all you have is another bog standard airline, so they will just continue to lose market share as companies like Ryan air will always do cheap flying better than BA. By going for the cheap end of the market BA will jus alienate their traditional customers, sort of like M&S trying to compete with Prymark. BA is always going to lose in a pissing contest with Ryanair.
  • jonn
    I still find it hard to believe that people argue and moan about paying things like a £5 check in fee when your still getting your flights for dirt cheap. Does anyone really expect a company to be able to function without charging for stuff?
  • Gunn
    I used to fly with Ryanair but to be honest other carries are just as cheap if you book in advance.
  • kev
    if it weren't for ryanair we'd all be still paying £100 odd for EVERY short-haul flight
  • jimmy
    What ever happened to Panorama? The flagship investigative journalist programme of the bbc!! It contained nothing we didnt already know! What a waste of time! Pointless! In the current economic climate, the bbc wants to ask the question, why does this company want to sell cheap flights?? A guy buys planes as cheaply as possible, has a brilliant safety record, gets people to their destination on time, creates jobs like no other airline and tries to get the best deal for his company. I think the question asked should have been " what is the point of Panorama??
  • NobbyB
    John - no I don't think people are saying that they expect them to function without charging. What they expect is that mandatory charges should be in the advertised price, and not told they are optional add-ons when they are mandatory. I think the idea of charging for baggage is good, since it does allow the customer to choose. Their family (baby) unfriendly policy is not so good, but I guess it means they put off the type of customers they don't want. I also don't see that the growth of cheap flights is sustainable, as there are a significant number of people that would not use them or other similar airlines - whether it is the staff, comfort, out-of-the-way locations, flight times, etc. Flying Ryanair is a bit like shopping in Primark or eating and drinking in a Wetherspoons pub. It might be cheap, but some people are willing to pay more for something better.
  • MrRobin
    Whilst the bits about the lack of employees (particuarly the disaster at Stanstead that day in August) and treatment of employees (no free water for pilots!) was a bit disturbing, the majority of the programme made the beeb look very silly. Of course Ryanair will be ruthless in their negotiations at airports and with aircraft manufacturers, that's just business! Everyone knows about the charges, it's just what Ryanair do. If you don't like it, fly with someone else, if you're dumb enough not to read the site when making a booking, more fool you. Infact it's the dumb and the careless that subsidise the fares for the rest of us who get the £5 and under
  • JezB
    I think Ryanair are threatening to jump the shark at the moment, I have always been one to say you get what you pay for and you can't expect great service or a wonderful experience if you are paying next to nothing, but the brand expert guy was on the money when he said that if customers start to get the impression that they are being ripped off, people will try and avoid Ryanair where possible (I do now, though often there is no other choice on the route I want). Most of their charges now seem arbitrary and deliberately designed to catch people out, no pooling of luggage allowance is a good case in point, and the "card handling" fee, which bears no relation to either the mechanism or size of charge that Ryanair face themselves. As someone who now has small children, the £20 infant fee is galling, when they don't even take a seat, and at Stansted, not using the airbridge means carrying the kids and collapsing the buggy to hoik it down a couple of flights of stairs, during which time all the rest of the passengers stream past so we rarely get to sit together any more. Yep they are cheap, but certainly not cheerful. If Wetherspoons spilt your pint down your shirt and kept your change as a cash handling charge, I don't think you would drink there very often whatever the price.
  • Robert
    Why was the Pilot moaning? He was introduced as being very well paid by Ryanair but then moaned they had to do a little unpaid overtime and pay for their food and drink. How many people who are not paid over £100,000 have to do unpaid overtime and provide their own refreshments while working?
  • Michael
    My personal favourite was the "outrage" on the presenters face when he declared that a cup of coffee on a Ryanair flight costs £2.60. I'd love to find a motorway service station or branch of Starbucks where I can pay that little.
  • CompactDstrxion
    This sounds like it was a horrible job by the BBC. They criticised the areas where Ryanair are simply being a shrewd business, and didn't focus on the areas where Ryanair are actually unfair (like separate card handling charges, no pooling of luggage allowances, £20 infant fee, £5 online check in fee etc). We could have done a better job. Yet to watch the programme though, will tonight.
  • Daniel
    Ryanair's strategy is clear; passenger has no choice because the Irish company manages to convince customers that Ryanair is the cheapest way to travel. Until the customer doesn’t realise that this is not true, he'll be able to handle any humiliation and pay all the extra fees at the airport, because they will think "yes it's still cheaper". But when it'll come to the point that Ryanair will just have the brand image of a cheated communication strategy, it'll be over. So I can advice them to stop their extra fees policy and make clearer their rules and fees
  • JezB
    On the coffee front, Starbucks and the service stations are at least selling proper fancy coffee, Ryanair is selling instant.
  • Dave T.
    The message was clear - if you don't want to travel Ryanair then don't - use someone else! I will continue to use their service as it gets me from A to B safely and on time. At the end of the day the website clearly shows the cost of the flight and if you don't like it go elsewhere. Also the brand consultant was talking out of his **** and his views meaningless
  • Dave T.
    "As someone who now has small children, the £20 infant fee is galling, when they don’t even take a seat, and at Stansted, not using the airbridge means carrying the kids and collapsing the buggy to hoik it down a couple of flights of stairs, during which time all the rest of the passengers stream past so we rarely get to sit together any more." So don't use them - you are the type of passenger that takes all the costs and bumps the ticket up - use another airline!!
  • CompactDstrxion
    Having watched the programme, I think it was rather balanced but did miss on certain things where Ryanair do take the biscuit. They were complaining about stupid things like non-central airports, and I think they portrayed Ryanair in a particularly good light in some places, like the teenager who goes on jaunts to Dublin for 2p return.
  • Antonia S.
    Generally speaking most MPs in the expenses row all kept 'within the letter of the regulations', but we still castigate them for being mercilessly grasping individuals who were behaving immorally at the expense of bamboozled taxpaers. Ryanair mercilessly grasps every spare penny from cunning extra charges on bamboozled passengers, even infants and disabled people. Yet people say they shouldn't be branded immoral because 'it's business'. Why do the words 'it's business' mean that it's ok to treat fellow human beings in such a calculatingly mean way? Why are commenters here queuing up to let Ryanair off the hook? They behave like a*ses, O'Leary is an unusually shameless and unpleasant fellow, and his pugilistically defensive tone should give even his greatest fans a clue that something's probably not quite right. Do you guys really admire that?
  • Rory D.
    The Ryaniar debate really gets on my nerves. I have family based all over the UK & Ireland and the simple fact is, if it wasn't for Ryanair's cheap flights then I would never see them. Everyone knows what Ryanair are like so if you are not happy with how they work then fly with someone else!
  • andy y.
    Why did Panorama not mention the Fred Flinstone holes under the planes?I had the run like hell on the last Alicante flight to get lift before we hit Darlington.
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