/ Travel & Leisure

Ryanair profits soar, but are you on board?

Profits up, revenue up, passenger numbers up. Ryanair’s financial results seem to be going in the opposite direction to every other airline out there. But is it really the low prices that encourage us to fly Ryanair?

Speaking about Ryanair’s 20% increase in half-year profits, chief executive Michael O’Leary today claimed the impact of recession was one of the reasons the airline was doing well:

‘People are still flying in the recession, but they are becoming more and more price sensitive, so in a recession, Ryanair is doing really well.’

His explanation relies on two assumptions – that Ryanair’s fares really are cheaper than rival airlines, and that people are switching to the airline for that reason.

Booking with Ryanair

Now some people swear by Ryanair and are prepared to put the effort in to negotiating its booking systems, signing up for its unusual payment cards to avoid surcharges, and making do with its brusque customer service.

But there are plenty of others who are so put off by its lack of pricing transparency and its charges for ‘optional’ extras that they refuse to fly Ryanair, especially if there’s an alternative available.

I recently paid slightly more to fly to the south of France with Easyjet rather than Ryanair, because I was so exasperated by the time I had worked out what it was really going to cost me that I decided I’d had enough.

Are you flying with Ryanair?

So I’m sceptical that today’s results are due to droves of UK travellers switching to Ryanair as they tighten their belts in recession. Perhaps it’s more to do with the airline’s huge expansion elsewhere in Europe, and the captive audience it has on routes where there’s no competition?

It is also due to higher prices, as today’s results revealed a 13% increase in Ryanair’s average fares. Interestingly, average fares now include the baggage fees that are officially classed as optional.

So would you switch to Ryanair to save cash in hard times? Is it really the cheapest option? And even if it is, will you still you steer clear?

And if you’re fed up with paying the fees Ryanair charges to pay by debit or credit card, why not back our campaign to hassle Mark Hoban MP, the financial secretary, into taking action.

Mikhail says:
7 November 2011

I fly with easyJet, the same category as Ryanair? I’m little concerned about the cost, as there are so many alternatives, the most important for me is convenience. I live near Gatwick airport and can’t see why I should travel across London to Luton, Stansted or Heathrow to catch a cheaper or more ‘posh’ airline. In fact, I avoid Heathrow as much as I can, last time I spent 1/5 hours on passport control. I was lucky that my driver didn’t leave, as there was also a public transportation strike at the time.

Sophie Gilbert says:
9 November 2011

When I use Ryanair it’s because it’s the only airline that does a particular route, otherwise I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. Same with Easyjet.

I think this is a big part of Ryanair’s dominance – often there just isn’t an alternative and they monopolise so many of the less popular routes that people have to fly with them.

Unless you manage to book at exactly the right time – usually when there’s an offer on – there isn’t usually a massive difference in price between so-called budget airlines and normal nowadays – especially when you add on all the hidden costs.

I wonder if the way that Ryanair runs its business will get us into the habit of reading Terms & Conditions before agreeing to them.

I do Bristol/Beziers and nobody else in the UK does that route from Bristol where I live and it’s simply not worth travelling to another airport. I scan the email offers and randomly check their flight schedules for ‘bargains’ as I’m retired time is not so important for me so I can organise myself around the best prices – last weekend the return flight was 9.99E each way. I have the RyanAir Cash Passport so don’t pay the £6 each way admin charge. I travel hand luggage only, on a 1hr 40min flight I don’t need their food and drink so the ticket price is all I pay. I used to moan like hell about them until a friend asked me what expectations I had of a taxi and said none other than it arrived or left on time and that is something RyanAir is very good at!

So, for me, they are successful because I have low expectations and no real alternative not because I actually want choose them. They could make a big difference to people’s perception of them if they dropped the old British Rail attitude of ‘we hate our passengers’ and set out to become a more customer friendly airline that can still be cheap and effective.