/ Travel & Leisure

Can Ryanair turn over a new leaf?

Ryanair plane

Is Ryanair turning nice? This autumn has brought the unprecedented spectacle of the airline’s famously unrepentant boss Michael O’Leary apologising and pledging to listen to customers.

There has also been a flurry of announcements about how the airline is making changes to make life easier for customers. Last week Ryanair unveiled a 50% cut in baggage fees, and a change in policy to allow passengers to have a second small piece of hand luggage.

So has the airline that once told passengers ‘we don’t want to hear your sob stories’ had an epiphany with customer service?

Ryanair’s customer service

Ryanair is also making changes to its website. From the start of November, you’ll no longer have to retype the distorted text displayed after a flight search to see flight details. The booking process is also being redesigned, to make it easier to navigate and quicker to get to price quotes. And if you want to use the Ryanair smartphone app, you no longer have to pay to do so.

But what about changes to customer service? Well, Ryanair now has a Twitter account, which it promises to use to deal with customer complaints. So if you’re on Twitter, you have a new way of contacting the airline. If not, it’s business as usual.

There is an acknowledgement from the airline’s boss that Ryanair needs to ‘soften some of the harder edges’ and to eliminate things that upset people unnecessarily. But why make any changes at all? The answer may lie in two sets of financial figures…

Ryanair vs EasyJet

In September, Ryanair announced it could fall short of its most pessimistic annual profit target. Two weeks later, EasyJet announced that its full-year results would be at the top of expectations.

EasyJet is outperforming Ryanair financially, and has been working for some time on improving the customer experience. This has been partly about attracting business travellers who want an inexpensive, but comfortable, experience.

Ryanair is after the same market, and many of the changes bring it into line with what EasyJet has already been doing for some time. It looks like the airline has become worried that it’s losing ground to its rival, and that part of the reason comes down to its attitude to customers.

Best and worst brands for customer satisfaction

This was only reinforced when our survey of best and worst brands for customer satisfaction placed Ryanair bottom of a list of 100 companies, with a customer score of just 54%. EasyJet did better, coming joint 68th with a score of 69%.

Brand loyalty matters, and eight out of 10 in our survey said customer service was an important deciding factor. Analysts believe Ryanair can afford to increase its spending on customer service and still compete on price – so perhaps we will see more concrete changes to come. But it could take a long time to win over the sceptics, and Ryanair isn’t going to be handing out free champagne any time soon.

Do you think Ryanair is changing for the better? Have you had an improved experience with the airline?

Comments
Guest
Ian01 says:
31 October 2013

Is scrapping the ridiculously expensive 0871 and 0900 booking and customer service phone lines and moving to cheaper 0371 and 0330/0333 numbers featured anywhere in this softening of approach?

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Guest

If you want to complain about the cost of calling Ryanair’s 09 number (given as £1 per minute and probably higher from mobiles), the company has thoughtfully provided a number to let you have a whinge about it. I quote from their FAQ section:

“Do you have a complaint regarding our premium rate number – click here
Our customer service number for complaints regarding our Premium Rate number is as follows 0844 2098715, £0.05 per minute. Please note that booking requests, general enquiries or general complaints will not be handled on this line. This policy will be strictly adhered to.”

Guest
Ian01 says:
5 November 2013

While that 0844 number may cost 5p/min from a BT line, they forgot to mention the 15p connection fee that is added on top.

Virgin Media charge 12p/min plus a 16p connection fee to ring that 0844 number.

Mobile operators charge between 20p and 41p/min to call the 0844 number.

In all cases, the call price includes a hidden 7p/min Service Charge to the benefit of the called party.

Ofcom’s “unbundled tariffs” (details to be announced in the next few weeks) will require them to declare the level of Service Charge that applies to each of their numbers, every time it is advertised.

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Guest

I’ve used both EasyJet and Ryanair and with everything running smoothly no real difference between them for the flight experience
Both now allow seat reservations for a reasonable fee.
However with limited hold luggage allowance Easyjet’s policy of permitting the allowance to be shared between people on one booking is a big plus.
Its bad enough carefully packing 2 cases to make sure both are under 15kg on the way out with easy access to bathroom scales , but far more of a hassle on the return journey.
And for booking Ryanair’s system is so stressful.

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Guest

Making a Ryanair booking is far too stressful because the website is designed to maximise their profits and any error or typo made in the course of the booking costs us dearly when we have Ryanair amend it. The other area they should address if they wish to regain any respect from customers is to not charge a fee if for any reason we are unable to print our own boarding cards. We do not enjoy standing in line for someone else to do this and the majority of us will print our own cards in the comfort of our homes. All airlines used to print our boarding cards and check us in and we are doing then a huge favour by undertaking this task for them. It is insulting our goodwill when they charge us a huge fee if for whatever reason we do not have a boarding pass when we arrive at the airport.

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Guest

Why should a boarding pass need to be printed at all? When I fly British Airways (and many other airlines), I get a mobile boarding pass on my iPhone. This is scanned just like any other form of boarding pass. Printing physical boarding passes is a waste of paper and the sooner all airlines issue paperless boarding passes, the better.

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Guest

Okay if you have a smartphone and are happy to take the risk of nothing going wrong with it, I seem to remember that some train companies do paperless tickets.
However I suspect that a bit of paper with the booking details, flight times and luggage allowances on is what most people want and a lot quicker to process..
For those with hold luggage checking in online does not speed the system up for anyone; so the penalties imposed for not printing out your own boarding pass are completely disproportional.

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Guest

I agree that the additional price of checked-in hold baggage should include the printing of a boarding pass. It defies common sense for it not to.

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Guest

I have no problem with forgiving people and ignoring the past but companies are different. I have a very negative impression of Ryanair and they will have to do very well in the next few years for me to even consider using them. They are one of the few companies I have boycotted without buying their products.

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Guest

My attitude is exactly the same. I have never flown with Ryanair and I never will. There is ample evidence that over the years they have treaed their customers with contempt and despicion and sadly, through the effects of competition, they have dragged other airlines down into the bog.
As in the adage : You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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Guest

Mr O’Leary is not going to do an about turn on very many of the initiatives he introduced in his quest to maximise profits. He is too arrogant to admit he may have been mistaken. The only way Ryanair can dig themselves out of the mire is by getting Mr O’Leary to spend more time with his family and appointing a new CEO.

Guest
CheshireDave says:
1 November 2013

I now actively try to NOT book with Ryanair, and I’ll pay a little more for that – which is VERY unusual for me! But the atrocious website and ‘Big Brother’ company ethos are just 2 reasons why I always try to go elsewhere.

Swiss was a revelation on a recent flight. Helpful staff, clean, comfy, a feeling of safety and precision (yes, a bit of a cliche) – and a chocolate when getting on and off the plane.Budget flights don’t get much better.

Lufthansa have been good, too – until they lost my wife’s suitcase/frocks for a week on a ‘special event’ 2-week holiday.

Have not flown Easyjet, but I would always prefer them to RA. That’s the power of branding and customer feedback!

In fairness, 2 non-recent return RA flights to Rome (the less-common airport) passed without incident, apart from the stressful queuing / loading scenarios; and the feeling (just a feeling) that you’re constantly being threatened to be tripped up and forced to pay extra charges. This destroys your ‘holiday mood’.

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Guest

I wonder if Mr O’Leary’s apologies and pledges are just another publicity stunt.

I remember the publicity that Ryanair generated regarding the suggestion that they might make a charge to spend a penny.

Guest
John says:
1 November 2013

We have a small local airport 5 miles from home that Ryanair fly to London from. When I need to go to London I drive 65 miles to a bigger airport so I don’t have to fly with Ryanair!

I have used them in the past but if I can find an alternative I use that instead.

Guest
Frequent Spanish flyer says:
1 November 2013

Perhaps Mr O’Leary has finally heard the “anyone but Ryanair” choruses. Have just had to book a flight with them (no viable option or would have taken it). The fact that you know if you make a minor error they are going to punish you financially for it, plus the having to opt-out of every add-on instead of opt-in makes the experience so stressful and that is before you pack your bag, pray it is not 1cm oversize, then try to squeeze your duty free into your hand baggage because ground staff are adamant that is the rule.
Easyjet have defintely improved their customer service game in the past year. Not in the same basement category as Rynair at all.

Guest
Another Frequent Spanish Flyer says:
1 November 2013

I completely agree with Frequent Spanish flyer. Travelling with Ryanair is a horror. Staff are rude, the adherence to rules Orwellian. I was once travelling with someone who was denied boarding because she was carrying her camera and her small purse separately (having paid to check all other baggage). They wouldn’t let her onto the plane until she could find a carrier bag to put the two items into — one carry-on means one carry-on! The staff make little effort to help families keep together and seem to revel in the bunfight that occurs as everyone tries to board.

Easyjet is like a luxury airline compared to Ryanair. I am always willing to pay a bit more to fly Easyjet (though I never have to, since I check baggage). Unfortuantely, Easyjet doesn’t always go where I need.

Guest
geoff jenkins says:
1 November 2013

I agree that the extraordinary antipathy the name RyanAir evokes is now coming home to roost. I fly frequently to Europe and occasionally (where there is no alternative) with Ryanair. A recent low point was being pushed out of the air terminal onto the tarmac of a small airport (Baden-Baden) in heavy winter rain -and kept waiting for 25minutes while Ryanair de-planed the incoming flight.Got to keep to those turnaround targets I guess (but sod the passengers – or are we customers..?). One plus point is that budget airlines have reduced ticket prices on their more upmarket rivals. Often Lufthansa and BA etc. can offer an attractive deal without the stress offered by Mr O’ Leary’s outfit.

Guest
John Nixon says:
1 November 2013

In the words of my daily newspaper -“am I the only one not to have had a bad experience?” Having flown 50+ times all over Europe from UK bases with Ryanair I can honestly say my wife and I have always been very satisfied. We have paid pence to go to the South of France, Spain and recently to Sweden to follow the Wallander and Stig Larsson trails. Of course there are no lounges( a favourite moan of retired business persons used to travelling at someone else’s expense) and the baggage size/weight is small. As retired persons on fixed incomes we travel lightly but often at what I call realistic prices. Long live Chapeter 3 competition..

Guest
Sandie says:
1 November 2013

I have never flown with Ryanair, and hope I never have to. I use Easy Jet and am generally very happy with them, although the last experience of having to check in a ‘hold’ bag at Budapest, was a bit of a nightmare. The first bad experience I’ve had, but the rest of it was great. I just don’t like the sound of Ryanair and especially Mr O’Leary, who really does not come over well at all. (I’m being polite here !)

Guest
Patrick says:
1 November 2013

It seems some who never fly with Ryanair have already made up their minds! Personally I fly with them about 4/5 times a year and they usually always get me there and back on time for a modest fare.Yes the website is a bit clumsy and we need better transparency on pricing but I find staff generally very helpful and apart from difficulty understanding what some of the (foreign) ones are announcing I think they do a very decent job.Also Ryanair have done their bit to keep fares low.

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Guest

I have, like may people, actively avoided flying with Ryanair due to their reputation (or lack of). I read all the horror stories about excess charges and luggage being dis-allowed in the cabin etc. However, earlier this month I was forced to fly with them since it was the only practical option to travel from Scotland to visit friends in a certain part of France. They claim to be cheap but I found the opposite. It cost us £100 more to fly to the south of France than it had cost us to fly to the south of Spain with EasyJet the month before. That being said, after my attempts to squeeze my hiking daypack down to their cabin baggage size failing, and having to simply take a handbag on board, there were people being allowed to board with bags much bigger than mine would have been,. They did have priority boarding and a few seats could be reserved. Really everything went very smoothly. I did notice that the seats seemed a bit more cramped than EasyJet, with no pockets in the seat backs, and the food/drink was more expensive. I wasn’t complaining about that though since I hadn’t expected Ryanair to be providing anything and had taken sarnies. I still can’t see me ever using them as airline of choice, however, due to all the stupid charges for printing our own boarding passes etc.

Guest
David says:
1 November 2013

My wife and I frequently fly Ryanair as we have no alternative unless we take a two hour drive to Toulouse. One needs navigates their dismal website carefully and remember to tick the many ‘no/not wanted’ sections. Ryanair without any extras is cheap but it is certainly not cheerful. The aircraft cabin is unattractive and uncomfortable. Often the cabin crew appear to be as unhappy as the passengers and so would we be if I worked for O’Leary The continual announcements for drinks,food or scratch cards are irritating. We are pleased that Ryanair usually arrives on time so that we can disembark and leave their aircraft although their last punishment is the excruciating sound of the bugle and self congratulations for arriving on time.

Guest
Lynda says:
1 November 2013

We have used Ryan Air several times over the summer. We take hand luggage only and have found the flights competitively priced, easy to use web site, easy on-line check in and no problems with our flights at all. Staff are always professional and helpful. I have not used the customer service staff but would expect the same prompt, efficient friendly service if I did.Perhaps it is a self- fulfilling prophecy for some people. If you expect trouble you usually get it!

Guest
Norman Richardson says:
1 November 2013

I’m not surprised to learn that so many people have negative feelings about Ryanair and that they came bottom in the survey of passenger satisfaction. I too have done my best to avoid flying with them for much the same reasons as many others have commented on here – the sense of intimidation arising from the sense that their staff have been told to try to catch people out for their very limited cabin baggage requirements; the ludicrously high cost of hold baggage; the smug self-satisfaction of their appalling bugle call on arrival; the overbearing public arrogance of Mr. O’Leary when he is interviewed or challenged on these issues. Ultimately these feelings come to a head and public unpopularity leads to outright dislike of this self-satisfied style of management. It will take a lot to persuade me to use Ryanair unless I really have no alternative options!

Guest
deadbird says:
1 November 2013

get a grip who are you comparing ryanair to
british airways aer lingus and other cartels

no doubt you travel by ferry

Guest
David says:
3 November 2013

YOU need to get a grip and take the trouble to read most of the comments which compare Ryanair with EasyJet and other budget airlines. I can’t recall many of the reviews mentioning BA or Air Lingus.

Guest
Figgerty says:
1 November 2013

Most companies are concerned about retaining their good reputation. Michael O’Leary revels in the bad reputation of the company he heads. It’s past time he spent more time with his family.

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Guest

ecently when I booked a flight with Ryanair the trip was for 21 days. On their website they say that you can print off your boarding passes from 15 days to 2 hours before your flight.
What they DO NOT SAY is that if your journey is for more than 15 days you are NOT permitted to print off your Return Boarding Pass. Whilst away either in the UK or abroad you have no choice but to find an Internet cafe and try to print it off there. Most people travelling abroad have no access to a PC and a Printer.
I cannot see why Ryanair do this. One pays for the flights so one should be allowed to print off both out and back boarding passes. You can do this with Easyjet so why not with Ryanair.
It’s just another frustrating point when travelling with this airline.
Has anyone else had this problem. Perhaps people should get together and make a joint complaint.
Below is an obviously prescripted text which I received.

Dear Customer,
Ryanair’s online check-in service is available from 15 days up to 4 hours prior to your scheduled flight departure time(s). If both your outbound and return flights are within the 15 day period, at the time you check-in online then both boarding passes can be printed simultaneously.

However, in this case, your return flight is outside of the 15 day period, so the online check in is not available at the moment. Nevertheless, please do not forget to check in for the return flight as well, as the same rules apply for both your flights. Once you have checked in online the boarding pass can be reprinted up to 2 hours prior to the scheduled flight departure time.
Yours sincerely,

Gabby

The Customer Service Team

For and on Behalf of
RYANAIR LIMITED

Guest
sue g says:
8 July 2014

yup,this has just happened to me, only now its not 15 days but 7 ! So they are forcing you to pay for pre selected seats which mans that you CAN check in online outside of their new 7 day rule. When I called them, I too was told I should try and find an interrnet cafe to print off the boarding pass, but presumably the cafe will charge you for internet access and the printing, and thats if you can find one. The cost of a pre-selected seat is small, but thats not the point. This is so petty and typical Ryanair, penny pinching.

Guest
John Taylor says:
23 July 2014

It’s worse now,the time has been reduced to 7 days and 2 hours!

Guest
Marvista says:
2 November 2013

After some years of travelling Ryanair I found Easyjet to Gibraltar and never looked back. The very slight extra cost and sometimes inconvenient departure is a small price to pay. I have even ordered a new hand luggage case 1.7 k. Over the Internet to make sure my hand luggage fits every airline.
Viva Easyjet and sometimes BA which can compete with the others out of Gib.

Ryanair is going to have to do a huge amount to get my business back again. I notice many many people are complaining about Ryanair but there is just one small voice praising it on price. How many companies would be able to continue functioning under those conditions without addressing the endless problems and criticisms?

Guest
Susanne says:
2 November 2013

For musicians, Ryanair has long been the worst airline of all. NO other airline makes you purchase a seat for a violin or viola case. Those cases fit comfortably into an overhead locker; you can fit at least three of them in, and as we are not allowed extra hand luggage on top (apart from with “proper” airlines such as BA, Emirates etc) we do not take up anyone’s hand luggage storage space. Moreover, a violin cannot be stored safely in a seat, as there is no seatbelt tight enough to hold it in place.
Easyjet recognised how important musicians are as customers back in 2002 and has since operated a great official policy, listing the types of instruments permitted as hand luggage, and also making it very simply to purchase extra seats for cellos for example.
Also, as far as I am aware, Ryanair still charge an extortionate fee for using a credit card plus other “administration costs”.
Easyjet get my thumbs up every time!

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Guest

No problem with violas or cellos, but I’m not sure about violence on aircraft. 🙂

Guest
Bill H says:
2 November 2013

I have flown several times with Ryanair and on every occasion bar the last one I had no problems. On the one occasion when I did have cause to complain I experienced first hand the rudeness for which Ryanair has become infamous; the call handler was flippant, unhelpful and put the phone down. It seems that if everything goes smoothly and you obey Ryanair’s rules you’ll be fine and get a good deal but if it doesn’t you’ll pay for it dearly and have little chance of redress. I don’t use them now.

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Guest

My wife recently had to follow me to France on holiday due to the death of her Mother.She was in a fragile state and was not relishing the lone flight. On collecting her from Nantes airport she was up-beat and very complementary about Easy Jet from Liverpool airport, in fact she still comments to anyone she talks to about the superb experiance of the flight.It just goes to show it pays to be respectful to your customers because they will come back if treated well, and do your promotion for you! Its not hard to imagine if she flew with O’ Leary ‘s Ryanair she would have been near to tears, with the insensitive flight staff, petty rules and unbelievable hoops you have to jump through to actually book the flight.

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Guest

If travelling across Europe or further on holiday by whatever means , it is prudent to make sure you have funds available to deal with unforeseen delays or occurrences and to be able to deal with a delay in returning home.
Too many people seem to travel with no emergency funds and on a schedule that sees them get home the night before they have to be back at work/school.
They then are unable to cope with a delay or cancellation and the return and accommodation options offered by the airline.
I’ve used RyanAir, Easyjet, Jet2 and all my flights have gone without any issues; however I am under no illusion that I will get great customer service when eventually I runout of luck and factor this is into my plans.

Guest

We use RA at least once a year. Not the smooth passage of a charter but the prices are very reasonable and probably more leg room than some charters. It’s a shame that the skimpy but expensive baggage issue means you can never take anything home with you. However, RA does what it says on the tin, you know what you’re getting, the Poundland of the air. It would be nice feel a bit more welcome and please, please stop the bloody fanfare when we touch down!!!!

Guest
Mark Hilton says:
4 November 2013

For me its about honesty – Easy Jet are straighforward – RyanAir are disingenuous at best, deceitful at worst. I avoid using them if at all possible.

Guest
Atholl Stewart says:
4 November 2013

Overheard at the bar at Glasgow airport.

O’Leary: How much is a pint of Guiness?

Barman: 99p

O’l: that very reasonable, I’ll have one.

Barman: Did you bring a glass with you or would you like to rent one of hours? The no glass option is +50p, a plastic cup is £1 or a proper glass is £2 per half hour or part thereof.

O’L: A glass please.

Barman: OK now as you did not pre-order your pint before you came to the airport, there’s a surcharge of £2. So its £4.99 total

O’L hands over a tenner.

Barman: Thats £5.99 including the cash handling fee. ther’s tour £4.01 change.

O’L that’s ridiculous. How do you justify all these extra charges. I want to speak to the manager.

Barman: next!

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Guest

I use Ryanair a lot, not because they are cheap (easyjet often cheaper) but because they get me home on time. Both BA and easyjet have a persistent problems with evening flights being late. This is a more important aspect of customer service than whether the cabin crew are grumpy! (and they arent that bad, BA staff are a bit schoolmistressy and rudest person I ever met was an easyjet checkin person in Glasgow)

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Guest

All my Ryanair flights have arrived way ahead of schedule, made me wonder if they deliberately over estimate the flight time to improve their “ON-TIME” statistics !

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Guest

you are probably right, I think they all do it. But I’m talking an hour late, not 10 mins.
To be fair to BA I think a lot of their timekeeping problems are down to congestion at Heathrow, and it’s the cumulative effect by the end of the day. Maybe Luton is the same

Guest
DavidJ says:
18 November 2013

Does a Leopard change it’s spots. I have used Ryanair once and Never again. The company does not care about it’s customers. They have proved that in the past, all they are interested in is the ££££ they can squeeze out of you and they are now panicking because they are not making as much.

Guest
Nancy says:
3 June 2014

I have also used Ryanair and will never use them again. I took a flight from Milan to Manchester T3; the flight time was 1hr 45 mins. The time it took the checked-in luggage to come out on the carousel once the plane landed was 1hr 50mins! Apparently, Ryanair employs their own luggage handling people. Says it all really….

Guest
Brian Greatbatch says:
15 July 2014

Recently flew back from Malaga with Ryanair and was aware of their new policy with regard to the limit of the first 90 guaranteed carry on bags When finally queuing to board the aircraft a member of the airport staff appeared and started ticketing bags to go in the hold. He was not interested in the first 90 bag guarantee and so as we reached the aircraft for boarding our bags were taken from us but only after my wife insisted on taking out her medical supplies. Having taken our designated seats were we immediatley aware that our storage space above was empty. Further more, passengers boarding after us streamed on carrying their bags with them. Obviously the 90 bag rule had not been applied and the airport staff had just picked a group of people at random. Throughout the file the storage area above our seats remained empty!! No More Ryanair for us!

Guest
John Taylor says:
23 July 2014

Ryanair now only allow you to print off tickets 7 days and 2 hours before your flight departure. This means if your trip is for 8 days plus you will need to print off the return leg whilst on your travels.
Their option is to select your seat at a cost of £10 per person per flight and this you can do at anytime. Seems grossly unfair and simply money grabbing.

Guest
Sue says:
23 July 2014

Couldnt agree more. We have just come back from 9 days away, and had to pay for allocated seating on the return flight so that we could print off our boarding passes before we left the UK. I didnt want to spend my time searching for an internet cafe so had no choice. There is clearly no actual readon why you cant print the pass off, it is simply another way of making money. Wake up o’Leary.

Guest
Cherry says:
8 August 2014

Decided to give Ryanair another try in April as their flight was most convenient in terms of local airport.
Booking was a disaster – could not enter my name correctly as it has a hyphen and Ryanair said this was an unpermissible character! But if I left the hypen out, my payment card wouldn’t be recognised correctly. So called a Ryanair number in Ireland. Helpful agent managed to take my booking over phone and payment. Immediate confirmation email.
3 hours later another email from Ryanair saying bank had declined payment. So I booked same flight using Opodo with no problems and this is the flight I used.
However when I got my debit card statement it showed Ryanair did take the first payment and hours before sending the cancellation email.
I have emailed them and even sent a letter trying to get the money they took and they seem to deliberately misunderstand, even though I attach all the evidence. They keep trying to make out I made duplicate bookings and ignore the fact that they cancelled my original booking.
It seems their policy is now to act stupid and hope you’ll give up.
However they owe me £80 and I won’t be giving up. The only mistake I made was to book with Ryanair.
I have now resorted to Twitter hoping they will react as it is very public.
Any ideas for next steps?