/ 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?

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?

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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..

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 !)

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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

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.

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.

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,


The Customer Service Team

For and on Behalf of

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.

John Taylor says:
23 July 2014

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

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?