I think that I’m right in saying that there’s been a subtle but noticeable switch in the Irish public’s perception of Ryanair in the past few months.
Ryanair, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of flying them, is an Irish low cost carrier that’s grown to become Europe’s biggest low-cost airline through a manic-like drive on the part of its flamboyant Chief Executive, Michael O’Leary, to ruthlessly cut costs, often to the point of depravity and beyond.
If you did, like me, once admire the man’s brazenness, incredible business acumen, and in-your-face style, it would be hard to do so now.
At some point, Ryanair crossed ‘the line’ and went too far, and it’s found itself on the wrong side of that line ever since.
Perhaps that crossing of the Rubicon was the Bob Ross case, when the airline charged a disabled cerebral palsy sufferer to pay for use of a wheelchair at Stansted and was sued, and - thankfully - lost in Court.
Or perhaps it was the recent volcanic ash fiasco, when O’Leary made a futile defiant stand against the compensation required by European Union law, saying that Ryanair wouldn’t pay out, until he was forced to meekly back down when threatened with mass lawsuits. The volcanic ash and wheelchair cases proved to many that Ryanair in general, and O’Leary in particular, are seized by a culture of impunity, where they think that they’re above the law.
Or perhaps it’s your own personal experience with the airline: you’ve experienced the cramped leg-room, the non-stop torturous advertising during flights, or reached to the seat ahead of you only to find that even the seat pouches have yielded to O’Leary’s insatiable appetite for profitability.
There are many reasons why you could hate Ryanair and all of them would be valid.
The mistreatment of passengers takes place on a literally daily basis. Today I wrote a story for IrishCentral today which details no less than three situations of the airline mistreating passengers: cancelling a flight to Spain without offering stranded passengers any help, inhumanely refusing to give passengers water when delayed for hours - and forcing the police, yes, the police, to do so -, and finally their deservedly abysmal rating in a consumers’ poll.
But perhaps the final indignity, and one which I initially disbelieved, was the airliner’s announcement that there would be - wait for it - a £1 toilet charge.
Every time you need to use the toilet, well, it’s gonna’ cost.
Defenders of the airline will point to Ryanair revolutionizing the world and beginning the budget travel age as reasons why one should still love the airline despite the sweatshop like conditions they impose on their patrons .
This may have been true at the dawn of the budget travel age, but now that that dawn has risen, it’s time to put your dignity above your wallet and pay a little bit more to be treated like a human - and not charged to use the toilet!