Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Does everybody hate Ryanair? Or perhaps I should be more moderate and ask if everyone dislikes Ryanair? I ask because I read and hear so many criticisms. Certainly the company seems to give good reasons why they might be unpopular, the strongest of which must be the style of the chief executive Michael O’Leary. He seems to delight in being offhand, rude and dismissive about his customers and their needs.

Ryanair to charge for use of the toilets:

Fat Tax: Ryanair considers charging for very large customers:

It is undoubtedly a successful business: highly profitable, the largest airline in Europe, with the biggest fleet of planes. It has a pretty unique way of working which makes it successful – costs cut to the bone, internet-based transactions, and no obvious attempt at customer service frills. If you are used to other mainstream airlines it may not feel like the most pleasurable flight you’ll ever make, but for short haul I think it’s remarkable value. I say this because I’ve recently flown from Luton to Nimes for the sum of £0.02 – yes, just two pence – and that’s return. Here is an extract from my bank statement to prove it.

So how do you do that? These are my tips:

1. Timing: It is a bit easier for me, being retired, in that I can be fairly flexible over days on which I travel and am not bound by school holidays etc. Try to avoid Fridays-Mondays, and anytime that involves a major sporting event near your destination. That is, try to fly when others don’t want to.

2. Buy online. Pay with an Electron card, which avoids the supplementary charges imposed on all other cards.

3. Check-in online and not at the airport.

4. Take only hand baggage, understand and stick to the baggage rules and make sure your single cabin bag really does fit within their dimensions and weight limits.

5. Don’t pay extra for Priority Boarding – it’s pointless.

6. Don’t buy the onboard pizza, coffee, bottled water, scratch cards or perfume.

7. And most important, keep an eye on the press and online adverts for special offers, watching all the airlines. Recessionary times can be good for travellers.

One other plus for Ryanair: I’ve used them about 18 times in the last four years. Not a single flight has been cancelled, not one has been even 10 minutes late. You can’t say that about another large British Airline, at least not on its short haul routes. Of course the 2p flight is exceptional. From memory I’ve more often paid about £38 each way, which is still remarkable value. So, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Ryanair.

On the other hand the most pleasurable way to travel to Nimes is by train, and here I’ll quote the excellent website www.seat61.com

Easily the most stress-free way to travel from London to the south of France is to take a Eurostar to Lille and make simple same-station change of train onto a 186 mph high-speed TGV direct to Nîmes, Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne or Perpignan, with no need to cross Paris. South of Lyon, the TGV runs along the Rhône Valley, crossing and re-crossing the River Rhône, flying at ground level through the hills of Provence over some breathtaking viaducts. Watch out for a dramatic viaduct over the Rhone just before Avignon, with views of the famous 'Palais des Papes' in the distance.

I have done this journey several times and it is a most relaxing (and environmentally correct) way to travel. However, even using my senior railcard, the lowest fare I can see on the website is £208 return: you can see why I rate Ryanair for value.

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