Una Mullally: How to fight back over Ryanair’s new €2 seating policy

My Ryanair-hack shows you how to avoid paying to sit beside your friends and family

Passengers boarding of Ryanair plane Lech Walesa Airport in Gdansk, Poland (Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Passengers boarding of Ryanair plane Lech Walesa Airport in Gdansk, Poland (Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

 

The bar is set so low for Ryanair that the airline’s policies and the antics of its boss, Michael O’Leary, shouldn’t come as any surprise. But even for a company with such an illustrious history of annoying the hell out of as many people as possible, their latest wheeze is notable. Over the last few weeks, customers have been fuming about Ryanair charging people for seats. Travelling companions and families can now only sit together if they pay anywhere from €2 (if you’re lucky) up for a seat, despite having booked together at the same time.

O’Leary - a CEO for those who believe President Sean Gallagher would bring jobs to Ireland, and whose dream pint ‘n’ banter date is George Hook - is having none of it. As always, the customer is wrong; an irritating necessity to making profit.

For a minute, Ryanair decided that being neutrally pleasant to customers might be a better way to make money. Clearly Ryanair’s brief charm offensive is over. Less charm, more offensive. “If I had known that being nicer to our customers was going to result in higher load factors, I would have been nicer years ago,” O’Leary said in 2014, “No one is going to be nicer to our customers now than me”. Obviously this alien state of vague decorum couldn’t last.

O’Leary attests that the seating controversy is not a policy change, but an algorithm change. Its a nonsense excuse. The way in which seats are allocated and booked online did not magically change all by itself. Someone made the call that you can’t sit beside the person or people you’re travelling with without paying for it.

O’Leary told his beloved customers to “stop whingeing”, on RTE Radio 1’s Today With Sean O’Rourke programme. He is of course the biggest whinger of them all, constantly blustering, moaning, giving out, whining, and generally being a painful annoyance whenever a microphone is placed in his proximity. He feels entitled to act this way because he is rich.

O’Leary also denied stories of teenage girls crying when they were separated from family members. Unless his all-seeing eye of Mordor is somehow positioned on every traffic control tower of the inconvenient airports his planes land in, he couldn’t possibly know this.

I recently took two Ryanair flights in and out of a small French airport, and another from London to Dublin. Because Ryanair’s latest scheme, annoys me, I refused to pay the two Ryanair seat fees on each flight so that myself and my partner could sit next to each other.

Instead, I waited until effectively the last minute to check in. At this point most of the seats had already been allocated, and so the premium ones were left free (honestly, who is going to pay €15 for leg room unless they really, really need it?) Myself and my partner then enjoyed flights with extra legroom, and spare seats beside us so we could sit next to each other. Thanks Mick! I realise in exposing this little Ryanair -hack I’ve ruined it for myself, but it’s worth putting it in print just to annoy Ryanair.

Whilst I am at it here is another trick. I like to travel light. I carefully pack a carry-on bag to avoid paying for check-in luggage. I skip the time it takes to check it in at the airport, not to mention the limbo of baggage claim on the other side. This preparation is often scuppered at the Ryanair boarding gate when you’re informed that your carryon bag has to go in the hold, which is a complete pain.

I’m often surprised at the willingness of passengers to go along with this inconvenience. According to Ryanair’s small print, 90 large cabin bags can be carried in the cabin due to space limitations and, “Some passengers may be required on heavily booked flights to place carry on bags in the aircraft hold.”

My advice? Just say no. Ground staff will accumulate a number of larger cabin bags for the hold from other less resilient passengers, and then you can carry yours on. Alternatively, you can do what I did on a Ryanair flight on the way home from Poland recently. When my carry-on bag was tagged for the hold by a ground staff person who acted with the stealth of a ninja, I simply covered the tag on the handle with my hand and brought it on board. #sorrynotsorry.

Treat your passengers like you’re trying to cheat them, and they in turn will try and get one over on you. Pass the scratch cards.

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