Over the course of July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.
Today’s blog post comes from across the pond. UK to be exact. Australian native turned UK resident turned EU local, Kayla Robertson is a media relations whiz, social media sweetheart, and one of the brightest-sharpest-go getters I know.
Wanting to charge passengers to use the bathroom. Orchestrating an ‘emergency’ landing to save costs on fuel over customer safety. Asserting that seatbelts are useless in a plane crash. Adding a £10 levy for ‘leg room’ for customers sitting near emergency exits.
When it comes to bad experiences on budget airline Ryanair, where to start?
I decided to take my research to twitter to investigate further.
I also stumbled upon a website called www.ihateryanair.org.
It seems that I am not alone.
Yet somehow Ryanair’s customers keep coming back. The airline’s sales are actually increasing rather than decreasing, and despite countless public accounts of terrible customer service, poor safety and of genuine security fears, Ryanair’s business is thriving. Perhaps service and ‘the customer is always right’ theory is not the life-blood of a successful business after all?
As a frequent Ryanair traveller and victim, I’d like to share with you my story.
Before carrying your luggage, carry your wits about you
It was in February 2010 and I was backpacking through Europe alone. A little Australian girl, with an extra large backpack and an even larger dream of things to come. I was relatively ‘wet behind the ears’ and known for frequently losing my passport/wallet/driver’s licence at the worst possible opportunity. But more on that later.
I’d arrived at the check-in gate early. Two hours early, as I’d wanted to enjoy as much of the airport time as possible. I quickly checked in my luggage and then spent a precious hour trying on multiple perfume samples at the duty-free, before enjoying a lukewarm latte at the cafe. Life was good.
I saw the boarding light flash next to my Rome flight number and walked towards it like a moth to the flame.
But lions don’t toy with their prey?
I was one of the first in the cue to board and warmly handed my passport and ticket over to the flight attendant.
“Are you an EU citizen?”
“No, I’m Australian. You can see it there on my passport.” On every page. I smiled.
“Non-EU members need a special visa stamp. You don’t have one. If you run, you may still be able to get it.”
Hmm interesting. Nobody mentioned this to me before. Not the coiffed attendant at the check-in desk, gossiping in-between customers. Not the website when I bought the ticket online. I think.
“Oh okay, I haven’t heard this before…” I murmured.
“Run. Now. You might make it before the end of the queue.”
And run I did. I ran through what seemed to be the longest airport ever designed, back through the cafe, through the duty-free and to the original check-in desk, sweaty and heaving great asthmatic breaths. I explained the situation to the new flight attendant, obtained my flimsy stamp, and ran back. Mo Farah, eat your heart out. An Olympic star was born.
I arrived at the queue as the few remaining passengers dwindled in. Three flight attendants had gathered at the desk and were waiting for me, like leopards circling their prey.
“Don’t you dare say that I didn’t tell you about the stamp,” the original coiffed attendant screeched at me as I arrived. “It’s your bloody fault.”
That’s right, she actually swore. I was speechless.
“It’s not right of you to blame your mistakes on the Ryanair staff,” said her colleague next to her. “It’s our job to tell you these things and I was there when she did.”
If my mouth could have opened any more, in-between the great rattling gasps I was taking, it would have.
“No… you definitely didn’t mention… you only spoke about my luggage…”
“Get on the plane now before it takes off.”
I threw them the dirtiest and most dignified scowl I could muster before scurrying on to the plane. I vowed to never catch another Ryanair flight again, and seethed the entire way to Rome. At least I had my passport and wallet on me.
Yet the ‘love affair’ continues
Three years have passed since that experience and sadly I broke my promise to myself. Multiple times.
I live in London now and as an EU ‘local’ I consider it a badge of honour to have a bad Ryanair story to share. I’m proud of that fact that I can give travel advice freely like a seasoned pro and impart fear in new backpackers with little budget airline knowledge.
Crucially, I’ve also learnt to keep my wits about me when travelling. I’ve learned that I can’t blame anyone for their mistakes – or for my own – when I’m the one who bears the consequences. Research and preparation are key, and it’s a lesson that’s carried me well.
So in that respect, perhaps my Ryanair experience wasn’t so bad after all?
There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!