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By Melani Nair
When I originally moved to this country, Ryanair was known as the only option if you wanted to travel throughout Europe very cheaply, and didn't care too much for passenger comfort!
To say matters have changed, is an understatement.
As a ‘foreigner’ (South African, born & bred) I have always had an outside eye looking inwards at Ryanair and its competitors, and having travelled around Europe for 12 years, with London as my base, I have seen the company transform, against all of the odds, into an entirely different business.
Despite its past reputation for being cheap and not-very-cheerful, Ryanair is the second largest carrier of passengers operating today in Europe, and in 2016 the company will transport a staggering 113 million people from European city to city.
Having worked at McGinley for the last 14 months, I have developed an excellent working relationship with Ryanair, and have seen the company evolve dramatically. It has become a company with a conscience.
Last week – I had the pleasure of flying out to meet Ryanair at their Dublin HQ. Of course, I thought it would be useful to fly with Ryanair to get a feel for how far the company have come – and what they are now offering their passengers.
For years Ryanair’s reputation has been judged on three or four significant details in regards to passenger comfort. On an individual basis, these details may seem minute, but together they play a pivotal part in the overall passenger experience.
One of these vital details is legroom.
Previously, if you flew Ryanair, and your height was above 4 foot 2 inches, then you would find your flight pretty unbearable as you sat there squished up against the seat in front of you for lack of room.
This is the single-most area that Ryanair has improved in my opinion – with their newly arranged seating plan allowing for twice the amount of leg-room (at the very least), allowing you to extend your legs freely throughout your flight.
This is something that the other budget airlines simply don’t offer their passengers, a feat that I believe Ryanair should receive more credit for.
Flying can be a stressful experience for passengers, even if they are flying first class in the fanciest airline in the world, simply because they don’t like flying. For these people, the quality of service from check-in desk through to the arrivals lounge can be the difference between enjoying a flight or despising it.
When I arrive at check in I am greeted not by a stern looking, overworked check-in assistant, but someone who looks fresh in their job, who carefully asks me the security questions that we have come to expect.
On the flight itself, the crew are well-trained problem-solvers (and well-dressed in their smart new attire) and offer service with a smile. They are a nice bunch to be around who can even share a joke with passengers where appropriate.
It’s obvious that the company has become more aware of its clientele, as its attitude to children and younger families seems to have improved massively. I sat opposite a young family with two children who must have been under the age of four. The cabin crew performed exceptionally well at making the flight as easy and as fun as possible for them.
It’s common knowledge that you don’t go flying for the pinnacle experience in haute cuisine. Due to the debilitating restricts of aviation cuisine, it’s simply not possible to serve Michelin star food at 36,000 feet.
That said, food still needs to be reasonably edible, otherwise what’s the point?
Ryanair has worked extensively on its food offering, whilst retaining its fair prices. A lasagne with a hot drink and a packet of crisps costs a very reasonable 10 euros, and comes piping hot and with lots of flavour, all served of course with a smile from the flight attendant. And let’s not forget cake, (my favourite part of any meal) a divine tea-time treat beautifully packaged in an elegant box – an absolute triumph.
In the mid-nineties, Ryanair hit the headlines with its adverts selling £1 flights to destinations in Europe. Admittedly, the cost of flying Ryanair has risen over the last five years, but considering the improvements that the company has made, the costs are insignificant. And besides, Ryanair is still the cheapest airline operating in Europe by far.
For example – you can currently fly between the super trendy Copenhagen and London Luton with Ryanair for a fantastic £8. That’s not exactly breaking the bank, is it!
Whilst I’d heard about the numerous changes concerning how the company operates, flying with Ryanair certainly exceeded my expectations. In a market where flight prices seem only to be getting more unreasonably expensive, Ryanair seem intent on offering excellent prices as well as focussing on passenger satisfaction. All in all, the new Ryanair gives you miles more bang for your buck!