Anybody who has ever flown with a budget airline has most likely experienced the difficulty and frustration that comes as part of the journey. From the pre-flight online check-in to until the moment the plane takes flight it can be one annoyance after another. Waiting for hours in the departure lounge for the gate call only to hear the line “Now we just need half an hour to load the baggage. Apologies for the inconvenience”. Passengers already hanging off their seats, standing to attention, waiting on that promised boarding announcement.
It’s six-thirty in the morning but you’ve been up since three. All this to go to the Costa del Sol; flying can often feel like a lot of effort, especially for shorter flights. Then again, others passengers have been flying out since half past one in the morning, so who are you to complain?
Many of us have done it. Chosen to forgo the priority boarding, additional hold luggage and extra legroom seats to get an astoundingly cheap deal from budget airlines such and Ryanair, the scruffy underdog of world airlines, which against all odds miraculously still exists and, up until recently at least, thrives.
But that might be about to change. Within the past week, it was announced that Ryanair would cancel up to fifty of their flights per day for the next six weeks, leaving the holidays of thousands of people in jeopardy, and leaving many more stranded abroad. Later, Ryanair released a statement revealing that a major miscalculation involving pilot holidays is the cause of the massive upheaval. Perhaps to some, this news will have been unsurprising. To the pilots, however, it was reportedly enough to threaten company-wide strikes.
On Ryanair’s official website, they state that passengers with cancelled flights can either receive a full refund of their trip, or change their cancelled flight free of charge to a later date. This compensation, however, does not detract from the anxiety caused by this sudden derailing of many families’ holiday plans. Young couples with children, for example, that have to be back at school after their trip, won’t reap the benefits of Ryanair’s consolatory efforts.
Ryanair have also explicitly stated that they will not be reimbursing customers for hotels and excursions they will miss due to the cancellations. While they claim that customers will not be alienated by this decision due to their highly competitive pricing, this attitude has been labelled arrogant by angry customers and disapproving competitors. The question this leaves us with is, is budget air travel worth the uncertainty?
As students with a limited cashflow, for most of us, budget travel is the only option if we want to explore different countries and cultures. It is also true that students tend to have less permanent commitments at home, or at least much less than those who have entered the world of work. Most of us have no mouths to feed, no children to look after and no house to pay for (although it is true that some students do in fact have all of the above). This is likely the best, and potentially the only, time we’ll going to get to travel to the places we’ve dreamed about with such a considerable amount of free time.
To get a flight from Scotland to almost any EU country for less than 60 pounds is a marvel.
Budget airlines give both students and other money-strapped customers access to travel which would not so long ago have only been available to the wealthy, which is what makes this calamitous episode from Ryanair a bitter pill to swallow.
Image: Josh Green