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It’s hard to tell if Ryanair is actually changing their tune, or if this story is an example of Stockholm Syndrome manifesting itself in print.
It’s the gateway to internet hell. You buy something online, enter your card details, then find the order has been duplicated.
What follows is a wretched trawl through the site, trying to find contact details, only to be insulted by drop-down FAQ menus that fail to answer anything; email addresses that go nowhere; and weeks, if not months, trying to get your money back. In my case, the fact that Ryanair had double-debited £98 for the same flight, filled me with horror. Is life long enough to take on Ryanair?
After all, our consumer champions have frequently recorded the weary process some readers have to go through when flight bookings have been mysteriously duplicated or double charged. Given the widespread presumption that Ryanair’s complaints department consists of a wastepaper bin, I expected to be the latest contributor to the likes of “myRyanairHell”, if such a website exists.
But something very odd is happening at Ryanair. The contact details were relatively easy to find. There was a telephone number (albeit charged at 10p a minute). The call waiting queue was just two minutes. I spoke to a human being (in Hungary).
He immediately accepted that an error had occurred and said I would be refunded straight away. Would that be minus some daft administration fee? I inquired. No, of course not. The full amount would go into my account in a matter of hours.
On my last Ryanair flight, I gingerly approached the gate with, I confess, a rather fully stuffed piece of hand luggage, plus another smaller bag.
The smiley attendant waved it through – no problem at all, she said, outlining its new two-bag policy. The flight took off and landed precisely on time.
This week Ryanair, along with easyJet, was roundly condemned by Italian regulators for mis-selling travel insurance. Handing down a fine of €850,000, the regulator noted the cumbersome practice where Ryanair automatically opts customers into its travel insurance, unless they find the “no grazie” option nestling between Malta and Norway in a drop-down list of countries of residence.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has promised to “stop unnecessarily pissing people off” as part of an image revamp. Searching for the “Don’t insure me” button is now about the last pain in the ass customers face when booking flights.
Ryanair is cheap. It has an extraordinary record for being on time. Now I even feel that it’s treating me as a human being when I fly. This is a winning formula – now all it has to do is stop pushing the insurance.
But when even the official car park operator at Gatwick adds a default 95p “cancellation protection” to the bill, you know that the easy profits to be made from junk insurance have become an addiction in the travel industry.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk