Flying with wings clipped

For various reasons I’ve been doing a lot of flying recently and my journeys have spanned the economy cabins of some major airlines and the bargain basement budget carriers.

Let me compare two recent visits to the Netherlands. The first to Rotterdam involved a choice between British Airways and KLM. Times and prices were similar so I opted for BA (probably reflecting the power of their Avios mileage scheme – although the attractiveness of that is about to be severely watered down for economy passengers). I waited in an OK lounge at Heathrow, walked down a heated ‘tube’ to the aircraft and the plane was only a few minutes late (and again on the way back). On the way back I had to walk to the plane across the tarmac but that’s a function of Rotterdam airport. I had a snack in both directions and some magazines to read – if I wanted.

The second trip was to Eindhoven and the only direct option is Ryanair from Stansted. I purchased ‘priority boarding’ which meant I was first in the queue to board but that mostly meant I stood longer on the tarmac while the plane was being cleaned. It was cold and wet but that didn’t stop us being marched to planeside and kept in the open for some time. Stansted has functioning boarding tubes (though not Eindhoven) but – I’m guessing – Ryanair declines to use those on cost grounds. The flight was early in both directions but of course – without extra payment – there was nothing to eat and no magazines.

Both flights were of roughly similar duration but of course the big difference was price. The BA flights cost just over £100 return, the Ryanair ones just £35 return (yes, less than the 20 minute taxi ride I had to take to my meeting from airport). So you pay your money and take your choice (when there is one, of course). You can travel with some measure of civilised standards and be late or, for a third of the price, face some unnecessarily crude handling techniques but be on time.

I know which I prefer of course – who wouldn’t? – but for three times the price? I really think that’s so fundamental that it cannot be ignored in these cash strapped days. These comments do not apply to long haul flights, but in Europe and for up to a couple of hour’s duration I really cannot see any objection to the low cost operators. They are ruthlessly efficient but you can count the difference in your wallet – or balance sheet.

So, and I never thought I‘d say this, Viva Ryanair!

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