Ryanair – The people’s carrier

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altYou need to be a certain age to appreciate how Ryanair, which was featured recently on Panorama, has transformed British air travel – and why many middle-age people believe Ryanair is one of the great commercial successes of recent times.

Back in the late 1970s, you faced a Hobson’s Choice if you wished to visit Poland – or indeed anywhere else behind the Iron Curtain. I can recall a standard £250 (late 1970 prices) return flight price being quoted from BA if you wished to fly to Warsaw - anywhere else, including Krakow, was off the menu.

Despite Panorama’s focus on its ancillary costs, the reality remain that Ryanair’s prices, especially for mid-week flights to its less popular European destinations, defy belief. Of course, Ryanair does levy additional costs to the basic airfare. Some of these are outside its control, notably the Government’s APD (Air Passenger Duty) charges. Others can be readily avoided, notably the cost of transporting luggage in the hold. Is there really a need for a suitcase in the hold for a stay of a few days’ duration?

Ryanair has unquestionably changed Europe’s transport patterns. Flights to Eastern Europe, and to Western Europe, can often be bought at silly prices – a scenario from which millions have benefited. Of course, you do not receive the high quality on-board service that might be offered by other far more expensive airlines. But Ryanair’s punctuality record remains impressive.

There are many Ryanair obsessives, including this writer, who can only rejoice at the derisory airfares that Ryanair offers - often below £1 and well below the cost of a one-stop 300 metre tube ticket between Green Park and Piccadilly - to far-flung European destinations at off-peak times.

Against that background - and assuming the maintenance of top-class safety standards - is any substantive complaint against Ryanair really valid?