Last week a couple of friends and I went to Berlin for a short break on the cheap. Unfortunately for us our tight budgets and last minute booking meant we had to fly with Ryanair, in the past this hasn't been much of a problem but we were unprepared for the blatant and relentless money-squeezing which awaited us.
Ryanair claims it's the fastest expanding airline in Europe. The Irish airline expects to turn over 275 million Euros this year. Passenger numbers have increased by 14% and all the extras, such as on-board shopping and extra baggage charges have added up to a 6% rise in profit. Ryan air calls these extras 'ancillaries'.
Our flight departed from Stanstead at the rather ungodly hour of 6.45am, meaning our alarms had gone off at 2.30am that morning. Needless to say we were somewhat zombified and were looking forward to crashing out on the plane. Before we had even fastened our seat belts an announcement on the Tannoy went out, telling us that it was now time to think about what we wanted to drink. The sound effects of tinkling ice cubes and fizzing bubbles promised that this drink was to be the most refreshing we would ever experience, and at £3 for a bottle of water and £4.50 for a small can of beer, probably one of the most expensive.
Half an hour later and we were in the air. We were handed a promotions menu from the Ryan Air cafe which advertised 'huge savings!' such as a cup of instant coffee and a chocolate bar for £4 and a beer and peanuts for £5.50. What bargains! Air stewardesses, traditionally employed as helpful, caring folk whose main priority used to be your safety and comfort, have been morphed by Ryanair into soulless sales reps whose main aim is to shift as many of these 'ancillaries' as possible. They paraded down the isles at regular intervals, selling the Independent for £1, hot snacks, Ryanair souvenirs (because Lord knows, you want to remember this experience) tickets for the Stanstead Express, perfume, alcohol, Ryanair scratch cards and even smokeless cigarettes of all things. Each of these marches was accompanied by an introductory speech by the sales team (stewards) and another loud announcement on the Tannoy as they worked their way down the isles.
We were lucky to grab even ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep before yet another marketplace announcement rudely awakened us. I would like to know how much money they made during this 90 minute dawn flight. Anyone in need of a gin at this hour should really be visiting rehab rather than Germany and if you can't last even an hour without reaching for those smokeless cigarettes then it's time to start reassessing your habits. Considering we could barely even think straight, shopping was the last thing on our minds and Ryanair should really adjust the amount of 'shove it in your face' advertising depending on the time of day the flight is. They have really gone too far in recent months and in doing so have shot themselves in the foot. I took great pleasure in purposely not parting with an extra penny during my flight and will now happily pay another £50 to have a peaceful and stress-free flight with BA where the coffee is free and the stewards are helpful.
Don't even get me started on the hand luggage police or the prospect of paying for an on-board pee.