Over the last 5 years or so I have been quite grateful for Ryanair as their cheap flights have made it possible for me to do things like meeting with Paolo which I could not imagine would have happened in the 1990's.
But I am finding them an increasingly unpleasant business to deal with as they find new ways of chiseling money out me. The latest is around check-in.
A few months ago I flew to Trieste and, as I had done the previous time, I selected internet check-in. I travel light and using internet check-in meant I could leave for the airport some 90 minutes later which given my journey involves the M4, M25, and M11, is quite a boon.
But I was unable to book the flight. It told me that I couldn't use internet check-in. I phoned Ryanair and they told me this was due to a change in policy at Stansted airport. Stansted they said was unhappy with the number of people in the airport who hadn't checked-in at a desk.
This was very annoying but I went along with it. However when I got to Stansted I had some time on my hands so I persued the matter with the BAA airport staff. They flat out denied Ryanair's claim and pointed at the all of the online check-in terminals waiting for such passengers.
Who do I believe?
Today I am having the same problem. I want to fly to Treviso but, again, it won't let me select internet check-in. I wanted to call Ryanair to follow-up since I now had Stansted telling me the "we don't want internet check-in" line was a load of hogwash. I wanted to know what the reason could be.
But now I can't even talk to RyanAir. Dialling their 10p a minute line I had to listen to 2 minutes of waffle before I could select "1" for internet support. Only to get more waffle that told me I would have to redial another number that cost £1 per minute!
I wonder how much money they are making from this? Every caller (and their line was engaged for some time, probably with people busily listening to the same long recorded message) is paying them at least 20p. How many go on to pay at least a further ££ on the other number?
I have a feeling this is a pretty shabby way of squeezing cash out of customers that doesn't appear on the ticket price.
When I went back to the bookings page I noticed that the cost of checking in one bag at the airport is now £18 and it even costs me £6 to check-in without any bags.
Again, none of this price is on their ticket price.
So they list an internet check-in option which is free which means they can claim the lower ticket price. But then I see no way to obtain that price.
I think this is, at best, a deceptive practice.
I'm still going to fly with Ryanair this time but I am feeling somewhat aggrieved about this and will definitely look at other options in the future.
I should point out that it's not, per se, the money that's the problem here. If they wanted to charge for internet check-in I could live with that. It's the perception that barriers are put in my way that stop me getting the service I want in order to get that money. That's what I suspect and am hostile to.
And I'm not the only one who has complaints about Ryanair online check-in procedures.
Okay I have an answer.
I called Stansted airport again and they re-affirmed that there is no issue with online check-in. I phoned Ryanair again and took a bookings option and asked there.
The girl I spoke to said that the reason was because online check-in was not offered at the Italian airport. This I knew, I've always had to check-in normally at Trieste. Howevertheir system changed in September 2007 so that where before you could book it and just check-in normally now it would refuse the booking.
The answer is to make two bookings instead of one and the person I spoke to from Ryanair last year was... well I'm not sure what he was. He was certainly insisting that Stansted had changed the rules so he was either wildly misinformed or just didn't care.
Now that there is a rational explanation for things I am less aggrieved and am just left thinking the Ryanair make it so much harder for themselves, and for me, than it need be.
So I retract my point about it being deceptive. But the point about them chiseling stands and I guess the rest can be put down to incompetence and poor customer service instead.