In today’s Irish Times, a letter-writer displays an attitude toward Ryanair characteristic of many, if not the majority, of people living in Ireland who might have the time and the inclination to write a letter to the Irish Times:‘It may be the airline that Donald Clarke loves to hate but I, for one, am very grateful to Ryanair for breaking the old cosy cartel of airlines that ripped us off for years and to Mr O’Leary who has created a competitive environment that has lowered air fares across Europe. – Yours, etc,’ Michael O’Leary and Ryanair have a certain totemic importance in Ireland, as the expression of a pro-privatisation, anti-worker, anti-regulation, anti-trade union, anti-politics, anti-politician, and anti-PC animus, in celebration of a hyper-Thatcherite populism that sees itself as anti-establishment. This is not so much the case in other places.
There was a recent first-hand account published in Público of an emergency landing of a Ryanair flight at Barajas Airport in Madrid. Titled ‘Ryanair made me think of death’ the author wrote that ‘people were scandalised, frightened and angry with a company that has given no explanation. Though we all wished to make a complaint, it is only possible to do so by sending an e-mail to the Ryanair headquarters in Dublin.’ When placed on another flight to the original destination in the Canary Islands, the flight, according to the author, had ‘none of the perfumes, magazines, snacks, and all the range of products that Ryanair tries to sell its passengers throughout the flight. This time there was silence.’
What follows is a translation of a piece published in Público by David Torres, 11th September.
Perhaps, while I’m writing this, dozens of Ryanair passengers are vomiting, bleeding from the ears or suffering panic attacks at 15,000 feet. We can be assured there are hundreds of unsuspecting people who, while you’re reading this, have just deciphered the small print in the contract and discovered that should the return flight fall through for any reason, they have to arrange return via their own means: a fun proposal altogether if with one’s family and a load of suitcases at an airport counter in, say, Cairo. There is not the slightest doubt, though, that right now, there are thousands of people who have got back alive from a flight with the happy Irish company and do not know whether to give thanks to God or curse him. [In the original, literally, ‘defecate on all his dead relatives’. If you can find a suitable idiomatic translation, I’m all ears – R]
It is also highly likely that many of those reading this have travelled with Ryanair and nothing bad has ever happened to them. They may have found its way of transporting airborne livestock to be quick, cheap and effective, and may have even won one of those free flights to Berlin in one of those noisy raffles with which the company enlivens its odysseys. They may believe that one can fly to London and back for 30 euro (more or less the same price as the average taxi journey from the centre of Madrid to Barajas Airport) without wiping one’s exhaust pipe with the most elementary security norms. It may well be that they have flown on Ryanair without suffering abuse, without getting ripped off at boarding time, without having to pay a revolutionary tax for an extra kilo in one’s luggage, without seeing how two handymen fixed up a broken window with insulating tape or without getting infested with lice mid-flight.
There will also be captains, pilots, mechanics and flight attendants who are delighted to work for a company of slave drivers where people work twice as much as elsewhere and get paid half. To say nothing of those sad village airports where not a soul will fly to but that Ryanair keeps open and operational thanks to a couple of weekly landings that are not necessarily emergency ones and millions in subsidies from local authorities.
Each person talks about the dance depending on how it goes for them, it is true. So why pay attention to bad press. I have also met plenty of little old men, besides Mayor Oreja [Jaime, Partido Popular grandee – R], who speak wonders about Franco’s regime because they say that nothing bad ever happened to them during the dictatorship. All that stuff about torture in the prisons, children stolen from incubators, dead bodies in mass graves, the police that beat the crap out of whomever they felt like, bah, fairy tales. If one stayed nice and quiet in one’s seat, like with Ryanair, nothing bad happened to you. The captain thanks you for your trust.