The Stanstead Serengeti: the Problem with Ryanair

This item arose my interest, along with a few couple hundred thousand people.

A family was forced to pay €300 (€60 per person)  because they had neglected to print their boarding passes (they had them on their cell phones as .pdf, which most carriers find sufficient). Most people find this excessive, but a few comments apparently sided with Ryanair's view that the family had agreed to the terms and conditions, which clearly stated that they would be charged that amount if they filed to show up with the printout.

Coincidentally enough, Ryanair was the subject of the first, and i believe last, case study I ever wrote, back for my first undergraduate course ever (sometime in fall 2002). At the time I thought it was actually rather clever to disassemble what was effectively a bundled good (seat+luggage+refreshments+white glove treatment) so that people could decide what to pay for. If I'm travelling with no stowed luggage, why should I be subsidizing my neighbor's suitcase?

Since then I have flown with them exactly twice. If I had any choice it would have been exactly once, but unfortunately I had to do it again due to lack of other options.

In principle I find their idea laudable: create a customer base which shows up with the right papers and the right luggage etc, that already knows what is expected and smoothly boards a flight. The problem is that whatever training program they put their staff through appears to have run into similar ground as The Stanford Prison Experiment, and their incentive scheme has bred a cadre of staff which looks upon the line of tourists in much the same way as a pride of lions observes a passing herd of wildebeest.

Their prying eyes analyze each face for any sign of weakness. Who is most likely to have a few ounces of excess weight on their carry-on? That guy with the cast on his arm, might we squeeze a charge for an extra ticket out of him? Both times I flew with them I kicked into a frenzied state of near-paranoia and miraculously managed to run the gauntlet with no monetary losses, but my nerves were frazzled by the experience.

If all Ryanair wanted to do was avoid the hassle of having to print 200 boarding passes fo each flight (let's say 5 seconds for each, 1000 seconds, or a good quarter hour), a -say 10 euro charge would have served the purpose admirably and would have generated a lot less ill-will and bad publicity.

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