Lindsey German argues that it’s time to stand up to Ryanair and revive an old Irish tradition.
I took a decision several years ago not to fly Ryanair, except in cases of extreme emergency.
So far I haven’t been tempted back. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has always been one of the main reasons for my decision.
The rude, boorish and arrogant face of neo liberalism, O’Leary has always gone out of his way to insult abuse and denigrate his hapless customers.
So it’s no surprise that O’Leary is leading the way in refusing to pay compensation for those of his passengers stuck around Europe by the volcanic ash cloud.
His breach of the EU regulations has been greeted with less than opprobrium by the great and the good.
The other airlines tend to agree with him: the chief executive of the board of airline representatives claimed that this regulation, which allows compensation for delay, ‘was never intended to apply to wholesale shutdown of the airways system’.
While David Cameron excoriates benefit cheats, these air pirates are seen as modern day swashbucklers. Well it’s fair to say that no one predicted this cloud of volcanic ash, but for the airlines to plead poverty and unfair treatment is a bit rich.
Its own assessment expects a profit this year of 275 million Euros. Not exactly wolf at the door time.
Not travelling Ryanair hasn’t been a problem so far. You can go by train or other forms of transport _ or even other airlines if you have to. That means you don’t suffer a combination of:
1. Being refused at check in because you are 30 seconds late and finding yourself having to pay hundreds of pounds to get on the next flight
2. Having to pay for every bag that you check in on top of your fare, which involves going to a separate bureaucratic queue, ditto when your bag weighs heavier than the measly allowance
3. Standing for hours waiting to check in because Ryanair likes to make its passengers wait. Meanwhile those on other airlines are done in 10 minutes
4. Scrambling for a seat because there is no allocation system
5. If you have a disability, having to pay for what should be essential services
6. Being subject to constant consumer pressure once on flight, as you sip your £3 instant coffee and are badgered to buy everything from Ryanair tat to rail cards
7. Wondering if the bumpy landing is just as it is or part of the rapid turnaround time
8. Finding yourself at an airport many miles from your supposed destination and reliant on Ryanair overpriced transport to get you there
All of this is justified by O’Leary on the grounds that he runs a cheap airline. Well maybe if you travel in freezing February at 6 in the morning to an airport like Frankfurt Hahn which is nearly 100 km from its destination. Even Ryanair now advertises Hahn as being near six delightful cities- Frankfurt not being one of them.
Ask anyone -especially in Ireland which is the most dependent on the airline- how much it costs to go home for Xmas or new year, or to go at short notice to a family funeral, and the costs run into hundreds, before you even start on the extras.
Try booking to Spain or Italy in the summer: last time I did it I was £200 worse off. Any comparison with other airlines usually puts Ryanair at a similar if not higher price once everything is taken into account. So what’s not to like about refusing their offer to fly?
In fact, we should go further. The word ‘boycott’ comes from a Captain Boycott who collected exorbitant rents for an absentee aristocratic landlord in county Mayo.
He refused to cut the rents and evicted those who couldn’t pay. In 1880 the Irish Land league organised his social ostracism, refusing to have anything to do with him. Even his post wasn’t delivered.
By the end of the year Boycott had left for England and his name was immortalised in the language. Isn’t it time to revive this good old Irish tradition and give O’Leary the treatment he deserves?
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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