Monday, July 27, 2009

Lyin' Air

Some time between when I moved to NZ at the arse end of 2000 and when I came back in the summer of 2005, something went wrong with travel within the UK.

Before I left, there was good competition between the airlines, good prices, lots of flights, etc. It was also possible to pick up decent prices on train fares, too, making them another good option. Since I came back, I've been consistently appalled at some of the prices I've had to pay, especially on the trains. It's shockingly expensive, but apart from punctuality, which has generally improved, the actual journey has become much less pleasant.

Virgin Pendolino trains are the worst offenders. They seem to take their lead from airlines in terms of depriving folks of leg-room. I wouldn't be surprised if we start hearing tales of deep-vein thrombosis affecting regular long-distance rail travellers. And they are wont to induce travel sickness with their lurching around from side to side thing. And don't even talk about luggage space. Well, there's very little to talk about - it bearly exists. And for all this nastiness, they charge a king's ransom.

The previous healthy competition that existed between the budget airlines seems to have disappeared, and at the same time, the service from those airlines has become even more shit that it was before. But way out in front in terms of the barefaced, unashamed misleading information about prices and everything else, is RyanAir. Or as I call them these days, LyinAir.

They advertise flights for "£1". Except, that doesn't include the substantial taxes, which are not optional, and should therefore be reflected in the price. Nor does the advertised fare include any baggage fees. And since all checked in bags must be paid for at a rate of £20 per 15Kg, it's not exactly chicken-feed. The in-flight food is overpriced and not great.

Bizarrely, there is also a "check-in fee" that is not included in the fare. If you do on-line check-in, it's usually a little cheaper than if you do it in person at the check-in desk. Either way, you have to pay. Checking in is not an optional extra, and so any charges associated with checking in should be included in the fare. Failure to include that cost in the fare is blatantly dishonest.

Thing is, I already knew about all of that, after previous very unpleasant experiences. Today revealed another shocker. I thought I was getting a decent price for some flights to Scotland. Then at the last minute, the website slaps on a "card handling fee" of £10 per person! With one exception (Visa Electron), this fee applies. If it were a genuine card handling fee, it would be a flat payment rather than a per-person payment. It's just another blatant bit of thievery.

But now, because RyanAir and EasyJet managed, pretty much, to squeeze the other operators out of business, they can get away with just about anything. There are few, if any, alternatives. I hate having to use them, but there are times when I have no choice. But I am not a happy customer.

No comments: