April 29, 2008

… And I'm Taking Ryanair with Me

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I am a narcissist and I mostly use my column as a vehicle for talking about myself under the veil of providing comedic relief to the reader. This week, though, I am feeling generous: I will attempt to impart some useful advice. Today’s content is aimed at all who are planning to spend a term abroad in Europe and intend on traveling internationally during that time. I will use this space to dispel the mythical fabulosity (yeah, I said it) of the storied Ryanair.

Ryanair, “The Inexpensive Airline”
I’m sure you have heard fellow students proclaim how “cheap” and “easy” it is to jet set around Europe. These people are liars. After living in Italy and traveling sporadically during the past four months, I now know that those perpetuators of bullshit have not actually done it. Fairy tales featuring Ryanair as the protagonist hero — often regurgitated in campus dining halls¬ — sound something like “you can fly from Rome to Paris for 5€! It is crazy!”
Well, that is crazy and I will tell you

why. Flights are only superbly inexpensive if you book them three months in advance, you want to leave at 3 AM from some field in Albania and you don’t mind sitting in the cargo hold with gypsies. Even a realistic deal like a 100€ flight will end up costing you double that price after “taxes and fees.” Coupled with the ever-worsening exchange rate of 1.6, that imaginary 5€ flight actually sets you back $320.
Other uncalled-for fees include a charges for checking in and for luggage over 10 kilos. I don’t know about you, but if my luggage isn’t half of my body weight, my wardrobe is seriously lacking. Can you say blatant discrimination against homosexual men? That ain’t right.
Ryanair, “The Convenient Airline”
I traveled to Barcelona from Florence using Ryanair three weeks ago. That statement, though, is misleading; I actually took a bus to Pisa, a flight to outside Barcelona, another bus into the city proper and finally took the metro to the district where my hotel was located. When you factor in arriving early for international flights, the lengthy bus rides and all the delays, I should have avoided the stress by just taking an overnight train and two Ambien.
Ryanair, “The On-Time Airline”
Laughably, they actually use that slogan. My transfer bus ticket was bought ahead of time from Terravision, a company in cahoots with Ryanair. That was a good move because like Ryanair they’ll sell as many tickets as they can, without guaranteeing availability. This wack policy explained the disgruntled, rowdy mob congregated outside the bus before most were allowed on. I almost lost an eye on a JAP’s hair clip when pushing my way to the front (think Lynah Rink for season tickets).
The actual bus ride was fine, it just happened — for no apparent reason — to take an hour longer than scheduled, which induced a widespread panic that we travelers would not be able to check in early enough to board our flights.
As soon as the bus’s wheels stopped moving, passengers literally sprinted into the terminal and darted about like autistic children on sugar highs as they attempted to discern where the hell they needed to be. Some broke into Turret-like cursing episodes when they realized that they were too late.
“Luckily” for me, though, my plane was delayed an hour and a half. I checked in and joined the body of what should have been a line to board, because Ryanair does not assign seats.
(N.B. Italians are against lines and really any form of organization — just look at their current political state.)
Ryanair, “The Classy Airline”
In order to offer reduced rates, Ryanair saves money in a lot of ways: no assigned seats, no in-flight movies, no complimentary drinks or food, no massages with happy endings and no barf bags. I would not have even noticed the last until a middle-aged woman two seats from mine pointed it out to me — and to everyone else on the plane. She did so by projectile vomiting into the aisle, the length of five rows of seats. To be honest, I wasn’t even upset with her — it was just that impressive.
Another way the company saves money is by not paying anyone to clean up the vomit during a flight. An attendant simply covered the spew with 53 paper towels and pretended as though nothing happened. Following protocol, all other attendants feigned ignorance as they continued to roll carts through the sullied aisle the remainder of the flight.
Ryanair “The To-Be-Avoided Airline”
Moral of the story, just as my jaded mother has always said, “you get what you pay for.” And if you use an airline whose website looks as though it is selling cheap calling cards to the People’s Republic of Congo (honestly: Ryanair.com), you will pay more than you originally thought for the same crap experience. Bankrupting your parents while studying abroad is inevitable, you might as well book it first class.

Nathan James is a junior in the College of Human Ecology. He can be contacted at njw25@cornell.edu. I’m Going to Hell appears alternate Tuesdays.