Back from holiday. I’ve been sceptical of the whole value of the ‘brand conversation’ movement for a while now, and if my recent holiday taught me anything, it’s that brands are about the harsh (or sundappled) reality of the brand experience…
Is there such a thing as a toxic brand? Ryanair seems to embody the modern fuck-you brand: it is supposed to deliver low prices etcetera etcetera, yet it does so in a way that frequently alienates and enrages the end customer. I don’t suppose Ryanair does qualitative research (ya think?), but if I were to do word association on the brand, the first thing that comes up is dread. Fear of being caught out, being late, having too much stuff, doing something that invokes their legendary customer service response.
We spent quite a time in our last couple of days worrying about Ryanair’s luggage policies. We travelled out on Easyjet: 20 kg per person, pooled allowances. Three bags (for 4 people) weighing around 65 kilos. Ryanair thinks differently: 15 kg allowance, 1 bag per person, no pooled allowances in a family group, and a charge of £15 per additional kilo.
We’re ever so clever, though. We saw that one coming, bought another cheap bag and dumped all the heavy stuff. It’s quite tricky to weigh your bags when you’re on holiday, but we reckoned it was all fine, and when I saw people ahead of us at check-in being asked to pay extra, I felt quite smug. As seasoned budget travellers, we’d worked around that particular difficulty well in advance.
We marched up to the counter clutching the bit of paper with our booking reference details.
To cut a long story short, we had overlooked the bit where you are (now) supposed to print out your own boarding card, and when we beamingly showed up, Ryanair wanted £40 per person to print out a boarding card for us. Forty. Pounds. Each.
Of course, we should have realised. We were already manically repacking everything, in fear of all Ryanair’s other policies: this one, for whatever reason, slid right by. My husband raged and negotiated. We got on.
The flight was OK, unless you count the hardest landing I’ve experienced in years. At the end of the day, it got us between the places we wanted to fly from, at a price that started off as budget.
Will we fly with them again? Hmmm. For my husband, it’s the absolute last straw, coming upon his earlier experience of being stranded overnight at an obscure airport in Belgium.
I already had low expectations, what with the cumulative hassle of all those separate invisible chargeable details (for baggage, for payment, for checking in) plus all the stupid queuing. The boarding card charge, though: that’s a move from mocking your customer’s low-cost expectations to actively humiliating them. Hard to find a way back from that.