Monday, 17 September 2012

Sit back, relax and enjoy the torture!

Thanks to

“Where are we going on holiday?”
“I don’t know. Let’s see where Michael O’Leary wants us to go.”

Such is the power of Ryanair that when the Snapper and I planned our first holiday for two and half years, we knew that we’d be going somewhere that the airline flies to from either Knock or Shannon.

At this stage of things I’m pretty familiar with the Ryanair website. I know how to jump through its hoops, finding all the new places where a box has to be checked, a drop-down menu has to be obeyed, and am aware that if we want to check bags and take priority boarding, we can add around €100 to the advertised fare.

O’Leary is the catalyst of a massive success in social engineering. We all do as we’re told. We fly from Ryanair airport to Ryanair airport. Terminals are filled with passengers pulling little 10kg bags, which don’t have to be checked in, because if everyone checked in bags Ryanair’s planes couldn’t be turned around in 25 minutes. If they take longer than that, the company starts to lose money.

It’s all about speed, which is why passengers are herded onto flights in such a way that your colyoomist finds it difficult to resist the temptation to start going “Mmmooo-ooo!” and “Baaa-baaa-baaa!” as we’re moved along.

From the days when the journey to a foreign destination was something to look forward to, flying is now the opposite of exotic.

To be fair to Ryanair, they do what they say they will. They get you there on time, a task admittedly much facilitated by timetables that allow at least an extra half an hour on the actual flying time.

As a grown-up, I’d really like to believe I have some control over my own behaviour, but for some reason flying Ryanair drives me demented. I know that their website will be testing, so I play by O’Leary’s laws until I want something different, and then choose to pay him handsomely to do it my way. All fine and fluffy enough, but every time I slump down in my seat on the plane, I try and fail to contain my ire.

I know the flight is only an hour or two out of my life. I know that the cabin crew are just doing their job; that it’s not their fault. I know what’s going to happen and know that I am capable of being a strong person.

But as soon as the attendant comes over the tannoy and tells us to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight, every muscle in my body goes tense, including the ones that seem to crush my brainbox. It’s ridiculous, I know, especially as I am well versed in the ways of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I’ve meditated, been mindful and spent a wedgy chunk of my life trying to improve my infantile reactions to known stimuli.

This is my known stimulus: ‘Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.’

Maybe if they didn’t say that, I’d manage better. Maybe if they said “Sit back and prepare to be bombarded by an incessant series of sales pitches delivered with no enthusiasm by an exhausted and overworked crew who have to pile through this entire damned list five times a day, at ear-screeching volume levels, in a variety of completely unintelligible accents!” I might be able to handle it just a little better.

Instead they tell me to relax and then tell me that onboard today we have cold drinks, hot drinks, pizza, other hot food items, sandwiches and model planes. We are also privy to the exclusive sale of wondrous contaminants like Jade Goody Toilet Water and Essence de Beckham. If we want to help the Children of Syria then Ryanair’s partners, the Untied Nations’ Unesco will gladly take contributions for the kiddies. 

Then they try to sell us telephone call cards, scratch cards, cigarettes that have no tobacco and little sachets filled with gin and vodka, by which time I want to grab the entire box of whiskey sachets (whiskey sachets? Yuk!) off the trolley and gorge on them until I rise again, reinvented as a mad dribbling laughing crazily Soldier of Fortune bent on revenge.

If I know all this is going to happen why do I get so upset? Well, here we come upon another great aspect of the Ryanair phenomenon. Just before I start to get too down on myself for reacting so pathetically to someone simply trying to flog me a train ticket for the Stansted Express at the same time as they try to sell me Hertz Car Rental, I find I’m not alone.

In one way or another, Ryanair manage to drive everyone crazy. Some cannot stand O’Leary himself, but I have no beef with the man. He is no hypocrite, brazenly representing 21st century corporate culture in all its single-mindedness. Others are driven insane by the website, but as I said, I’m over that. Others go bananas over the online check-in, or the credit card charges, or the weight restrictions.

The last time I flew Ryanair we passengers had been sent to board the plane, only to find ourselves jammed up against a locked door at the end of the corridor. A security guard the other side explained that we shouldn't have been sent there yet, as the plane wasn’t ready.

All classes of Ryanair life were in that human wedge. Hand Baggage Only's rubbed shoulders with Luggage Checkers and Priority Boarders. One bloke had even paid to reserve his own seat.

Yet together we grumbled and gave out, and as my ears filled with the collective dissenting voices of all these others, I started to feel less worried about my own Ryanair neuroses.
Ryanair, like death, is the great leveller. 

We all use it and even though we dislike it for a variety of different reasons, within our common bond of loathing we are building a happy and burgeoning sense of community!

1 comment:

Charlie Adley said...

Online colyoomista Paz is now reading the colyoom in the newspaper, but he sent this email, so I'm dropping it here:

Amazing how as a nation we turned into sheep, we dont complain. Its something that drives me crazy, even something as simple as terrible service people accept it. Good that you point this stuff out, great that I can read you on the Tribune again.
Nice to read more than the sports and find who was in court this week, keep up the good work

to which I replied:

Thing is, we do all complain to each other but not to anybody who might be able to change things. And it's not only us Irish and English - our German hosts on our holiday in Portugal had just returned from Morocco, flying Ryanair from Faro to Marrakech

Have to say though, the flights both ways were bang on time!

Thanks for your online support over the years and for your feedback!