No one who travels on a budget airline expects a pleasant experience.
The major players in the cheap flight industry have discovered that their customers’ tolerance for discomfort, squalor and rudeness is near infinite.
Michael O’Leary’s Ryanair appeared to have found one limit to travellers’ patience when it simply cancelled hundreds of flights and stranded its passengers recently.
But even that doesn’t seem to have dented appetites for the Ryanair experience.
Writing in the Guardian, Patrick Collinson says “Most consumer boycotts last as long as birds in a jet engine.”
He quotes “aviation experts and City analysts” as saying “Even if those 400,000 (furious fliers who have vowed never to use Ryanair again) don’t come back, it won’t knock them out.”
Collinson’s source says he still expected Ryanair to continue its phenomenal rate of growth, adding 30 planes a year, which was “like creating several new airlines for anyone else.”
At the right price, it seems people would probably sit ankle deep in raw sewage on a broken seat surrounded by half a dozen stag parties before seriously considering travelling by car next time.
If there appears to be so little pressure on carriers to relieve the squalor, then, how come Norwegian Air provide such an agreeable trip?
Online reviews of Norwegian’s performance focus almost entirely on their transatlantic efforts, but within Europe, news that “The flight you will be travelling on is operated by Norwegian” is like hearing you’ve been upgraded to first.
These are just some of the reasons:
- New, clean planes. They are bright and airy. They do something uplifting with their lighting. They don’t feel as though they are made of moulded plastic and that they are disinfected rather than cleaned. There are no clues as to the previous passenger’s snacking preferences.
- Pleasant seats. They are firm and closer in design to office furniture than the awful foam and fibre that god knows who has been farting into for the last ten years.
- Humane legroom. It really doesn’t take much to make the difference between comfortable and really annoying.
- They don’t kettle you at the airport. All that speedy boarding bullshit, getting people squashed up at the gate with threats of imminent gate closure long before the inbound flight has even arrived, starving passengers of information – somehow the Norwegian experience feels a lot less sweaty and aggressive.
- Efficient check-in. You print your own boarding cards and luggage tags at the airport (Gatwick, at least) with the minimum of effort. Of course, it’s no inconvenience to print boarding cards at home either, but this way there’s no threat of obscene “printing fees” if you somehow turn up without the appropriate paperwork.
- Good crew. Not that the crew on other airlines aren’t, but they often look knackered, and you too often hear them wearily muttering “I’m just doing my job” as they implement the latest price gouge.
- They don’t try and sell you scratch cards.
Even if it means vacationing in pricy old Norway, Saint Peacock will be choosing its next holiday by airline.
If you wish to contact Hector Riviera, the Saint Peacock travel and aviation correspondent, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org