Ryanair controversy reveals both internal and external problems

Ryanair is renowned for dominating the budget airline market in the UK, but its reputation is by no means gleaming. In 2013, Which? magazine famously conducted a consumer survey on customer service, asking participants to rate companies on the staff’s attitude, ability and knowledge. This left Ryanair in last place within a table of 100 firms, scoring an average of 2 stars (out of 5) in these categories, and an overall rating of 54%. By contrast, British Airways and Thomson scored 75% ratings, suggesting the divisions between these airlines run deeper than just their price-points.

In recent weeks, accusations against the airline have heated up, as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has criticised Ryanair for

‘persistently misleading passengers’

through amassing a backlog of delays and cancelled flights. The CAA argued that Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary had displayed a strikingly blasé attitude to customer care, incorrectly informing passengers that Ryanair is not obligated to arrange new flights on their behalf or redirect them to alternative flights with other companies. This was the result of a string of cancellations that affected around 400,000 people, as the airline announced that it would be forced to cancel up to 50 flights per day until 31st October because of a scheduling mistake. The CAA has urged Ryanair to correct its series of misinformation and mistakes, and has invited the airline to discuss the issues at hand before legal action is taken.


On top of customer grievances, a Ryanair flight attendant anonymously revealed the working conditions that many employees are subjected to, telling the Irish Times about their experiences. The attendant alleged that cabin crew are only paid for ‘flying time’, thus making ground preparation an unpaid, yet involuntary task. What’s more, they were given unachievable in-flight sales targets, of which failure could come at the cost of a base airport transferal that staff would be expected to fund themselves. This was also linked to competition between staff for sales, encouraging infighting and hostility within the crew. The anonymous employee concluded their piece on a revolutionary note, referring to a ‘manifesto’ of demands compiled by around 3000 cabin crew over social media. They warn of impending strike-type action, where the protestors will collectively ‘call in sick’.

Ryanair responded to both sets of complaints in a rather unconcerned manner, maintaining that it creates a positive atmosphere for its employees, and outlining confidently that there will be no further winter cancellations due to the initial risk eliminated by the first batch. These incidents come at a time where the status of budget companies is in question, with the likes of Monarch collapsing into administration and Uber losing its license in London after accusations of malpractice. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the type of rapid growth these low-cost firms strive for leads to an unstable and seemingly untenable type of practice, both for paying customers and employees alike.

Grace Ennis

Image: [Secret Flying]