Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Laura Perrins: Hands off our cheap flights


Anne Perkins has her knickers in a knot over Ryanair. They are devilish, she implies, or at least Michael O’Leary is. And who, might I ask, disagrees with her on this? Certainly not Satan’s right-hand man O’Leary himself.

Ryanair has had to cancel more than 2,000 flights, inconveniencing 300,000 passengers, because of a screw-up over rotas, O’Leary announced at the AGM in Dublin.

Perkins declares: ‘O’Leary and his business are the dark side of Europe’s psyche: in a kind of medieval morality tale, we love what they do even as we acknowledge the dislikable way in which they do it.’

Do you get that? It is your fault your flight was cancelled. You, with your desire for cheap flights and affordable family holidays. Why can’t you just be happy with Bournemouth like it was in the good old days when only the proper people could fly?

Well, not everyone has a country house in France they can get the Eurostar to, unlike a large chunk of the Guardian office. I am just guessing here – I could be wrong – but I sense I am right. So we get on Ryanair planes at 4am wearing flip-flops and shorts and looking very pasty-white indeed. I’m not going to apologise for the flip-flops and I am not going to apologise for the cheap flight either.

It is indeed a medieval morality tale. It is exactly the same if we overlook the fact that there were no planes in medieval times, O’Leary is not a lord, his pilots are not serfs, and no one is coerced to work for them and no one has to fly for them. If we ignore all these differences it is indeed exactly the same as medieval feudal exploitation.

Again, Perkins declares (one imagines her upon a plinth): ‘This is the monstrous offspring in the marriage between deregulation and consumerism.’ You betcha! Although there still is a fair bit of regulation from the EU, but again let’s just ignore that.

Of course consumers love cheaper flights – I remember the tales of yore about how much it cost to fly back to the Emerald Isle on the State subsidised and run carrier – Aer Lingus. It was not pretty, which was why so few expats even living in England got back home more than once a year. Oh, those days of yore . . .

So no, things were not better in the golden days of State airlines, and people do love nipping around Europe on Ryanair. If Ryanair gets punished in the market for this incompetence then so be it. Remember if it was a State entity it would be the taxpayer picking up the tab for this incompetence, not the company and its shareholders.

(Postscript: For the record, I never fly Ryanair. They are beneath me (I am at one with the Guardian on this). But it is good enough for my parents, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.)

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