That Ryanair documentary

Well the much awaited Ryanair documentary on Channel 4′s Dispatches programme in the UK aired last night and contained pretty much what Ryanair had cleverly already told the world it would contain. Smart move.

It was fairly unimpressive stuff – a decent 5 minute news bulletin stretched into a creaky 1 hour documentary after 5 months of covert filming. But it will hurt Ryanair.

Incidentally, Dispatches producer Steve Boulton yesterday suddenly started calling on a recent Flight International opinion piece on low-cost airlines in support of his programme. What we concluded in that piece was: “Now the Irish Aviation Authority should lead the world by commissioning an academic study of the human factors of low-cost operations.” For the record, we don’t share Mr Boulton’s view of Ryanair and our view isn’t based on the lightweight material his programme came up with.

Dispatches didn’t make any safety charges about Ryanair stick, but it did highlight weaknesses in the aviation system that won’t have come as news to anyone who works in it. Although the UK CAA may have told Ryanair it didn’t plan any further action before the programme, I sincerely hope both the CAA and the IAA are planning on visiting the school that trains Ryanair’s flight attendants after seeing the attitudes on display there. What we saw was evidence of a cavalier attitude to examinations and some weirdly inane remarks from an instructor in respect of passenger safety. I’d be having a very firm word in the ears of the individuals concerned.

The other serious issue is the checking of passports at the gate. But as everyone knows the idea is pretty nonsensical. Gate agents are not trained to recognise fake passports and are never going to be. It’s nothing more than a final deterrent to the bad guys – but frankly if they’ve got that far then they’re not likely to be caught at the gate. And it’s a regulatory issue – not a Ryanair one.

The rest of the programme was a hatchet job on Ryanair’s service product, supported by secret filming of staff members being rude about their employers. Well it’s hard to have much affection for Ryanair’s service model – but everyone, including me, flies with them at least occasionally. I don’t look forward to it, but I do look forward to my week in the sun and I like the idea of giving my (fairly) hard-earned cash to Spanish and Irish seafront restaurants rather than the airline. Let’s face it, in the UK you’d have to be a cave-dweller not to know what Ryanair’s product is like – if you don’t like it, don’t buy it.

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