R is for RYANAIR
No – this isn’t a diatribe against staff conditions, or customer relations, or a certain chief executive’s massive bonus. Its not even about the baggage policy which nobody I know has mastered to anyone’s advantage bar the airline itself!
No indeed – this is a positive story about the impact of a budget airline on the population of a small island nation (so please don’t pull out your carbon footprint calculator for this one!!)
By the late 70’s /early 80’s, we Irish were beginning to spread our wings for reasons other than emigration – we were beginning to discover the universe! Package tours dominated the scene of course, particularly to Spain. But destinations like Greece were opening up – warm, exotic and cheap as chips once you arrived….
And therein lay the crux! In order to get there, we first of all had to get off our own beautiful island. We had a national airline and some international carriers were operating out of Dublin and Shannon airports. Honestly though, no one could really afford to fly from here – it wasn’t the ‘done thing’.
So when I headed to Egypt in ’81 and Greece in ’82, there was no question of flying to London to make the connection. Such a flight would have cost me around £200 I’d say – (about €450 today allowing for inflation). No – getting to London meant traveling by boat from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales, taking a train to London, and staying overnight with relatives before heading to the airport (one didn’t really stay in hotels in London now that I think about it!!). Such a trip cost about £40 – £50. The bus from Holyhead to London was worse – but cheaper still! Remember Magic Bus anyone??
Ryanair started up in 1984 and began competing with Aer Lingus and British Airways for the Irish-English routes. Then in 1990, it relaunched itself as a European low budget airline and the rest, as they say, is history!
We were skeptical and mocking at first but once we realised that the planes would stay in the sky, we were off!
For all its faults – and yes, they are many – Ryanair opened up opportunities for us that our parents could never have imagined. We now think nothing of hopping off to European destinations for weekend breaks. We are flying to places unheard of in the 80’s – Krakow, Bergamo, Porto – and we’re over and back to England all the time.
It works both ways of course and has made us accessible too, bring tourists and immigrants from all over Europe to our shores.
And what of my boat/bus ticket for £39 in 1982? In July 2019, I flew to London with Ryanair for €44 return!