Thursday, 10 April 2008

Ryanairisation of Skyeurope?

Skyeurope is my favorite airline. It is a Bratislava based low cost (although less Bratislava-based than it used to be as it shifted many of its flights to Vienna) and has done miracles for tourism in Bratislava and for economic development in Slovakia.

Once I visited Milan with my UWC classmate Bela. We flew Ryanair one way and I returned on Skyeurope so I was sort of able to compare these two airlines head to head. My conclusion was that I will never fly Ryanair again if I can avoid it.

I prefer paying a little extra for:
- not having to stare on an emergency evacuation chart printed on the back of the seat in front of me,
- being able to recline my seat back that very little bit,
- not having to spend hours in the cabin decked out in aggressive nasty yellow plastic,
- being treated with a little respect and not having to pay absurdly efficient charges for everything like having a check bag.

Skyeurope was better on all of the above counts, with comfy leather seats, friendly staff and a reasonable pricing structure.

I was therefore very disappointed to learn today that Skyeurope is introducing Ryanair-style charges for checked bags. You pay EUR 5 if you register the bag online, EUR 10 through the callcentre and EUR 15 at the airport. Of course this is essentially a price hike in a world where you can't really travel with a carry on since it is not allowed to take your shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

I know Skyeurope has had to work hard to turn a profit and a lot has changed but this seems to me like it's the spirit of Skyeurope changing. Perhaps I am old fashioned or spoiled but I hope there are more of us who mind and the move will not make sense economically in the longer run.


lidija said...

That's standard fare for low-cost US airlines as of some time ago. I think more people do efficient carry-ons now to avoid these charges. But what you're saying is sort of like saying don't charge me for the food on the plane, it used to be free. That's all a thing of the past. Maybe air travel will once again become expensive and accessible to the (financial) elite only (like in the 1950's for example) and these so-called low-cost airlines just can't hack it much longer.

Andrej said...

I don't think this is about making air travel more accessible. I read somewhere (can't find link now, think it was an opinion on frequent traveller board) how airlines do not really practice customer service but crowd control.

It's not the fact they charge, it's how they go about it. To me this is little but a sneaky way to raise the cost of flying without raising the headline price.

The poorer fliers here are mostly younger people - this is raises ticket prices for everyone but weekend breakers.

On a separate but related note, Harford (FT columnist) wrote that when a tour operator does a kids travel along free deal an economist sees the firm effectively raising prices on childless couples with more discretionary budget :)

lidija said...

I hear they're now charging $$ here (US) to get a window seat. I thought you'd like that. And extra charges if you call the phone to book the ticket as opposed to use the web (but that's old).

Andrej said...

Lidija, somehow the window charge is more acceptable to me. Objectively a window seat is better than the middle seat and charging for it may actually be a good mechanism for allocating it to those who care the most (personally I strongly prefer aisle, because I dont have to bother anyone to go to the lavatory).

A window seat is a luxury on any airline economy class. But travelling with luggage is pretty much a necessity (unless you are travelling for a very short time and don't need a toothpaste).