If Dante Alighieri was to rewrite his Inferno in a 21st-century context, surely the horrors of budget airline travel would have a central role in describing the hell that must surely await those in the less favourable side of the afterlife.
Forget the never-ending pain of Judas’s perpetual skin-peeling punishment at the hands of Satan, travelling with the evil capitalist machine of Ryanair surely represents the most fitting retribution for those so sinful enough not to do the clever thing and splash that little bit more cash.
The ordeal begins, without fail, with the proximity of those loathsome members of society that one only finds themselves ill-fated enough to meet at such a location as a Ryanair departure gate.
Mothers seem oblivious of their daughter’s screeching clamour, and fathers blissfully ignore their son’s attempts to flash their genitals at fellow passengers.
If the calamity of unruly children and incompetent parents, in addition to arguing couples who probably should have been a little less tight and flown BA for their honeymoon wasn’t enough to highlight your gross error in purchasing such ridiculously cheap flights, to compound the misery there’s Tomaz, a happy, grinning Ryanair employee trying to flog you priority passes in his joyful eastern European accent.
“Last chance for priority boarding!” he shouts, beaming from ear to ear. “Last chance for priority, only £5 or €7!”. What is most frustrating is that one spends 45 minutes at the back of the queue, watching opportune – or just plain rude – people push in ahead of you, trying desperately hard to ignore his incredibly attractive, and financially reasonable offer.
‘I told you to buy the priority boarding online’ whispers the evil voice in my head. Attempting to subvert this glaringly obvious cock-up, I realise I have been reduced to a pathetic self-denier by Michael O’Leary’s commercial empire and his grinning messenger boy.
When those intelligent priority few have made their journey onto the aeroplane, the mad scramble begins. It’s as if the concept of free-seating makes some people fear that perhaps there aren’t enough to go around. For others, it is altogether too taxing, and their search for an assigned seat code on their boarding pass merits scorn, not pity.
A vampire beast from Albania or somewhere equally unfortunate, resembling an overweight cheeky girl, physically manhandles me past the seat I had eyed up.
“You cannot sit here,” she barks, exposing two fang-like teeth. “Why, who is it for?” “Not you.” I am enjoying this. “The Queen?” “Yes” she replies, without even the tiniest slither of irony. “Oh”. “Yes”. She turns. Our romantic tete-a-tete is over. At least until I get lost on some dark Transylvanian night.
My blood-sucking friend is not the only one. All the staff, ironically dressed in the joyful sunshine yellow and brilliant blue livery of the airline, seem to be sporting the almost-dead do-I-give-a-shit look. Perhaps the mandatory company breakfast is freshly squeezed lemon juice. In your eye.
Forget the never-ending pain of Judas’ perpetual skin-peeling punishment, travelling with Ryanair surely represents the most fitting retribution for sinners
As two Italian women squabble over a space in the laughably small baggage lockers, I remark to another sour-faced hostess that it’s like a school trip but with real grown-ups. “Tell me about it,” she says with a hint of a smile. I am lifted by her human-like emotion.
The aeroplane thankfully takes off in one piece. Strangely, this annoys me to a certain degree. It would move the experience from utterly deplorable to vaguely humorous, but no – it seems their pilots are actually capable.
But what of their in-flight entertainment? Well, the living House of Horrors that populate the cabin are good for a ten minute gander, but quickly become rather nauseous to look at.
There is, however, a special offer on my flight for Fortune Cookies – reduced from €3 to €2. Personally, I think you’ve got to have serious depression issues if you want to buy a fortune cookie on an aeroplane, but apparently you could win a Ryanair flight voucher for a free return trip in the future. I think I’d prefer a comforting ‘Things will get better soon’.
What certainly won’t make things better is the Ryanair Hot Breakfast, a bargain at €5, which is apparently ‘As good as homemade’. Perhaps if you live in a Siberian gulag.
Some of you might think me naïve not to have expected such a deplorable experience. Granted – I knew what to expect. But the worst was to come.
Indeed, I had fully expected the typical Ryanair treatment when it came to our arrival airport, and had envisaged being abandoned in some industrial wasteland a mere hours drive from the city I had paid to fly to. I was wrong. Instead, disembarking at an out-of-town terminal for the wrong town defied even conventional budget airline disbelief. The resultant bus trip took longer than the hellish experience that preceded it.
Read Dante. Shiver. Then fly with Ryanair and get a taste of the real thing.