Ryanair passenger wins support of 357,000 Facebook users after €300 charges

Facebook anger over Ryanair fees as passenger gets huge supportUPDATE: There seems an almost inexhaustible supply of people wanting to share their unhappiness with Ryanair. The number of Facebook likes now stands at more than 387,000 and comments at 19,475.

TUESDAY - Ryanair is a brand that barely exists in social media, but it is one that is possibly one of the most talked about. Certainly in the UK and Ireland.

The story of a woman who was charged €300 by Ryanair for printing six boarding passes, and won the support of more than 357,000 users after she posted on Facebook in just five days, is a prime example of that.

But what of Rynair’s response in social channels? Absolutely nothing, not a peep, it chooses not to engage and acts like an analogue rather than a digital brand. It begs the question is Ryanair a socially toxic (but successful) brand?

Suzy McLeod from Newbury, Berkshire, posted on what she probably thought was the budget airline’s page (it has 171,000 likes and has official pictures) after being charged €60 a piece for each boarding pass.

But with a strapline that reads “Ryanair is an airline with a great sense of humour! If you have none it is your own problem, not ours – ; ) ” it is pretty clear that it is not a real page. Or else it was setup and quietly forgotten about.

Real or fake it really doesn’t matter. This story has made a massive splash. The noise in social channels has spilled right across the media with reports in many newspapers and websites.

McLeod simply asked Facebook users to “like” her comment if they thought it was unfair and they did in their tens of thousands.

This is what McLeod posted on Facebook:

“When flying from Alicante to Bristol yesterday, I had previously checked in on-line but because I hadn’t printed out the Boarding Passes, Ryanair charged me €60 per person!!! Meaning I had to pay €300 for them to print out a piece of paper! Please ‘like’ if you think that’s unfair… : – ( “

The unprecedented number of Facebook likes was accompanied by more than 18,000 comments most of which were supportive — although there are the odd few pointing out that the airline does warn about its charges.

However, there appears to be no response from Ryanair, which appears largely to avoid social media or engaging with customers where ever it can.

Ryanair does warn passengers to print their own boarding passes if they are checking in online, but it is the size of the bill for printing six sheets of paper that has shocked many.

The airline is famous for its charges and in addition to the €60 fee for issuing boarding passes passengers are charged a €6 per person per flight “admin fee” and a €6 “web check-in fee”. Add to this the cost of checking in a single bag, which can cost between €15 and €50, and the budget airline looks increasingly less budget.

The only response from Ryanair has been a statement in which it reminds passengers that: “As clearly outlined in the terms and conditions passengers agree to before a Ryanair booking can be completed, and in emails sent to the passenger before travel, passengers must check-in online and print their boarding card before travel as failure to do so will result in a boarding card re-issue penalty.”

The amazing thing about the story is that Ryanair is one of those brands whose reputation can seemingly withstand a social media assault like this. It just brazens it out and sticks to its T&C despite the almost certainty that stories like this will encourage many to switch, where they can, airline brands.

It doesn’t listen and it really doesn’t appear to care.

It would be so simple for it to respond and wave the charges, but because it levies such unreasonable charges in the first place that seems like an unlikely outcome.

On its website it is probably one of the world’s few western airlines not to have any social media presence listed.

It is the same on Twitter. Its only official Twitter feed is for press releases and it doesn’t engage. There are no @replies.

As Richard highlights below one of the few times it has engaged with social channels it ended like this, as CNN reported in 2009:

Ryanair attacked “idiot” and “lunatic” bloggers Wednesday after a customer highlighted what he said were flaws in the budget airline’s Web site.

Dublin-based Web developer Jason Roe was booking plane tickets online when he discovered what he thought was a glitch that allowed him to book free Ryanair tickets.

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion,” said the airline’s spokesman Stephen McNamara. “It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again. Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel.”