Image by aromano via FlickrI have only used Ryanair once, to fly to and from Stansted and I found it fine..
I was, it is true, travelling light and I had been able to book my ticket in advance, so the whole thing was delightfully cheap.
The staff were great at both ends of the journey too, despite finding some mysterious metal somewhere in one leg which makes me wonder if it is possible to inherit shrapnel with your genes.
I travelled from Poitiers, which is a bit off my regular beat, but it fitted with other plans, and, having enjoyed the experience I was thus dismayed to see in the local rag that there are threats to the continuance of the service.
Ryanair wants a grant of a million euros, I think, for what is euphemistically called 'marketing' to continue using the airport, the money, as always, to come from the consortium running it, who represent the local authorities. Thus, the money is to come from the public purse, a purse already pretty stretched.
Ryanair doesn't have a good press, so is this just another case of greed on its' part?
Well, the guy running the airport consortium doesn't seem to think so.
According to him, it wasn't Ryanair asking to use Poitiers, it was Poitiers asking Ryanair to provide the service and if they go, he can see no other airline who would want to take it on.
They have about 90,000 passengers a year, mostly British, and he points to the beneficial effect of the British who have settled in the area....houses restored, villages kept alive and commerce thriving on their custom, quite apart from the importance of the airlink in the frequentation of tourist sites and theme parks.
He bewails the fact that La Rochelle is a bit too close for comfort, with its' own plans for extending a service to Oslo, and that local rivalries, as so often in France, (that bit is my comment, not his...he's be off in the tumbril for that) come before regional strategic planning.
He's also suffering from a timing problem as he has just asked for public support for a line to Barcelona....in order to encourage the trickle of Spanish tourists to become a flood like that of the British before them, so the Ryanair demand did not arrive at the best of moments for this poor man.
I have heard the howls from British immigrants when Ryanair decide to chop a route , and the counter howls of the self righteous who actually prefer driving on French motorways and eating at Buffalo Grills, proclaiming the folly of the first group in moving to an area served by a low cost airline. Perhaps the second group contain those who can afford national carriers too.
Especially with the economic gloom, state of the pound,etc., anecdotal evidence suggests more and more British are commuting to work in the U.K., so for those in the Poitiers catchment area, it would be a blow if the service is brought to an end. The prospect of a drive to Limoges or La Rochelle is not particularly inviting.
Local authority is keeping mum for the moment.
However, the guy running the consortium points to an anomaly.
There is a twice daily service between Lyon, Poitiers and La Rochelle which is fully supported by public money as being classed of 'public utility'.
Run by Airliner, there is about 60 per cent capacity on its 42 seater planes, and it gets 1.7 million euros in support money. The effect of this subsidy is to reduce the average price of a ticket from 700 Euros to 400 euros.
The principal users are managers of big firms - he quotes Alstom and Saft - travelling between their various sites, getting an indirect subsidy of 300 euros a time on their tickets.
So, Ryanair wants 1 million for running its 600 flights with 180 seats and Airliner gets 1,7 million for.......you do the maths.
I wonder which group of passengers bring the most economic benefit to the area?