My principal fear is that it will never be as good as the first time.
True, I never intended to fly Ryanair, the Irish low-cost carrier that has generated more passenger horror stories than perhaps any other airline today barring United. Recent work assignments tethering me to Greece, I had sworn silent allegiance to Aegean Airlines, which is now more or less the official carrier of Greece. Supporting the Greek economy, yadda yadda.
But after flying Ryanair #3565 non-stop from Thessaloniki (SKG) to Copenhagen (CPH), I’m not so sure. After all, mistaking brand loyalty for a virtue is slightly un-capitalistic, no?
Whatever. The slightly complex truth is that both carriers are doing good and interesting things (as opposed to Delta and United who with their crazy Basic Economy tactics are doing really dumb things), meaning the competition that’s been brewing for a while is about to heat up. I knew it the second I saw a Ryanair jet disgorge a full load at Chania airport, of all places. But after all, what had brought me to Thessaloniki in the first place? Why, a lovely Aegean A320 that had swooped in sweet and low over the shimmering Thermaic Gulf from an overheated tarmac down in Heraklion, Crete. Even if there was a ferry around that covered that ground, you wouldn’t want to be on it. The boat from Piraeus to Heraklion alone is a nine-hour ordeal, but I digress.
Aegean has got Greece covered. And yet…
The state of the hobbled Greek economy is such that there is no Greek carrier that connects New York with Athens. #Tragic, right? Like we are supposed to sit back and be tickled that Emirates has stepped up to fill in that yawning gap? Hmm…do they allow Israelis on board their American-built aircraft? How about homosexuals? Oh, as long as they don’t kiss and frighten the children? We’ll wait for the marketing people in Dubai to get back to us on that one…
So Ryanair sweet baby, you pretty much had me at that 46€ one-way. I mean really? Fifty bucks for a fairly long, three-hour flight that was basically the perfect fit for my transatlantic connection on Norwegian, minimizing my wait time in the sleek Scandinavian dungeon that is CPH airport? SOLD! Bear in mind that the lowest fare around the third week in May from Athens to Copenhagen non-stop on Aegean was $121, plus add an additional 30€ for a bag and boom, you’re looking at $150. With that in mind, I sprang for the Priority Leisure+ fare on Ryanair, which included one checked bag plus seat selection and priority boarding–none of which were options on that $121-ish Aegean fare.
And before you know it, because your time is always cruelly up quicker than you think in the Mediterranean (don’t even get me started on Tel Aviv), there I was at SKG, with my boarding pass pre-printed and in hand so as to avoid a frankly insane 50€ airport check-in surcharge and maybe it’s just because people really are nicer in Thessaloniki (what is this, like the Phoenix of the Balkans or something? People smiling at 6AM and stuff? Weird). Suitcase whisked off, easy. One last smack-me Greek coffee, Oh God am I going to miss this place, and off to the gate and there are a ton of people in line and I can barely deal, but hey, for once I don’t fucking have to because with my Priority boarding I sail right past ’em and before I know it I’m on board and plopped down in aisle seat 7C. A pretty Greek lady offers me a mint. Was that ridiculously easy or what? No wonder they call it easyJet!!
Oh wait, this is Ryanair…well who can mind these details when you’re losing your religion/virginity/brand loyalty? Seriously though no matter what you were doing the night before or who you were doing it with, there can be no mistaking the interior of a Ryanair 737-800 for any other airplane. The wet lemon yellow and navy blue color scheme was obviously designed by your mother-in-law the night she swallowed the absinthe “by mistake.” We are talking not subtle. We are talking about the safety cards actually plastered onto the seat backs in front of you and seats that don’t recline.
But hell, we’re also talking seats with thicker cushions for your weary ass than comparable ones on easyJet or Aegean. Not quite JetBlue caliber but hey, this is not America (oh wait, isn’t America the place that gave us this single-ply tissue of an airline?) and frankly these seats are not that bad at all. Dammit, I’m not unhappy!
The flight attendants? Young and pretty and professional. The coffee? Should you want some, it’s by Lavazza. For a small charge but hey, Italian coffee on an Irish plane from Greece to Denmark? Fuck yeah, I’m in. And liking it. Not liking the fragrance trolley that’s being shuttled up and down the aisle with all the calculated abandon of a Rachel Maddow monologue, but hey everybody’s got to sell. Doesn’t mean ya gotta buy.
Although, with the fifty or so bucks I saved over competing fares in my pocket, I just might have.
The author paid $101 for his ticket on Ryanair from SKG to CPH in May.