What Melinda Stevens taught us about traveling

The latest bout between Ryanair and the passenger has reached a crescendo after Melinda Stevens, editor of travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller, used her column to slam the budget airline in

The latest bout between Ryanair and the passenger has reached a crescendo after Melinda Stevens, editor of travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller, used her column to slam the budget airline into a knockout. The luxury publication’s audience is probably lapping it up and many more are nodding their heads with empathy. But, while few of us would dare play with fire and jump to Ryanair’s defence, perhaps this time Ryanair aren’t the “bastards” Stevens claims them to be.

With three kids and a husband in tow, Stevens recalls her traumatic experience when trying to catch a flight from Stansted to Brindisi. Seemingly unprepared for snaking queues, baggage fees and a distinct absence of customer service, the family end up heading home rather than on holiday to Italy. 

Stevens’ editor’s letter in the May issue of the magazine comes across as an amusing read and representative of the more scathing writing many wish to see more of in travel magazines. Twitter has been flooded with support for Stevens’ sentiments and the magazine continues to repost a link to the article with the tagline: “Is the best editor’s letter EVER? We think so.”

However, not everyone is so sure. The article has been picked apart to reveal her pointed criticisms are not entirely justified.

David Whitley on his website, Grumpy Traveller, has identified numerous issues with the letter which seem to shift the blame from Ryanair to Stevens. First, it appears she fails to reach the airport two hours prior to her flight as recommended for all international flights. She even exclaims herself: ‘Crikey, Stansted is a long way away. I always forget that.’  Second, she expresses shock when she discovers “you have to pay extra – on booking your flight – to check in a single piece of luggage.”

No shit Sherlock.

As the editor of a prestigious travel magazine, it beggars belief this sentence is even uttered.  Unless you’ve been on a different planet for the last decade, there is no excuse for such an oversight. Whitley’s article highlights just how unfair her attack on Ryanair appears when you wade through the anger and derisive comments.

Ryanair’s Robin Kiely released a response to the editor’s letter: “Ms Stevens’ article relating to her Ryanair flight, almost two years ago (on 28th May 2011) contained a number of inaccuracies. Ms Stevens’ party arrived at the airport at 5.30am for a 6.40am flight – 30 minutes before the bag drop desk closed – and had not pre-booked any checked-in luggage. Ms Stevens’ party missed their flight as they failed to arrive at the airport bag drop desk at least two-hours prior to their scheduled flight time to complete their pre-departure formalities, as recommended to all passengers on the website.”

Yet, what is most scathing is the language used in the article against Ryanair employees. Observations which at first may appear mildly amusing, “she looks at me, a bare-boiled-egg of a girl” and “man-child-spot-boy,” soon become simply rude:  “the infant-idiot-spoon-husk-baked-bean-child” and “the cabbage-patch-rotten-micro-peanut-squit.” The article becomes more than just an attack on Ryanair and transgresses into the unleashing of a long-festering anger (two years to be precise) on individuals.

But isn’t that something we all do when we’re in the wrong—get angry and just blame someone else? And in this case, Ryanair was the easiest and most convenient target.

In a country of free speech, Stevens’ is as entitled as everyone to have a good old rant, but blaming Ryanair for something that does not appear to be their fault is entirely out of touch. Countless accusations are thrown at Ryanair, including unhelpful staff and fees which sting passengers from every which way. But people continue to book with them knowing the reputation, conditions and level of service. I would say with budget airlines you get what you pay for, but Stevens’ paid £2000 for the family’s tickets, making this incident even more astonishing. Maybe if you’ve got £2000 knocking around for a holiday, it would be better spent with a better airline?

With budget airlines, if you play by the rules, then no one gets hurt. Everyone knows that, surely?

What do you think of the conflict? Do you (or would you) use budget airlines? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.