Ryanair removes the airport check-in desk

By now I’m sure everyone has heard of Ryanair, the cheeky European low cost carrier. Their insanely low fares have turned them into the third largest airline in Europe.

Of course, in order to offer low fares, you need to cut a few corners. You won’t find any free pretzels on Ryanair. In fact, pretty much anything service related is either non existent, or requires an additional fee.

Their latest cost saving measure is to completely remove all airport check-in desks. That’s right – the familiar desk at the airport where a smiling airline employee would get you checked in and on your way to the gate is being replaced by the Internet.

Ryanair now expects all their passengers to check-in using the web. Of course, this would not be a huge issue if anyone could use the service, but non-EU passengers on Ryanair are unable to do a web checkin. This means that anyone without a European passport will be forced to use (and pay for) the single baggage drop desk at each Ryanair location.

We’ve finally reached a point where a super cheap ticket starts to look less and less interesting. What good is a $20 ticket when the cost of checking in at the airport and taking 2 bags with you can add an extra $80? I’ve long joked that we’ll eventually see an airline charge for using the bathroom, but now I’m convinced that we’ll actually see that happen some time this year.

(Via: The Telegraph)

Another Low-Cost Carrier Fails

Low-cost-carrier LTE ceased to operate today because of its financial predicament. The Spanish carrier stopped booking flights on Thursday, but some would-be holidaymakers were left with luggage in hand, waiting to get from rainy England to the sunny Canaries. LTE specialized in such routes and worked closely with several English tour operators.

LTE was not a newcomer to the LCC game. It has been operating for 20 years and, though its executives claim that they are trying to find a solution to their financial woes, the current state of the industry isn’t going to lend itself to any quick recoveries. Thomas Cooke Airlines, a charter service based in Manchester, is among the players stepping in to service LTE’s passengers and the tour operators that relied on the now defunct airline in the past. With European LCCs coming and going (mostly going, these days), one can almost hear Elton John crooning “The Circle of Life.” when all is said and done, the biggest beast, Ryanair and EasyJet, might be the only survivors.

Could Budget Airlines Unite?

A recent post on Ben Mutsabaugh’s Today in the Sky blog focused on statements made by Frontier Airlines CEO Sean Menke. Menke told a Denver newspaper: “I have been very vocal about (low-cost carriers) having to be aligned through some form or fashion…and not necessarily through mergers.” That’s not a surprising statement from a Frontier exec because of his airline’s buddy-buddy relationship with fellow budget carrier AirTran. The two help each other with ticketing, destinations served and promotions.

But the current economy and gas prices may make Frontier’s approach to the budget game a model for other LCCs. While some airlines, like Southwest, have the clout to challenge the big boys on their own, most carriers are finding their low-cost business model in jeapordy. Alliances could help when it comes to ticket sales and frequent flier programs, but also with the costs of using airports. A band of small carriers could agree to make a LCC hub at all major airports, sharing gates, ticketing counters, even employees. Helping each other a little could keep them all in the game longer.