Ryanair Officially Tries to Be Nicer

In this day and age of social media, it’s getting harder and harder for airlines to get away with bad behavior. Lose someone’s luggage? You’ll hear about it within minutes of them landing. Serve a bad meal? Expect that to go viral on Instagram. If your customer service isn’t spot-on, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

But one airline has consistently refused to bow to customer requests. Ryanair is known for the kind of service that elicits complaints. In fact there are entire websites dedicated to documenting how much people are frustrated with what happens aboard Ryanair planes. But despite complaints, Ryanair has managed to find its way to the top of Europe’s airlines. Those baggage fees may seem ridiculous, but the airline is profitable for a reason.

Now with the European economy going downhill however, CEO Michael O’Leary knows that the airline can’t risk to lose passengers, and he is working on making the airline, well, nicer.The man known for proposals like onboard pay toilets (you’re only flying for two hours, you should be able to hold it) is now suggesting that his airline has to transform its brand; just offering crazy low fares isn’t enough.

On the heels of last month’s news that the airline forced a man to pay nearly $260 when he had to change his flight from Dublin to Birmingham because his entire family had died in a fire, Ryanair is now turning on the charm. According to The New York Times, that includes reducing oversized baggage and boarding card reissue fees as well as allowing a small carry-on no larger than 35 x 20 x 20 centimeters to be carried aboard flights from Dec. 1 onwards. Oh, and there will be “quiet” flights, meaning that people flying before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. will avoid the loud in-flight announcements.

It’s all in the hopes that people keep choosing Ryanair wherever they fly in Europe.
“As some of these policy changes will require website changes and handling staff retraining, we will be rolling them out over the next few months as we strive to further improve Europe’s number one customer service airline,” customer service director Caroline Green said.

Will it work? Only the travel social media sphere will be able to tell us.

World’s First Remote Control Tourists Explore Melbourne, Australia

Imagine if you could taste-test of a city before taking the plunge and buying your airline ticket. You could watch a performance, grab a cup of coffee or visit a market in the destination –- all from the comfort of your home. Well that’s the idea behind a tourism campaign that’s aiming to lure visitors to the Australian state of Victoria. The state’s tourism board has chosen four people who they’ve dubbed “Remote Control Tourists” because you and I can tell them exactly what we’d like them to do -– and they’ll go out and do it.The four tourists are outfitted with cameras and microphones mounted to a helmet, and all the footage captured is streamed live online. The two male and two female tourists have been exploring the Victorian capital, Melbourne, based on viewer requests sent via social media. So far, they’ve visited popular tourist attractions such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Federation Square, but they’ve also taken part in activities like busking and hugging random strangers, following the wishes of audience members.

The campaign is designed to encourage young, tech-savvy travelers to visit Melbourne, which is known for its hip restaurants and shops and its vibrant culture. The remote controlled tourists have already acted upon thousands of tweets and messages and will continue to do so until the campaign ends on Sunday.

Airbnb Produces Short Film Made Out Of 6-Second Vines

Think a 6-second video isn’t long enough to tell a story? How about 600 seconds?

Airbnb produced an impressive short film with their Hollywood & Vines project. Screenwriter Ben York Jones, known for the prize-winning film “Like Crazy” about a long-distance romance, came up with the simple concept of the journey of a piece of paper (lots of paper airplanes are involved). After the storyline was set, directions were sent over Twitter, and submissions were made entirely using 6-second Vine videos. More than 750 submissions were received, with 100 making the final cut, from Kansas to Kuwait.

Does Connectivity Ruin the Way We Travel?

Why do we travel?

Is it to learn? Is it to see new things? Is it to eat something different? Is it to get out of our comfort zone?

For most people, it’s a little of all of the above. Travel is that thing that we do because we’re intrigued by the things that are different from our everyday. Be it in a small-town diner in the state next door or in a treehouse hostel in the rainforest of a country on the other side of the world, we travel because it opens our eyes. Travel is far from mundane.

Over the years, travel has changed. We no longer spend weeks on a boat to get to Europe, we no longer put stickers on our leather suitcases and we rarely even take the time to send a postcard (there’s an app for that, which can do it for you). The modern world has changed not only how we travel — airplanes, high speed trains, online bookings — but how we relate our travel to those around us. Gone are the days of handwritten letters with foreign stamps. Nowadays you’re just an Instagram snap away from sharing your adventures with the world.

But are we better for it?

Instead of sitting and enjoying the meal, soaking in the sights and smells and recounting them in a letter or in our journal later in the evening when we have a minute to put pen to paper, we can take a picture. Hell, we can take 10, just in case the first 9 didn’t turn out. We can document, share and engage 24 hours a day. As long as there’s an internet connection, we can email, we can iMessage, we can chat. Parents can get daily updates from their 20-something backpacking through Southeast Asia and significant others can FaceTime so as not to get too bummed during a seven-day trip apart.

We’re connected like never before. But while we’re connected to the outside world, we’re disconnected from the present.CNN Senior Travel Producer James Durston recently mused on his own addiction to travel photography, positing that in our frantic efforts to capture a moment, we miss the actual moment entirely.

I was diving in Thailand, when a whale shark emerged from the gloom. I snapped away at the beast with my underwater apparatus for the few minutes of air I had left, then returned topside to high-five and celebrate this potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience. As I scrolled through the 100-odd pictures I had, I realized: they were all I had. My memories are framed by the 2×2-inch blurry screen of my camera. Not once did I look up to see the fish with my own eyes.

The same can be said for planning. The Internet is a wonderful thing, and it’s hard to imagine the days before we could book online, find a good deal and piece together an itinerary of cool spots that we have culled together from tips from all of our favorite travel blogs. And yet do all of these planning tools stop us from the potential for serendipity? When was the last time you arrived in a village with no place to stay, no map and didn’t check your smartphone for a recommendation? 1991? We’ve managed to completely eliminate the sense of wonder that travel is all about in the first place.

Tools should be tools, not crutches that keep us from asking questions, making body gestures when we don’t speak the language and venturing down an unknown path, physically and metaphorically. If we’re to travel well, we have to dare a little.

​Pack your bags. Don’t compile and Excel sheet of information. Go on your gut instinct. Don’t send an email home everyday. Let your travels take they where they take you. Fall into the experience and embrace it for what it is, not what you think it should be, or what you’d like to curate it to be with a certain photo filter.

Travel for travel’s sake and enjoy the ride.

Got A Complaint About An Airline? Buy a Promoted Tweet.

Social media, in particular Twitter, has completely changed how airlines do customer service. Whereas once you would have to type an official complaint letter and send it to corporate headquarters, or give call the customer service hotline, nowadays you can simply post your feelings to the wide world of the internet, in the hopes that the company will pay attention. But while applications like Twitter may have been effective early on when fewer people were using them, today the platforms are saturated, and to be heard, you have to make some noise. Which is exactly what British Airways passenger Hasan Syed did.

In response to his father’s lost luggage, Syed (who uses the Twitter handle @HSVN) did more than just tweet his frustration, he purchased a promoted tweet in the New York and UK markets on Monday night, hoping that it would catch the attention of the airline. The tweet was simple, yet inflammatory: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”What followed was an explanation of the lack of customer service in regards to his father’s lost luggage, as well as complaining about the lack in response time. Because of the promoted status, in the first six hours, the tweet itself got 25,000 impressions, but that of course excludes the coverage that the story got thanks to the news and blog world. As of this writing, British Airways has yet to respond to the tweet.

But while some may commend Syed for being an empowered citizen, it does beg some questions: In the day and age of social media, do we expect too quick of a turnaround for customer service? While big airlines certainly have many people employed around the clock to deal with customer service complaints, how efficiently can they really do so? Are we empowered travelers who can expect better customer service, or are we just making more noise?

Even if British Airways does end up responding, what change, if any, will it make internally for the company? There are likely just as many people with good customer service experiences with a certain airline as with a bad one, and although one negative complaint can be the “tweet heard round the world” it may not make any difference.

Ultimately, the only way to get better customer service is to demand it, and social media is yet another channel that allows us to do so. Will Syed’s promoted tweet work? That remains to be seen.