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I recently read a story about Ryanair, where the low-cost airline left a plane full of half-term holidaymakers stranded on the wrong Canary Island. The plane was diverted due to weather conditions, and forced to disembark on a neighbouring island over 100 kilometres from their intended destination. Stranded passengers were then forced to make their own way from Lanzarote to Fuerteventura, with no compensation offered by the budget Irish carrier. Passengers were left feeling confused, upset, disappointed and broke…much like the students of the Department of European Languages here at Lancaster University. This story made me think of how similar the Language Department actually is to Ryanair – the endless cost-cutting, the lack of staff, the dissatisfied customers – the list goes on. Close to 10,000 complaints are made against Ryanair each month, and it would not surprise me if the statistics were similar for DELC.
Sitting in the ‘Ryanair Departure Lounge’, the only sound to be heard is that of the moans and groans of less than amused ‘passengers’ discussing their unacceptable experiences with the ‘airline’. One ‘passenger’ complained of his need to print of his own boarding pass, and how he had to pay £10 for the privilege (just as many students are made to photocopy books at a £10 printing charge). A few ‘passengers’ even told me that ‘Ryanair’ had lost their ‘tickets’ (coursework), and then blamed it on them. A lot of ‘passengers’ had turned up for ‘flights’ (exams) that ‘Ryanair’ did not even know had been scheduled. Another ‘passenger’ told me she had seen Ryanair advertise flights to Disneyland Paris, but when she landed she discovered she was a mere 90 miles away from the Disneyland resort. This is not dissimilar to a student who believed she was set to do her dissertation with the French Department, and ended up with the Sociology Department. The two destinations are not even close. Many ‘passengers’ took up their complaints with Ryanair’s ‘staff’, but the response was monotonous; “this is not my problem, go and see my colleague.”…sound familiar language students?!
Some days you may be lucky and have a pleasant, stress-free flight with Ryanair, but more often that not you will end up disappointed, frustrated and left feeling as though you have been misled, cheated and ripped-off. I don’t mind the odd bad experience with Ryanair, as I understand that low cost equates with a low level of service, but when I am paying premium price (£3000 a year) I feel I should receive the same level of service as my Management School neighbours. You wouldn’t expect to pay to use the toilets on a British Airways flight would you? The nonchalant response from the company’s CEO Michael O’Leary would be sure to spark a strong sense of familiarity with language students…”C’est la vie”!