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19 Feb 2019

Ryanair launches frequent flyer scheme: But at £199 a year, is it worth it?

Budget carrier announces changes to compensation, name change charges and new scheme to cover seat selection and priority boarding
Ryanair flight refunds

Ryanair has launched a new frequent flyer scheme in a bid to spark loyalty from budget travellers.

The low-cost carrier promises that flyers will be able to choose their seats, and use fast-track security and priority boarding for £199 a year, rather than paying for the add-ons each time they fly.

The scheme was announced alongside customer care 'improvements' tackling compensation wait times and name change charges.

Ryanair came bottom in the annual Which? Travel survey of airlines, with passengers ranking it worst for boarding, seat comfort, food and drink, and cabin environment.

See our annual survey to comparethe best and worst airlines.

How frequently do you need to fly?

The new scheme called Ryanair Choice will allow passengers to add standard seats, priority boarding and airport fast track, where available, for £199 a year. But is it worth it?

By using a one-way flight from Stansted to Malta in March as an example, you'd have to fork out £24 for a standard seat, priority boarding and airport fast track, when we checked. Under the new scheme, on this route, travellers would need to fly nine times before seeing any savings.

Compensation decisions

The airline hasnow announced it will now handle delayed compensation claims resulting from EU261 within 10 days.

Ryanair previously used airline resolution dispute handler Aviation ADR to deal with complaints. In the first quarter of 2018, Aviation ADR received more than 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair. In the same period just 282 passengers were awarded compensation and 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, meaning thousands were still waiting for a decision.

Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland said: u201cThe EU261 announcement is welcome if it proves accurate, but as we have reported on before, Ryanair regularly flouts the rules on EU261. There is little point them making a decision in 10 days, if the decision is regularly and wrongly against the consumer.u201d

And the airline doesn't always pay compensation when it should. In December, the Civil Aviation Authority began enforcement action against Ryanair over its refusal to compensate passengers whose flights were disrupted by strikes last summer.

Name changes and cancellations

Among other changes, Ryanair said it will double the period after booking, during which passengers can make a free name change if, for example, they notice an error in the spelling of their name. The window has extended to 48 hours up from 24 hours.

However, the fee to make changes after this period remains at £115 per passenger per flight, rising to £160 if done at the airport.

The changes still don't allow passengers to cancel flights for free within 24 hours, as is the case with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Online chat service

From June, the airline will extend the hours of its online customer support service to 24 hours a day, which it says will connect passengers in just two minutes. Currently the airline's LiveChat online service is available from 6am to 9pm weekdays, 8am to 6pm on Saturdays and 9am to 6pm on Sundays.

Additionally, Ryanair has announced that passengers who find a cheaper fare within three hours of booking will get the difference plus £5.

The airline also said if its punctuality falls below 90% of its target figures, it will offer 5% off the following month's fares. It is unclear what the 90% figure is based on as the Civil Aviation Authority's punctuality statistics show that Ryanair's on time arrival rate fell to 68% in 2018.