Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pirates of the sky

Ref: Ryanair Reservation XXXXXX

Mr Leary,

I genuinely prayed I would never have to write another letter to you, but sadly you have left me no choice. This is not a metaphor – you literally have given me no choice as I can’t locate a phone number or e-mail address (which I am sure contravenes trading standards policy…?). But let’s not get bogged down with such trivial matters when there is so much left to discuss with reference to my flight from East Midlands to Dublin on Wednesday 10th March 2013.

Let me begin, as with most tales of woe, at the beginning. My fiancée and I booked to fly one way to Dublin for the weekend. This would be an opportunity for her to visit a new city and catch up with my family before our upcoming nuptials and the flights were so cheap that we almost didn’t mind flying with Ryanair…despite it being at 06:30am.

Due to the early start we were forced to take a taxi, and while this was in every way our choice, it began a notable theme of the day which was to waste money - the amount of which I will now begin to tally (£30). We arrived at the airport in good time, just before 05:00am and given the large queues and my own apprehensions about waiting times, decided to ‘treat ourselves’ and bypass the other travellers by purchasing a Express pass each for boarding (£6).

Security, though frustrating went without a hitch and seeing that our flight had not been allocated a gate number we decided to relax with a coffee, a hot chocolate and a croissant (£5). You will observe from the attached receipt that the time of this was 05:46. We sat in the café with an eye on the LED screen above our heads and before long the screen indicated that our flight would be leaving through gate 3. Travelling to Ireland some 10 plus times per year I am familiar with the process which follows and to we patiently waited for the ‘proceed to gate’ notice to appear. Such a notice did not appear at 0615 our flight listing changed to ‘Final call’. While we were confused and frustrated by this notice we did not procrastinate and immediately began the short 60 second journey from Café Lavazza to gate 3.

On arrival at the gate I was surprised not to see a queue, or indeed any staff for that matter. When I did manage to speak to someone I was informed to my horror that flight had already boarded and was awaiting departure. Fortunately the plane was still in full view and given a ‘final boarding’ call had appeared not two minutes previously there was still time left to board. At this point we realised that we were not alone and another passenger was having a similar ordeal and tried to engage their dialogue. We were both to wait, which we did patiently 30 metres from the Boing 737 jet on the runway. A few more minutes passed but then the sense of relief I had gained combusted as door to the plane door closed.

I approached the staff member enquiring as to what was going on. She responded curtly telling me ‘the plane is ready for take-off’ as if I didn’t know how a plane worked. ‘And…’ I replied ‘does that mean we can’t board’? Sensing my frustration she replied defensively ‘the captain has done his final count and the door is shut, sir’. I failed to see the relevance of this point and enquired why they didn’t just open the door? ‘You can’t just open the door, sir’ she replied to which I retorted that I imagined that you probably could. At this point the stock responses and deflection and was told I was too late and that they close the gate 20 minutes before the flight is due to leave. I reminded the young lady that I was in fact there 20 minutes prior to the flight time, and had in fact been in the airport for over an hour and a half at this point.

You see Mr Leary; there is no conceivable way that I would wilfully book a plane ticket and travel to the airport simply to miss it. I might as well set my money on fire. Thus I believe that I am not at fault, but rather your airline and that the processes which indicate flight departure were either not followed this morning or done so in a sufficient way. The upshot of not being ‘allowed’ to fly was that my girlfriend and I have had to book other flights with you at a cost of £110 per person (£220). This process would perhaps not have been so awful were it not for the staff members on the Ryanair desk who, to put it bluntly, did not give a shit. They were rude, disinterested and unhelpful which given the events which brought us there took every fibre of my being to remain my composure – which I did.

The reasons for our journey, through arbitrary still hold relevance. You see, I could have been travelling for an interview, a wedding or even a funeral but this did not matter to your staff member who remained indignant and callous to the point of robotic. The intended purpose of our journey was to attend a premier in Dublin, thus the next scheduled flight from East Midlands was too late meaning we had to travel to Birminhgam airport involving a Skylink bus to Leicester (£12) followed by a coach to Birmingham (£24). It is on the coach to Birmingham that I write to you, the time is 9:56 and I have already spend close to £300 on a journey which initially was supposed to cost only £33.99. Writing is difficult, not because of the motion of the coach or the stench of the chemical toilet, but because of the sheer rage which is pulsing through my bones. I accept some human error, perhaps in the future I will never veer to far from the departure gate but it is not so much the missed flight which frustrates me today, as much as the sheer apathetic indifference offered by Ryanair staff. Today, before 7:00 am I had been deceived, oppressed and robbed by your airline and for all these reasons I expect to be refunded (as a minimum) for the costs of our ‘replacement’ flights which total £212 (there as an additional fee for the use of my credit card). Any payment method is fine.

Whether this letter gets lost amongst the myriad of other complaints is at present irrelevant to me as I will have satisfaction. I have already emailed the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Watchdog and a number of bloggers with the details of my farcical morning and will continue to write to you until I receive a response which I deem satisfactory. Before I sign off I wish to reiterate the pertinent issues so that they can be clearly understood; I do not book flights to miss them. My partner and I were at the airport in plenty of time and, despite the fact you are not a ‘contact’ airline, there was no alert that the plane was boarding and you did not allow anytime following your final call. This, I would suggest, is not acceptable in large buildings such as airports.

You Ryanair, you are the pirates of the sky.


Tiernan Welch

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