A week ago, we had the most frustrating and stress inducing experience after a lovely morning and lunch in Lewes. Ryanair recommended on their website that we be there two hours before the flight. Since I had already paid for assigned seats, priority boarding and all our luggage that was being checked in when I followed the check-in instructions on-line that morning, we thought it would be a breeze and walked into Stansted airport very relaxed with our bags to join the line of passengers waiting to check in their bags and get boarding passes.
About 30-40 minutes later, we make it to the front of the line, only to be told that the check-in process I had used that morning did not work, despite the fact that I had pre-paid and selected assigned seats, paid for pre-boarding and paid for our checked bags.
Since we were now doing the check-in, supposedly, at the airport, there was a $65 fee for each passenger to check in at the airport. The person telling us this information said she could not process the payment and to head over to the customer service line.
The customer service line was very long, as there were many people in the same predicament and some upset customers. Other passengers were also standing in line as they had not paid in advance to check their baggage. Let’s just say that a lot of people standing in line lost their flights. Is this Ryanair’s way of boosting their income?
Eventually, after our repeatedly expressing concern that we were going to miss the flight, one of the only helpful staff indicated that he would get us to the front of the line about 55 minutes before our flight. He indicated that as long as the bags are checked forty minutes before the flight, we would definitely make the flight. We pay the extra $130 and then hand our bags in, with just minutes to spare of the 40 minute deadline and make a beeline for security.
Turns out, since this is a holiday weekend (this is a Sunday and the holiday is on the Monday), they are short staffed and there are literally thousands of us being herded into un-managed lines with no support staff anywhere nearby until you get to the actual security pass through. I watch as the time for our boarding passes in absolute frustration. Eventually, with about 15 minutes to go before our flight leaves, we make it through security. My carry on bag is pulled aside, but John is clear to go, so he runs to the gate, which is far away while I wait for my bag to be checked and re-scanned. I run like a lunatic, red faced and puffing through the airport racing towards the gate, as John has called me and told me the last passengers have just boarded and they are waiting for me to arrive.
As I get in sight of John, I hear him asking them please to wait as he can see me and I am right there. They ignore him and I see them going onto the plane, leaving John and myself behind. They then take another ten minutes to remove our luggage from the hold. Why not just let us onto the flight?
We then spent the next few hours and I don’t know, as I am not adding it up, how many dollars, waiting for our luggage to show up, standing back in that same long service line with a lot of very upset passengers again, who have all lost their flights. I get to the front desk eventually, where in all this time that we have been in the line, now and before, they have had only one or two people addressing the issues. I am told that I can get a refund for the airport check in if I write a letter to Ryanair, but our airline tickets and the $100 or so we spent earlier in the day checking us in, supposedly, online, is not refundable.
We had to spend another night in London, find an alternative flight for the next day, lost our hotel booking in Sicily, had to change our car rental and the list goes on….. Not to mention the stress level this induced!
The next morning, we arrived at the Alitalia desk, where for pretty much the same price when you take into account the baggage and other fees, we had a very lovely and relaxed flight to Palermo via Milan. We were treated courteously and efficiently. Again, the computer system had a glitch and I could not check in on-line, but this time, they figured it out and created our boarding passes. We made it through security on a timely basis and had time for a lovely breakfast before boarding. We were not herded like cattle through security. There was plenty of leg room on the flights.
Buying supposedly “cheap” tickets with Ryanair is a false economy and a very unpleasant experience in travel. Buyer, be warned!