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Disclaimer: I am fully aware that I am a victim of severe coddling by US airline top-tier elite status and the subsequent culture of getting almost everything for free. I do take responsibility for my lack of planning before flying “LyinAir,” assuming that I’d be able to “figure it out” on the fly. That turned out to be a costly move and this post is to help others avoid the same mistakes in the future.
Right before Christmas I went to Dublin with some friends for a long weekend trip, which was the same trip that I had the harrowing United seating debacle and subsequent lucky upgrade to business class for my friend. I’ve been to Dublin a number of times and I absolutely love it and even have a great group of friends there, so I knew it would be a fun weekend.
However, I wanted to try something different and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a negative thing about Edinburgh, Scotland (well, maybe about the weather). I looked up flights and we were able to get cheap Aer Lingus flights there and due to scheduling, the best option for coming home was Ryanair, which came to $99 per ticket including all taxes and advanced seating assignments in the bulkhead row. I flew Ryanair in college once from Dublin to Paris (Beauvais airport, which was basically a shack in the middle of the woods) and it was perfectly fine. I know they are known for nickel and diming their passengers, but I wasn’t too concerned about baggage since we each had one compliant small carry-on for our one night trip. So far so good.
Edinburgh was great and we spent Sunday walking around the castle and going to the Scotch Whiskey Experience – skipping out on the hokey tour and instead heading straight for the tasting room. It was pretty cold and slightly rainy, so we ended up having a couple scotches – my favorite being the super smoky Ardbeg Uigeadail. The reason why I am telling you this is to at least give an excuse that my indulgence in Scotch was part of the reason for my negligence in this situation. Anyone who has ever been to Scotland (or drinks Scotch) can surely relate.
We headed back to the Sheraton (great hotel) with about 3 hours left to departure and I tried checking in online for our flight and was told that online check-in closes 4 hours prior to departure.
We headed to the airport and I knew I was going to likely have to pay a fee, but once at the check-in counter, the agent informed us that she couldn’t even check us in and that we’d have to go to the manual ticketing counter and figure it out with them.
A friendly gentleman escorted us and apologized under his breath for the ridiculous policy. Once at the desk the agents informed us it would be an astonishing £60 ($96) per boarding pass to print.
Not only that, she would only accept cash, which we didn’t have and if I was going to get slammed with this huge fee, I at least wanted to get double points for it!
We went to a kiosk and the friendly man helped us get through about 10 different errors before it finally took one of my credit cards. $288 and a half an hour of my life gone and I finally had our three expensive slips of paper, which I notice didn’t have our priority seating assignments. He told us that was normal and that we’d have to wait in line at the gate and ask them to validate the purchase there – and to bring proof of payment just in case.
The gate area was a madhouse, filled with agents lurking and trying to find outside-of-policy carry-on bags. You are allowed one per person and we triple checked the sizes of our bags at the gate and were told all were fine. My friend had a small duffel bag and was pounced upon by two agents for being out of policy. He was able to argue his way out since the sizer did technically fit, but the whole experience was tacky and annoying.
At the gate we told the gate agents we had priority boarding and initially they said we did not. After clicking through for a couple minutes, they finally acquiesced and hand wrote our seating assignments on our boarding passes.
Priority boarding was called and we were brought outside into a waiting “cell” on the tarmac, where we hunkered down in the cold for about 15 minutes as we watched passengers from the arriving flight disembark from the plane. I thought it was a little bit ridiculous that we started boarding before the passengers were off the arriving flight. I understand they want to turn the plane around as quickly as possible, but making your passengers wait in an unheated holding area is cattle-esque.
Once on the plane, we took our seats and everything went smoothly. Ryanair blocks out the seats behind the paid premium seats and stores luggage on them. It looked a little bit like a crime scene, but what else could you expect from Ryanair?
I ended up sleeping through the flight and I actually preferred the jet flight versus our propeller jet Aer Lingus flight on the way over. They sell every single amenity on-board – nothing is free – but I knew that and wasn’t bothered by it. Upon arrival at Dublin, our friends joked that they’d pick us up 30 minutes after landing since the Ryanair terminal is about a kilometer walk from the passenger pick-up area. It was a hike, but I’d walk two kilometers to get out of paying that $288 boarding pass printing fee!
I have no issues with an airline trying to make money, but treating passengers like livestock and charging insanely ludicrous fees for printing a boarding pass, something that should be simple to do on a kiosk in 2013, is what makes me think Ryanair is the worst airline in the world. Well maybe that’s a little harsh – after all the most important thing while flying is doing so safely and Ryanair has never had a single crash or fatality in its 23 year history, though its operational safety standards often come under scrutiny.
However, customer service-wise, I think it is a disaster of an airline and I’m happy I don’t have to fly them on a regular basis. So if you are flying Ryanair in the future, don’t make the same mistake I did. I should have listened to what my Dad told me from a young age – cheap is expensive!
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