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A Letter to Ryanair…

Because their online contact form isn’t long enough and their Facebook page doesn’t allow for visitors to post (gee, I wonder why), and they don’t offer any additional contact information…

Dear Ryanair,

My husband and I understand that issues happen.  A shortage of staff can cause chaos, a broken plane can cause delays, weather can have an impact on take offs and landings.  Most of the time, we both go with the flow and if our plane is a half hour late, it doesn’t bother us and we carry on.  However, the events of Saturday, 16th June need to be addressed and reparations need to be made.

My husband and I were scheduled for flight FR1548 – London Stansted to Leipzig (Germany).  The flight gets in to Leipzig quite late, so we always book a room at a hotel with 24-hour reception and book our rental car to be picked up the following morning as no one is manning the rental desks that late.  This is a system that has worked out for us on several previous trips, including one where we were delayed by about an hour.

On Saturday, we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.  After going through security, we checked the departures board and our flight said “Gate info 1845”, so we went to Giraffee for dinner.  While on our walk around the duty free area, my husband noticed the flight information changed to “Delayed until 1940”.  This was fine, as it would only make the flight a half hour late (original departure 1915). We finished up our dinner, and checked the board once more.  Our flight info was now blank, only showing the flight number, time, and destination.

We tried to find someone who could explain what that meant, but you have no staff on that side of the airport and neither does the airport.  We finally spoke with a man at the currency exchange who could only tell us that he didn’t know either.

To our delight, the gate was announced at 1845, the original time stated.  Fantastic, we thought.  Still slightly later than our boarding passes said, but maybe they can get the plane loaded in a half hour.  We all rushed to the gate and joined a neverending queue . It seemed half the plane had opted to get “Priority” boarding to be able to put their bags on.  We did, since my rucksack carries my laptop and I didn’t want it to wind up in the hold.  We stood around for fifteen, maybe 20 minutes. I probably should have kept track, but I didn’t.  Eventually, we got told our gate was changing and there was a mad rush to the new gate, now putting us at the back of the Priority queue.

We stood.  A Ryanair employee finally arrived and started scanning people through.  They stood on the stairs, unable to go outside to board the plane as the doors were locked and there was no staff around to unlock the doors and babysit our walk.  It was around 1945 when the queue finally started moving and we were able to board the plane.  Once again, we optimistically thought this would only cause about an hour’s delay, and I quickly checked the S-bahn schedule for Leipzig to make sure we could still get into the city centre before shutting my phone off per flying regulations.

We sat on the plane.  No one was speaking to us and as far as anyone knew, we were still boarding.  Except that a quick look around (we were in the last row) showed the plane was full.  What was going on?  They went through the safety announcements and we thought for sure this was the signal that we would be pushing back….nope.

Finally, sometime after 2030, the pilot finally comes on to tell us “There was a problem with the flight plan.”  Naturally, this caused confusion as surely the plane would follow the same flight path it always follows from London to Leipzig?  But then my husband and I speculated that we were simply waiting for a slot to take off since we were late.  The PA system remained silent.

Around 2045, there was a sudden announcement to return to seats, fasten seatbelts, and we would finally be departing.  Hooray!  Some quick Maths and we determined this would mean landing around 2330 local time, but trains would be running until 0130, so we weren’t worried, and the flight progressed as normal….but it seemed a little long.

Finally, well past the hour and forty minutes in the air, the pilot comes on to tell us –Surprise!  We’ve brought you to Berlin. “Unable to land due to curfew” was the reason given, although I now know that our plane could have landed and Ryanair could have paid a fee for landing outside the curfew.

Berlin?  Berlin wasn’t even on the side of the country we planned on being in.  “What are they going to do for us?”  began the common thread across the plane as we descended.  Once we landed, we had to wait on the plane some more as we were waiting for busses.  At first, we thought the announcement about the bus meant “We’ve arranged for busses to take you t Leipzig”, however we soon found out that this was not the case, and we were waiting for busses to take us to the terminal.

Confusion continued with another announcement “Ryanair will pay for taxis to your final destination”  came over the PA.  Cue cheering.  My husband and I assumed this meant there was ground personnel in Berlin who was going to be arranging this for us. Perhaps they would pile as many people as possible into taxis to the various final destinations. We needed the city centre, so we were fairly confident there would be a few more heading that way.

A steward near our end gave us clarification. “You pay for the taxi now, and Ryanair will reimburse you.”

Since we were now on the ground, I turned back on my phone and googled for taxi rates.  The cheapest was €381, the most expensive over €500.  We looked at the trains.  The earliest train to Leipzig was at 4 in the morning (it was now close to 1AM).  While that was an option for some of the passengers, it wasn’t an option for my husband and I, who had a further drive on Sunday to our destination in the Harz mountains.  Neither was shelling out €400 or more for a taxi ride with no actual guarantee in writing that your company would be reimbursing us.

We still remained optimistic, thinking surely there would be ground staff able to help.  In the meanwhile, an email came through from our hotel in Leipzig that I was being charged €107 for the room we should have been checking into, and being listed as a “no-show”.  I tried to contact the hotel, but had no luck.

Once in the baggage claim, it became obvious to all of us that there was no staff other than airport staff to help, who naturally had no idea what was going on.  Sighing, I opened up a hotel app on my phone, and booked the cheapest and closest hotel I could find – the Best Western for €86.  We then jumped on the DB app to look up tickets back to Leipzig (remember, we had to pick up a rental car there!). Tickets were showing up around the €50 mark.  Our quick trip to relieve stress was soon adding up.

Next came figuring out how to get to the hotel, so I rang them and in my halting German asked about a shuttle.  The shuttle doesn’t operate on weekends.  Fantastic.  We had to book a taxi, €21.20.

I am seeking the following in reparations:

*€86.36 Hotel in Berlin

*€21.20 Taxi in Berlin

*€6.80 S-Bahn tickets

*€50 DB Tickets

And lastly, I am also seeking €107 for the cost of our hotel in Leipzig which I had to pay for as a no show for a total of €271.36.  Please see attached photos for proof of amounts.

Additionally, I would like to add that I have Type 2 Diabetes and by the time we arrived at our hotel there was nothing open nearby to purchase food and if it wasn’t for a cereal bar in my suitcase, you might have had a serious medical issue on your hands.

I expect to see a cheque waiting in the post when we return from our trip.

Thank you.

Rebecca Lockley

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