Tag Archives: Ryanair Complaints

Warsaw, Research and Travel

Map of Poland

I have visited Poland before, twice to Krakow some time ago and last year to Wroclaw.  I liked it and this year there was an opportunity to travel to the capital city of Warsaw.

I had never really thought seriously about going to Warsaw before and I put this down to the fact that when I was younger I always associated it with two things.  Firstly, word association and the town of Walsall, which is a dreary unattractive, industrial town in the Black Country in the United Kingdom which is a place that few people would visit by choice.  Secondly the term Warsaw Pact, which was the name of the Soviet military alliance in Eastern Europe which during my early years seemed to be the sinister organisation responsible for plotting to wipe us of the face of the map in a messy nuclear strike.

Anyway, I have overcome these objections now and when cheap air fares and a good hotel deal coincided on the same dates I needed no convincing to go there and I set about carrying out my usual research.

Warsaw Old Town and Royal castle

Poland is placed thirty-ninth in the Human Development Index which means that it is the top fifty or most highly developed countries.  The Index ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.  It is rated nineteenth out of thirty in the European Happiness Index, which may not sound very impressive but is two places above the United Kingdom so when people complain about Polish immigration I say perhaps it is a good thing and more Polish people might cheer us all up!  Iceland, by-the-way remains way out in front.

Poland has fourteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites which puts in nineteenth place in the World and tenth overall in Europe which is no mean achievement.  One of these sites is the historic centre of Warsaw which was rebuilt after the German army destroyed it as they retreated in 1945 and this one of the sites that I was really looking forward to seeing.

Perhaps not surprisingly the country was rather late joining the Blue Flag Beach initiative but is now catching up and has by 2014 achieved the status at seventeen beaches and Marinas on the Baltic Sea, although that represents a loss of eleven from the previous year.

Warsaw Old Town

But some things are not going so well, in football Poland has finished third twice at the Football world Cup but has been spectacularly unsuccessful in the European Nations cup where it has qualified twice but on neither occasion progressed beyond the group stages and if you think that is disappointing it has made the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest only nine times in sixteen attempts although it did manage to come second in 1994 despite almost being disqualified for the curious reason of rehearsing in English!

But it is the history of the country that fascinates me most because Poland has had a most dramatic last one thousand years and the reason for this is largely down to its unfortunate geographical position on one of the volatile European political fault lines with powerful neighbours to both east and west using it a convenient buffer state and taking it in turns to use it as a punch bag.

For the entire period that there has been a place called Poland its borders have expanded and contracted and moved this way and that as other more powerful states have invaded it, subjugated it and periodically annexed those parts that they took a liking to.  The last great redrawing of the boundaries came in 1945 which gave us the geographical shape of Poland that we recognise today.

Poland Border Revisions in 1945

It was an early morning flight to Warsaw Modlin airport and as the Ryanair flight was called we lined up ready to board the plane. Ryanair has a reputation as being a pretty shabby airline but has improved recently but this morning it was back to the bad old days.  For this flight someone at the personnel department had assembled the rudest possible team of people to administer the departure gate and I can only assume that there must be a special selection process to achieve this sort of ill-mannered combination of staff.

They began with the baggage check and pulled out a couple of young girls for the ritual humiliation of testing the bag size in the dimensions checker.  While they struggled to rearrange the contents the sour faced rottweillers looked on smugly waiting for them to fail and to present them with a £50 bill each – a nice little earner!

Generally speaking I think it is people’s own responsibility to ensure that the baggage complies with the rules but this morning I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the two victims. Why? Well, because I cannot understand the selection process in the bag witch hunt and there were plenty of others that would so obviously have failed the dimensions test as well.  As I struggled to comprehend this the answer became blindingly obvious – most of the other oversize bags were being carried by six foot brawny Polish builders and I imagine that it is a whole lot easier to pick on a young girl than a towering man mountain!

And then on the plane one of these giants came and sat next to me.  Most people know that Ryanair seat space is not very generous and this man was huge in both height and girth and he had a massive padded coat that smelled of salami and stale cigarettes and he seemed strangely reluctant to remove it.  It was a very uncomfortable journey and I was so glad when we landed in Warsaw and I could get some space and some fresh air.

Palace of Culture Warsaw

The Ryanair Sleep or How to Deal with Flight Boredom

“An aeroplane is nothing more than a bus with wings on…we trying to blow up the notion that flying is some kind of orgasmic experience rather than a glorified bus service?

These are the words of Michael  O‘Leary and although I am a big fan of Ryanair I think it has to be said that he has achieved this objective because flying is not the same as it was in the days before low cost airlines when it still felt exclusive and glamorous.

The pilots were all ex RAF and called Toby or Douglas and the air hostesses were tall and elegant, wore smart uniforms and looked like catwalk models.  The seats were comfortable with generous leg space and there was a free meal thrown in.  These were in the days before terrorist threats or CRB checks so children used to get to go and visit the captain and crew in the cockpit and for adults there was a drinks trolley at below UK prices (today a gin and tonic on Ryanair costs over £8) and a genuine duty free service for spirits, tobacco and perfume.  Little children had colouring books and crayons and by the 1980s there was in-flight entertainment and every passenger had their own personal copy of the in-flight magazine.

 As an experience flying has mostly deteriorated since the first holiday charter flights began except, that is,  in one important area where there has been massive improvement.  It may seem bizarre now but until relatively recently passengers that smoked were still allowed to light up a cigarette on board which meant that everyone else had to as well.  To be fair the smokers did all have to sit at the back of the aircraft, a bit like Dante’s Inferno, and puff away together but after a couple of hours there was a horrible acrid odour of stale tobacco and the entire cabin smelt like an ash tray.  Actually it wasn’t just cigarettes but pipes and cigars as well and even the cigarette smokers complained about this.  Pipes and cigars were banned in 1979 but a ban on cigarettes had to wait for another ten years.

People used to be able to smoke pretty much anywhere and it is a bizarre fact that the Hindenburg, an airship full of highly combustible gas actually had a smoking room in the passenger compartment.  OK, it was lined with asbestos, there was a guard on the door and the lighter was chained to the floor but it still sounds a bit reckless to me.  On May 6th 1937, in front of thousands of spectators in New Jersey, USA, the Hindenburg caught fire, and within seconds burst into flames killing thirty-five of the ninety-seven people on board.   No one really knows exactly what caused the fire.  If I had been the accident inspector I know where I would have started.

Anyway the point I am getting to is just what to do on a Ryanair flight to pass the time?  For me the only problem with a Ryanair flight is what to do to amuse myself for the duration.  The in-flight magazine (if you can actually get one because there are only about twenty copies per flight it seems) holds my attention for about ten minutes but after that the whole event becomes rather tedious and boring.  It is important to find something to do because it is essential not to get tricked into making a purchase from the overpriced drinks trolley just for something to do.  Earlier this year I caught Kim with a cup of tea and a kitkat that had cost her£4.80!

To cope with this I have developed what I call the Ryanair sleep!  This isn’t difficult on an early morning flight after a sleep deprived night and a drive to the airport or on a late night flight home but it can be a bit tricky for middle of the day flights at more sociable hours.  I always consider that if I can lose half the monotonous journey nodding off then I have had a successful flight.

It isn’t proper sleep of course because the flight is so noisy and uncomfortable.  To begin with the head Flight Attendant is forever on the cabin intercom trying to persuade passengers to spend money; the drinks and snacks service, scratch cards, duty free gifts, smokeless cigarettes and rail tickets and then they are forever walking up and down the cabin pushing the noisy trolleys about and this is because they don’t really want passengers to sleep because if they do then they won’t spend money.

The Ryanair sleep involves a lot of head rolling that wakes you up just at the moment of going over into the unconscious state (I have considered one of those blow up neck supports but they do make you look awfully stupid) and lots of weird and wonderful hallucinations and dreams.  It is a bonus if just once in a while I can drop into a proper sleep but when this happens it is inevitable that someone in the next seat will either want to go to the toilet or get something from the overhead locker.  Then there are children that cry and those annoying passengers in the seat behind who want to talk for the entire journey and now, horror of horrors, there are flights on which the use of mobile phones is permitted.  I have flown on one of these but thankfully no one used the service because predictably it was too darned expensive!

When I can’t read the best alternative is to read a good book.  Interestingly I have just finished a book about Ryanair, written by Paul Kilduff and called ‘Ruinair’.  It is an entertaining book but can get rather confusing as it constantly changes direction; part travelogue in the style of Bill Bryson, part rant about Ryanair (borrowing heavily from other people’s stories and blogs) and part admiration of Michael O’Leary.  For all that, it’s very funny, well worth a read and I recommend it because I like Bill Bryson, I enjoy reading people’s ridiculous Ryanair complaints and I admire Michael O’Leary.

Thumbs Down for Ryanair transaction charge rip-off

o'leary 1

I have just booked some November flights to Valladolid in Spain and was delighted with the bargain price of just £20 return but I was still annoyed by the final sting of a £10 charge to pay for the flight with my credit card, which effectively amounts to a 50% surcharge!

Information about this charge on the website says:

 “to defray the substantial administration costs we incur when processing credit and debit cards a handling fee applies to each passenger, per flight segment…Even allowing for these small charges our fares still represent the best value for money”

Small charges, my arse!  According to the banks the average credit card handling fee is on average about 2% so that means about .40p on my £20 fare and I got whacked twenty-five times that amount.  There is a special offer on at the moment of zero charges for Electron cards, but who on earth has Electron cards?  And they only have to process the payment once so how can they justify multiple charging of passengers?  Why aren’t Trading Standards looking into this?  Ryanair has over forty million passengers a year so I calculate this rip-off to be netting them four hundred million pounds a year in pure profit.  To put this into perspective consider that in 1963 the Great Train Robbers stole £2.6 million and got life imprisonment and in 1983 the Brinks Mat robbery pulled off £26 million and when they were caught more lengthy prison sentances were handed down.

Last year, Stephen McNamara, a spokesman for Ryanair said: “All of those processes go to Visa  separate times (for each passenger)  so we have to make sure that we are covered in order to cover the costs.”  It turns out of course that this statement was another pack of Ryanair lies which just confirms their complete contempt for their customers.

Let’s be honest we all know that Ryanair have got to pay for the cost of flying somehow and zero charge flights are just a bit of a gimmick and I for one would just be happy if they admitted this and just charged me the £5.00 in the first place!  That way I wouldn’t feel ripped off and deceived.  I don’t mind the baggage charges and the excess weight charges because I can avoid them or it’s my own fault if I don’t but I do object to unreasonable charges being imposed that it is simply impossible to avoid.

Thumbs up on the other hand to Ryanair low cost airline rivals easyJet.  Earlier this year I booked summer holiday flights to Athens and when I arrived at the payment screen the charge for paying by credit card was a flat rate of £1.70 plus 2.5% of the cost of the tickets.  This is so much more equitable than the Ryanair scam and almost completely in line with the advice from the banks in respect of transaction charges.  The total transaction charge was £9.00 on a £280 fare.

I would probably book with easyJet more often in preference to Ryanair but to be honest, even though they irritate me, the only thing that really matters at the end of the transaction is the total price to be paid and in most cases even with the deceit charge Ryanair is generally cheaper.  So what am I complaining about then?  Well, it’s a matter of principle, Ryanair are being dishonest and I question therefore their business ethics and their respect for the customers.

The reason that easyJet are generally more expensive is that while the two airlines share a common business idea, EasyJet’s strategy differs from Ryanair’s in a number of areas. EasyJet flies mainly to primary airports in the cities that it serves, while Ryanair often chooses secondary airports to reduce costs. For example, EasyJet flies to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris Orly, the primary airports in Paris, while Ryanair flies to the smaller Paris Beauvais Tillé Airport, a 75 minute bus journey from Paris.

Out of the way airports do not really matter to me and are not necessarily a factor in selecting a location because generally I find in more cost effective to hire a car and stay in a cheaper hotel in a nearby town rather than stay in expensive city centres.  This worked well recently in Carmona near Seville and in Vila do Conde near Porto both of which had the benefits of a quieter location and better hotels than I could really afford in the city.

Thumbs Up for Ryanair

Also worth a mention:


Easyjet plane

Travel Tips For Beating Budget Airlines At Their Own Game

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