What I did on my summer holidays, Part II

Complaints about the Ryanair Girona incidents emailed to the Spanish Embassy, the  Spanish Tourist Office in Ireland, and the European Aviation Safety Agency.  Yesterday, the complaint is also sent by snailmail to Ryanair themselves, at Dublin Airport (only yesterday because I have no printer at home and was too busy on Monday).  A website is discovered which offers contact details for Ryanair people, so their Head of Customer Service and Head of Communications are emailed too.  Unfortunately, Gmail doesn’t offer delivery or read receipts.

So far:

  • The Embassy quickly get in touch saying they’ve referred my complaint to the Spanish Tourist Office;
  • The Spanish Tourist Office very quickly get back in touch to apologise, and  recommend complaining directly to Ryanair.  They also say they’ve referred my complaints to… the Spanish body responsible for aviation safety, whose name escapes me at the moment.
  • No acknowledgement or reply from EASA as yet.
  • No acknowledgement or reply from the people emailed in Ryanair as yet.

Watch this space…

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Is there something in the water?

Seanie Quinn in jail (even if it is only the junior one, and in an open prison at that), Seanie Snr. pretty much ordered to cooperate with the courts or face the same, Peter Quinn on the run, former senior Anglo executives Willie McAteer and Patrick Whelan charged yesterday, Seanie Fitzpatrick charged today, and a warrant issued just a while ago for the arrest of Tom McFeely.

So either:

a) some serious work has finally come to fruition behind the scenes ( – yay!),

b) we’re about to pay billions back to some bondholders – previous such high profile arrests all seeming to coincide with repayment of Anglo bonds ( – jebus, we’re seriously screwed!)

What I did on my summer holidays

With a “summer” that’s been mostly wet and always changeable, and what’s been a busy year, we decided our family needed a proper holiday.  That means going abroad, rather than staying in Ireland.  (Note: “staying in Ireland” is only three words, five syllables.  “Staying in Ireland”, “holidaying at home” and similar constructs aren’t that hard to use.  But they’ll stop me stabbing you in the face, unlike for example, if you use the dreaded “staycation” in my presence!)

Holidaying abroad might be unpatriotic, but a) holidaying at home simply isn’t affordable; and b) it’d just rain all the time.  But mostly it isn’t affordable.  Case in point:

4-course meal where the 4th course isn't "tea or coffee"

A 4-course meal where the 4th course isn’t “tea or coffee”

This menu excerpt is from an open-air rooftop restaurant on the main tourist drag in the town of Argeles-sur-Mer, in the south of France (which, incidentally, is where we went).  This is the most expensive “formule” set menu that they offer.  Four courses, €26.  And the fourth course isn’t “tea or coffee.”  Compare that to a typical Irish restaurant – you’d pay €20 for the steak alone in quite a lot of places.  I’ve paid more than that for a mediocre steak served with McDonalds-like fries in Malahide (the Urban Café, for what it’s worth).  A meal in the “expensive” south-of-France restaurant for two adults, one teenager and one child, with drinks, cost us €70.  The meal in Malahide cost us over €120…

However, the purpose of this post isn’t to complain abour ripoff Ireland.  It’s to complain about Ryanair.  And their service companies.  Yes, they’re a no-frills airline.  A bus-in-the-sky.  That’s grand, you get what you pay for, and in our case, it saved us around €600 as a family of four travelling to the south of France (we actually flew into and out of Girona in Spain).

So we land in Girona (we’d taken off 40 minutes late and still arrived “on time” – amazing!). We get off the plane, walk towards the terminal, and are told to stop.  We’re held in place on the tarmac for about 15 minutes, in the afternoon sun, for no discernible reason and with no explanation provided.  But eventually we’re let in, get our car, and off we go – no point complaining, right?

On the way home, we check in (oh, sorry, wait – we’ve checked in online.  This is just a “baggage drop”.  Where they check passports and boarding passes.  And is in no way different to a “check-in” except that they don’t ask if you packed your own case).

And they let us through the gate, and we walk towards the plane, and we get stopped on the tarmac again.  In 30 degree heat.  With no shade.  For forty minutes.  With no explanation.  People are sweating, uncomfortable, kids are screaming.  It is… not pleasant.  Eventually I get pissed off enough to go to the top of the queue and ask a fellow passenger to let me past (we’re in a sort of corral with chains blocking the exit, he’s leaning against the post with the chain).  I intend walking over to the plane to either get on or at least to get an explanation.  But the passenger reasonably points out that there are now two planes (one has arrived since we started queueing) and we don’t know which is ours.  Fair point.

After some more time standing there, they let us on.  No explanation for the delay. No apology. We (several passengers, not just cantankerous old me) ask for water.  We’re told to take our seats.  We take off.  We ask for water.  We’re told “In a while”.  They proceed to pass out menus for food and drinks, and in fact carry on exactly as normal.  Eventually the drinks trolley arrives – and they insist on charging for the water.  €3 for a 500ml bottle.  I object.  The stewardess says that there’s nothing she can do, blah blah blah.  Other passengers say they should be given water, no charge.  She repeats herself.  It is explained to the stewardess that we’ve been standing outside in that heat for 40 minutes.  She has the good grace to look horrified – but no water.  If we don’t want to dehydrate, we have to pay Michael O’Leary.

I ask for details on how to make a complaint.  I’m given a snailmail address, with an apology that they don’t have a phone number or any email address except for marketing.

Well, I suppose we’ll see where that gets us.  We’ll also try the Spanish equivalent of the Health and Safety Authority.  Any other suggestions welcome.

The holiday was great, by the way.

Google was wrong. But they listened!

After the obligatory “Hello world!” post, my first blog entry was a minirant about how Google Maps was, for Ireland, a bit of a mish mash.  A Ballsbridge here, a Droichead na Dothra there;  a South Anne Street here, a Ranelagh there.  Irish and English mixed, and townlands used where nobody uses townlands.

Well, fair play to the folks at Google – I gave them feedback, and they fixed things.  The Gotham Café is now back in South Anne St, newly moved in from Ranelagh.  The National Library of Ireland was moved overnight from Ballsbridge, back to Kildare Street.

Some Dublin streets have both English and Irish names on them – which still might be confusing for visitors or immigrants, but should work for satnavs and smartphones.  I’ve not checked the country yet, but hopefully Google’s good sense rubs off on some of our government departments and they put up roadsigns to Dingle again…

Sign this, if you care about copyright reform

If you haven’t already, you can sign up to the Copyright Reform submission prepared by Stephen Donnelly TD, Catherine Murphy TD and McGarr Solicitors, at http://copyrightreform.ie/about/

And you really should.

Also, can news please stop happening, so I can stop editing/updating this post!

This would seem an appropriate post to add in the news that ACTA is dead! This site tells the story far better than I can.

Standards in Public Office – “standards” optional

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is a strange beast.  It’s supposed to lay down the law to elected officials – TDs, senators and councillors – and public and civil servants.  It kind of does that, sometimes.  But without, apparently, applying best practice standards.

They’re in the news today for telling Councillor Oisin Quinn that he was a bold boy for voting on something, after he’d checked whether or not he could vote, and being told he could, when he owned property in the affected area.

The council, quite rightly, then said “Hmm – lots of councillors own property in the area that elects them.  Yet the county development plan must be signed off by councillors.  Who apparently are not allowed vote on the plan if they own property in the area… we see a problem.  We should get SIPO to clarify things.

SIPO… well, SIPO refused.  The public body charged with maintenance of standards in public life, refused to offer clarification or advice when requested to do so by another public body.

Le sigh.

My dealings with them, thus far, have been minor.  As someone who can spend money, I have to print off a form every year, sign it, and return it to them.  Yes, that’s physically print off a form, and physically sign it.  Because this is only the 21st century and nobody trusts that new-fangled “electronic communication” thing.  I tried doing it by email and was told I couldn’t.  The form essentially states “I am not corrupt.  I will procure stuff transparently and fairly.  I am not buying stuff from a friend or relative.”  The thousands of forms, when returned to SIPO each year by thousands of public servants, are presumably then stuffed into boxes, unsorted, to be ignored forever, judging by the total lack of prosecutions of county managers for buying and leasing storage places for e-voting machines from relatives.  For example.