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:
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.