After having Monday’s frustration of trying to sort out Michael’s flight to Dublin I dropped him off at Manchester airport at 2pm on Tuesday in plenty of time for him to get through security and get to the boarding gate for his flight at 3.15. At 2.45 he sent me a text to say he was in the queue waiting to board the plane and he would text me again when he landed, so I sent a jokey reply telling him not to get off before it got to Dublin!
Now I know from the experience of going over to Ireland myself three times last year that whatever time you land in Dublin you can guarantee you’ll have a long wait for a connecting coach to Roscrea as the times never seem to coincide. Michael would just miss the 4pm Bus Eirann coach (the equivalent of our National Express) and would have to wait until 6pm for the next one, so before I went to work at 4.30 I had a look on the internet to see if there was an earlier alternative and found one going at 5.15. I sent him a text to tell him and immediately got the reply “Still at Manchester, not gone anywhere yet” so I rang him to ask why. He said he couldn’t really tell me just then as there were too many people around so he would ring me once he’d finally landed in Dublin.
He rang me at 6.15, the flight had finally taken off just before 5pm and must have taken a reasonably direct flight path as he’d managed to get out of the airport just in time to get the 6pm coach. The reason for the flight delay seemed rather odd to say the least. His seat was an aisle seat just three rows from the very back of the plane and it seemed that a couple further down the plane had been sitting in seats booked by someone else so the other people had asked them to move, which they did and they went to sit somewhere else. Then two other people had come along and ousted them from those seats too and they ended up sitting across the aisle from Michael. He said there had been no shouting or arguing at any time and he’d actually got talking to the guy who seemed to be quite a pleasant person, but then a cabin crew member had come along and asked to check the couple’s boarding passes. The next thing he knew the steps were put up at the back of the plane, a couple of police officers arrived and escorted the couple off the plane and into a waiting police van.
Unfortunately that hadn’t been the end of the delay – the couple had baggage in the hold so everything had to be taken out to find what was theirs then it all had to be put back in again afterwards. Apparently a big cheer went up when the plane finally started taxiing to the runway ready for take-off, an hour and forty minutes after the scheduled time. Assuming that the couple in question had the correct boarding passes – they must have had to be able to get on the plane in the first place – it remains a mystery as to why they were taken off the flight. I suppose the incident added a bit of excitement to Michael’s day but he wouldn’t have been a happy bunny if he’d missed his 6pm coach because of it!
Yesterday (Monday) Michael decided he was going back to Ireland asap as it’s a distant cousin’s birthday tomorrow and he didn’t want to miss out on a really good ‘do’, so off he went into town to book himself on the Holyhead/Dublin night ferry with the relevant coach connections at each end, only to find that the coach places at this end were fully booked and he couldn’t go. Now under normal circumstances he could have got himself to Holyhead by train and got on the ferry as a foot passenger but as from last Saturday our local station is closed for two weeks while the main Manchester/Preston line is being electrified; although alternative bus services to Manchester are being provided it would have been far too much hassle to do it that way, certainly on the last minute, so he decided he would fly instead. At least that way he would be in Roscrea in just a few short hours and on the same day.
Checking the flight availability online showed there was no way he could have gone that day as even a late evening flight cost almost £200 one way and he certainly didn’t want to pay that much, however I managed to find a flight leaving Manchester at 3.15pm today for a more reasonable £84 and a return flight next Tuesday evening for £79. As all his details are saved in his online Ryanair account/journey planner the booking procedure and payment was straightforward and within a few minutes I got a confirmation email with a flight reservation number. Thinking that I may as well check him in and print out the boarding passes straight away I clicked on the ‘check in now’ link in the email – and that’s where the fun began.
Although the return journey was showing up and I was able to print out the boarding pass for it there was no boarding pass showing up for the outward journey and it actually said ‘this flight departed on August 15th’. So I’m now thinking I’ve somehow got the wrong date but checks on three calendars, my phone and the pc told me that it was still only the 14th so why the strange message? Three separate attempts to check in and get the boarding pass resulted in the same message each time so eventually I found a number for Ryanair customer services and phoned them – and that’s when I almost lost the will to live.
Having explained the problem to the woman at the other end of the phone (who’s first language obviously wasn’t English) she asked me for a few of Michael’s details – and this was the conversation
Her – “Madam, I can see you have checked in for the return flight but you must first check in for the outbound flight before you can get the boarding pass”
Me – “I know that but the system isn’t allowing me to check in, it keeps saying the flight has already departed even though it’s not until tomorrow”
Her – I’m sorry madam, I don’t understand what you are saying. You must check in for your flight before you can get the boarding pass”
Me – “But it isn’t allowing me to check in, even the ‘check in’ button is blanked out”
Her – “I don’t understand what you are telling me. What is your flight reservation number madam?”
Me – “It’s 14**GR”
Her – “I’m sorry madam, that is not the correct number”
Me – “Well that’s the number in the confirmation email”
Her – “That is not the correct number. The number should begin with a letter”
Me – “Well that’s the only number I’ve got”
Her – “Madam, that is not the correct number. You must first put in the correct reservation number then check in before you can get the boarding pass”
Me – “Look, that’s the only reservation number in the confirmation email. It must be right as I’ve checked in and printed out the boarding pass for the return flight but there is no boarding pass showing up for the outward flight”
Her – “Madam, you will not be able to get the boarding pass until you check in first”
And so it went on….
Now it takes a lot to get me angry but this conversation was just going round and round in circles and I was getting more and more frustrated by the woman’s lack of understanding and a solution to the problem, so I cut the call before I said something nasty to her. Even Michael was getting annoyed just listening to my side of the conversation. The only way round it that I could see would be for Michael to get to the airport well ahead of his flight time and check in at the normal check in desk although this would incur a €50 check in fee, but then he was taking a risk that if the reservation number really was incorrect he may be refused on the flight. By the time my scrambled brain had returned to something like normal it was time for me to go to work so I said I would have one last ditch attempt at customer services when I got back home, and if that failed then I would print out all my information and purposely drive to the airport and hopefully sort it out there.
The second attempt at going through customer services couldn’t have been more different. This time I got a really helpful guy with a softly spoken Irish accent, and within seconds of explaining the problem and giving him all Michael’s details he was telling me that the flight was now checked in and if I logged out of Michael’s account then logged back in again I would find the boarding pass ready for printing. So that’s what I did and sure enough there was the boarding pass – I don’t know what the guy did at his end but it certainly worked. Needless to say Michael was very much relieved when I went in his room and presented him with both boarding passes – and I’ve printed out extra copies just in case. I’m taking him to the airport later on today and all being well he’ll be on the 3.15 flight to Dublin – and I just hope that next time he goes over there, whenever that may be, the online booking system runs with no more problems.
Yesterday was the day of Michael’s hospital check-up on his broken ankle. His appointment was 9.30am and though we expected he would have to wait a while he was seen straight away. The plaster cast was cut off and more x-rays were taken, with the verdict being that although the breaks were healing they weren’t healing as fast as they should be (the fact that he’s been hobbling about on it hasn’t really helped but he wasn’t telling the doctor that!) so rather than another plaster cast he’s been given another boot as it will give more support to the underside of his foot as well as round the ankle itself.
He said that having the boot strapped up his leg made him look like Robocop (it does a bit, especially when he’s wearing his black jeans) so he asked for another one to make his other leg match but unsurprisingly they wouldn’t give him one. He has to go back for another x-ray in three weeks time, until then he’s to continue with the DVT prevention (his skin is black and blue where he has to inject himself) and rest the ankle as much as possible. So far he hasn’t mentioned going back to Ireland, which he’d originally said he would do after yesterday’s hospital visit, but anything’s possible so I won’t be surprised if he suddenly decides to go, although a recent conversation has me thinking he may consider coming to Norfolk with me next month – I’ll just have to wait and see.
Back towards the end of June Michael, through no fault of his own, managed to accidentally break his ankle, resulting in a trip to A & E . X-rays showed it was a very bad break and he came out on crutches and wearing a supporting boot strapped up his leg, with an appointment to go back for another x-ray six days later when it would be decided if he needed a plaster cast or not. He came back from that appointment still with the boot on, another appointment for the following week and some medication which he had to inject himself with to prevent a DVT – that was assuming he did nothing but sit or lie and rest, however within minutes of getting back home he decided he was going to Ireland that night!
So in spite of having other things to do (I was having a weekend away myself and needed to sort things out) I spent the next hour or so on the pc, organising his journey. He couldn’t fly out as he needed a doctor’s note authorising the syringes he had so I booked him on the Holyhead to Dublin night ferry with coach connections at both ends then a flight back from Dublin to Manchester the evening before his next hospital appointment the following Friday. He had already left home when I got back from work that evening but he rang me at various stages of the journey to let me know he was okay and he arrived safely at the family home in Roscrea the following morning. All went well until the evening he was due to come back home then everything went pear-shaped, producing a string of complicated and confusing events.
The flight back from Dublin on the Thursday was 9.30pm and I’d arranged to pick Michael up from Manchester airport an hour or so later, however at 7.15 he rang me and his first words were “Mum, I’ve messed up”. Now to put you in the picture, over the last few months he’s become friendly with a girl in Roscrea and he’d called to see her before setting off to come home, only to be told by her next door neighbour that she’d had a bad epileptic seizure and had been taken to hospital 35 minutes drive away. As the coach to Dublin passed the hospital where his friend had been taken he’d decided (not very wisely as it turned out) to stop off there to see if she was okay, only to find out when he got there that she’d recovered from her seizure, checked herself out and presumably gone home. By the time he’d come out of the hospital and made his way back to the main road he’d missed the next coach to the airport and hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of getting there in time for his flight so the only thing he could do was get the next coach back to Roscrea and start again the following day. He would miss his hospital appointment but it could be rearranged.
So once again using the trusty pc and various timetables found on the internet I came up with an alternative. Flying back was now out of the question as Friday and weekend flights are very expensive, so it was decided that he would wait until Saturday and come back on the night ferry; Saturday was also the day when I should have gone to Anglesey but there was no way I was going until I knew Michael was safely back home. Unfortunately there was nowhere in Roscrea where he could make a direct ferry booking, he couldn’t make an internet booking using his phone as for some reason he couldn’t get into the system, and I couldn’t book it for him from here as he would need a printed ticket, so the only thing he could do was get to the ticket office at the bus station in Dublin and make his booking there.
Now not knowing what time the Dublin ticket office closed I suggested that he get the 1pm coach from Roscrea which would get him to Dublin by 3pm, so assuming that the ticket office closed early at maybe 4pm he would be in plenty of time. However, even that didn’t go according to plan; at 1.45pm on the Saturday I got a text ‘Still waiting for coach’ so I rang him. The 1 o’clock coach hadn’t turned up and there was no timetable at the bus stop so yet again I got on the pc to check, only to find that the timetable I was looking at then wasn’t what I’d been looking at the previous day – it had changed overnight and there wasn’t now a coach at 1pm. The next one was 3 o’clock, which got Michael to Dublin bus station a few minutes after 5pm – just five minutes too late for the ticket office! The only thing he could do then was get a taxi to the port and see if he could get on the next ferry as a foot passenger, though he would have to sort out his own way of getting home from Holyhead once he got there.
However, for the first time since all this mess began he actually had a stroke of luck – the young woman in the ticket office got into the booking system and he was booked in on the night ferry for the full journey from there right back home; all he had to do was wait for the coach which would take him onto the ferry then he could relax for the rest of the journey. He did text me at one point ‘Now on ferry, just set sail’ to which I jokingly replied ‘Well don’t get off anywhere!’ and back came the text ‘Even that would be impossible for me now!’ He eventually arrived home just after 7 o’clock on the Sunday morning, the coach having dropped him off at the local Asda store ten minutes walk away – and I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see him.
I finally went to Anglesey two days later than planned, leaving Michael home alone, and he went to his rearranged hospital appointment on the Friday that week. This time his foot was put in a plaster cast which goes halfway to his knee – and on his way back home he stopped off in town and booked himself on the ferry back to Ireland that night! He would have been going anyway as it was his birthday a few days later and he’d already booked the time off work as a holiday so he wasn’t wasting it. The following Tuesday I got back from Anglesey to an empty house and Michael finally arrived back the Sunday afterwards, though even that journey hadn’t been without incident.
For some reason the driver of the coach from Roscrea to Dublin had taken a different route round the city and hadn’t stopped at the main bus station where Michael had to pick up the coach for the ferry; when he realised that the coach was heading towards the docks on the way to the airport he had to ask the driver to stop and let him off. He then had a choice – a taxi back to the bus station and risk missing the ferry coach or onwards to the port. He chose the port, and though he had to wait a while he was able to pick up the ferry coach there. He’s been at home since then but I know he’s planning on going back to Ireland after his next hospital check up at the end of this week; if he does then hopefully things will all go according to plan but if they don’t…..then watch this space!