Hopefully, if things go to plan – which they probably won’t – I’ll be leaving home at 7am tomorrow for my annual 10-day holiday in Norfolk. I really wanted to leave earlier than that – 5am would have been ideal as it’s a six hour journey – but I’ve had so much to do today and various things have conspired against me to make sure some of them didn’t get done, so I need to finish them off in the morning before I go anywhere. My friend round the corner is feeding the cats for me until Michael comes back from Ireland on Thursday, then he’ll take over until I get back the following Tuesday. The van is packed and my bag is packed so I only need to finish off the things which didn’t get done today then I’m off – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back and hopefully I’ll have lots of photos for here and my other blog.
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.