You know the old saying – you get what you pay for. With Ryanair, that means that you are sometimes paying as little as $5 for a seat on an airplane that will get you to a destination. A total steal – when everything goes right. When it goes wrong with Ryanair, it is often very wrong, because you get what you pay for.
My Experience Dealing with Ryanair’s Horrible Weather Handling
This past week, parts of Europe that rarely see snow got hit with snow storms. This included northern Greece. I am from western NY so snow at this time of year is completely normal (and even enjoyable, for me!). For places like Greece, it is unexpected and dealing with it can put a major hit on resources.
The Beginning – a 35 minute Ryanair flight to Thessaloniki, Greece
I was flying from Israel to Thessaloniki via Athens on Friday. I would normally choose to fly Aegean (which is a fantastic airline!) but the website was not offering to let me book it as one ticket or even the Athens – Thessaloniki flight as a separate ticket for some reason. So, I had to go with the Ryanair option for around the same time, 11PM. For something like $12, that was a really cheap option, especially since I was traveling with a small backpack and nothing more. If everything went right, I would be in Thessaloniki before midnight!
Delay without announcement or even staff present
Except, the snow started falling on Thursday and really started fouling things up into Friday. I arrived at the gate in Athens Friday night around 10:25PM only to find the gate full of people without any Ryanair agents. After waiting for about 15 minutes, I started to walk to a different gate to make sure I was actually in the right area (the boards had no information, not even anything that indicated the area was for a Ryanair flight).
The gate across from me had people waiting for a flight to Thessaloniki as well – a flight from 2 hours before. This was not looking good! But, I thought I would just keep waiting and that, surely, someone would come over soon and provide an update.
Fast forward an hour. It is now over 20 minutes after scheduled take-off – and there has been no announcement and no one around to even ask a question of! I found a couple of agents and asked them what was going on and there answer was “that isn’t my flight and I’m going home.” Great, thanks so much.
Probably flight cancellation and horrible backup plan – still no public communication
I was eventually able to find an agent at another gate and they told me that the airport in Thessaloniki had closed due to weather. I replied, “Don’t you think that would be something you should tell all the people over there waiting for a flight that you say is not taking off???” Her response was that they were waiting to hear what Ryanair wanted to do. As of right then, they were planning on bringing in buses to bus everyone the 5-6 hours (on a good day) to Thessaloniki. Ah, no. That is not something I want to do – take a bus overnight instead of a 35 minute flight.
I started planning my own options instead, first with booking a nearby hotel with points and then checking my options for flights in the morning. I checked back with the agents one more time and was told they were still considering the bus option but might also move everyone to morning flights (keep in mind that they have 3 flights to Thessaloniki that were full and have not taken off). I wasn’t feeling confidence with any of those options so I left.
Middle of the night diversion and return
Courtesy of Flightradar24.com
I woke up the next morning to head back to the airport for my new flight, with Aegean. I was surprised to get an update from TripIt that my Ryanair flight had left around 2AM and landed about 3:30AM! The only problem is that it was actually diverted – back to Athens. That meant they made everyone wait until 2AM, boarded the plane, flew towards Thessaloniki, and then turned around and returned to Athens to drop everyone off.
In the end, they scheduled a new flight number for that flight and they landed in Thessaloniki about 1:30PM the day after it was supposed to have landed – a full 13.5 hours after it was scheduled to arrive originally!
So, what were the biggest problems with Ryanair’s handling of the weather disruptions?
- Total lack of communication – I mean, there was no one to even speak to at the gate and no one would help out
- Bad backup – A bus, seriously? The roads were not that good either with the weather and their backup plan was to pack buses for the 5-6 hour trip?
- Refusal to just opt for a morning flight – why would they keep people, including small children, at the airport all night with the dangling hope that they would still try to get there, only to eventually turn the plane around and return anyway. Just tell everyone they are going to have a 6:30AM departure (or whatever) and let people settle in for the night or make plans.
Another Ryanair Disruption
My flight situation was not the only Ryanair mess-up! The other one was for the London-Stansted – Thessaloniki flight last weekend. Instead of landing in Thessaloniki, the weather conditions forced a diversion – to Timisoara, Romania. Same as with my flight, Ryanair planned for a bus trip for the over 700km journey but almost half of the passengers refused that option (I totally don’t blame them as I would not do that on a shorter trip from Athens).
Instead, they went to the media and the Greek government actually had an Aegean flight go pick them up and bring them to Thessaloniki. This was a great move for Aegean since Ryanair actually has grown a significant and competing presence in Greece. But, this does beg the question – if an Aegean plane could land, why couldn’t Ryanair do their own job and fly their passengers there themselves?
Thanks, But No Thanks, Ryanair
While I do love the ultra-cheap prices and convenient airports in some destinations, I will really avoid booking with Ryanair for anything but a last-minute, only-option flight from now on. It is not about the flight experience (which I do not find that bad) but how the company treats their passengers when things don’t go right.