Thursday, 14 June 2012

Celebrating Successful Survival

As we land, a fanfare is played and relieved passengers cheer and applaud our safe arrival. The last two Ryanair flights I've survived have followed this same somewhat worrying and predictable pattern. On the surface Ryanair may indeed be a budget airline but in order to get those cheaper tickets you have to keep your wits about you.

When initially booking tickets, it's necessary to tolerate the lengthy process of checking boxes to confirm you don't want to pay additional fees for priority seating or for car hire. Travel insurance is carefully hidden as an added cost sneakily concealed between options - you must scroll down a daunting list of choices to select the "No Insurance Needed" option carefully sandwiched between nationalities.

If you plan on taking any luggage with you, Ryanair also charge extortionate fees per check-in bag, rapidly increasing the price according to weight. We've opted for one check-in bag to share, in addition to our "complementary" hand luggage and struggle on the return flight. Travelling out to Stockholm we flew SAS and were impressed by the efficiency and ease of check-in. Flights cost a little more but if booked in advance were reasonable and included generous baggage allowances with no extra hidden costs. I practically walked through the check-in and security desks in a matter of minutes and once in Sweden collected my bag from the conveyor belt immediately after leaving the plane. Returning to the UK from Lithuania was a whole different story.

Kaunas airport is pretty small and seemed to be dominated by Ryanair with bizarre pictures of rowers in company uniform adorning the walls. Once we'd established our one check-in bag was overweight and had stuffed more into our already borderline hand luggage, I suspiciously eyed the narrow metal structure check-in bags are supposed to neatly slot inside. Judging distances and measurements has never been one of my strengths but I was sure my "carry-on" would be deemed too large. Gingerly attempting to fit it into the regulation-sized frame, my fears were confirmed, despite pesky Aldi describing it as "check-in baggage-approved".

We made it through security, marvelling at the inconsistency between airports. On the last flight I had to remove my shoes and on this trip, for the first time ever, my hair slides seem to set off the scanners. 

On the other side, a disappointingly compact room houses a series of seats near to "gate" doors, two over-priced cafe-bars, a book sellers and a small duty free shop. The predictable occurs when we're perusing the duty free. Every holiday we attempt to use the majority of our currency before leaving and hold back a tiny amount for emergencies. Thankfully we never seem to need this "emergency money" and at the end of every trip, we end up challenging ourselves to get the most out of this paltry sum. Despite counting up this modest stash and precisely working out how best to spend it, we always discover a hidden note at the last moment, just as we're about to pay. This trip is no different and we end up frantically and apologetically grabbing items. Our flight is called and a line grows behind us.

Having nearly got our money's worth, we join fellow passengers in the enormous queue that seems to snake around the airport. As we move forward, we're frustrated to see the queue has inevitably split and Ryanair staff seem to condone this. A uniformed representative helpfully informs me all duty-free must be put into carry-on baggage in order to be allowed on the flight and we're once again fighting for space, forced to wear more and more layers in the already stuffy airport lounge. Nearly at the gate, baggage is checked again and mine is weighed. I'm relieved they don't also attempt to squeeze my bag into the narrow metal frame but end up wearing yet more clothes and start to resemble a bag lady.

Finally outside, there's the routine rush towards the steps as friends and family keen to sit together try and secure seats. Once on board, the chaos of the gangway is reminiscent of a school corridor as passengers battle to get their desired seat configurations while others search the already limited overhead luggage lockers for space.

Our flight leaves on time and is thankfully uneventful until we land and the laughable fanfare is heard, celebrating "another on-time Ryanair flight". After our shambolic and frankly anal boarding experience, I can't help but wonder what targets Ryanair set themselves? Do they anticipate poor organisation by allowing eight hours to arrive at a destination a mere two hours away? The sad reality is, however much I moan about travelling with Ryanair, I know in the future I'll have little choice but to book with them again.

No comments:

Post a Comment