In my previous blog I told my tale of woe of a cancelled flight at the mercy of the incompetent Michael O’Leary and his atrocious airline. The consequences of his actions created a chain of events which were costly and traumatic and this is the untold story for many poor unfortunate passengers. This is the story of why offers of a sandwich and a taxi fare are completely inadequate and why EU261 is so important.
The only message from the one person representing Ryanair was to go on the internet and rearrange your flights. Customer Service from Ryanair was apparently that if we rearranged to another Ryanair flight it would be free of charge and the customary administration fees would be waived. Quite apart from the problem of trying to get internet access and to manipulate the horrendous Ryanair website on a mobile phone without accidentally buying £400 of unwanted garbage with it there were two further problems.
First we were in Perpignan. There were six places on a flight later that night to Southampton which went quickly – after that who knows? The next flight to Birmingham was on Tuesday.
Secondly, there was a queue of a hundred or so passengers wanting answers from a single member of staff unable to make commitments.
No-one had come to talk to us and nothing was handed out explaining what to do.
I had heard there was a “BMI” flight from Toulouse to Birmingham on Sunday. I realised that Toulouse was possible as a destination. One of the challenges when you are faced with this situation is the inadequacies of the equipment to do the job. Working off a mobile phone with fading battery life is not the best option. I couldn’t understand why, whenever I put BMI in the browser, I ended up at the BA website. In the end I just called them.
It turned out that the BMI brand which was bought by BA is different to BMI Regional Airline. BA could fly me to Heathrow or Gatwick from Toulouse but not Birmingham. The agent I spoke to at Newcastle was helpful but he couldn’t take my order and couldn’t give me a number for BMI Regional. Finally, as we were wrapping up the conversation he looked on his system and could see the flight – “If I can see it, I can book it” he said – I put £1032 on my credit card to pay for the flights and turned my attention to a hotel.
This was rapidly becoming a nightmare because it happened to be the night Catalan Dragons were playing Warrington Wolves and so hotels were scarce. I managed to get two rooms at a hotel in Perpignan for the night through LastMinute and took a taxi into town.
We talked to the taxi driver about the best way to get to Toulouse the following day. He suggested a taxi but we could also go by train. A taxi would be expensive on a Sunday – perhaps 120 euros. When we got to the hotel he sidled up to us and gave us his card. He would give us a lift for 85 euros if we called him. We checked in at the hotel to discover we only had one room. LastMinute bookings need confirming by the receiving hotel and they had declined one of the rooms. The lady was very apologetic and said that we could put three in a room by using the camp bed. When we got in the room the wifi became important. We checked out the train situation and realised we would need an early start to make the connection – when we rang back the taxi driver the price had gone up to 450 euros (word of the Ryanair passenger’s dilemma travels fast).
We had a nice evening meal and sorted a cab for the morning before having a decent night’s sleep in a now-cramped motel room.
The following morning was full of promise and things started well – an easy transfer to the station – we’d eat breakfast in the hours of leisure at the airport we thought. The ticket office was closed and didn’t open until ten minutes before our train. A minor glitch – it gave us a chance of a takeaway coffee – and we were soon on the comfortable French train. Like clockwork we were in Toulouse and even caught a shuttle bus to the airport within five minutes. We started to relax.
At the modern Toulouse Airport we found our way to the BMI desk and presented ourselves very early because we had not online check in or boarding cards. They checked and found we weren’t on the passenger list – no surprise for late bookings. The lady there offered to go and check the situation and, on her return, we were told that the flights had been cancelled!
I then began a couple of hours of talking to BA Customer Services. They initially thought I hadn’t paid for the tickets before finally settling on a position that the tickets were fine and that BMI should let us on the flight. All well and good – except they wouldn’t.
Step forward Jasmine at the MAP desk. MAP is the managing agent for BMI in Toulouse. She took ownership of the situation and sympathised with our predicament. She was a friendly face when everything else seemed to be going wrong. Through it all she was smiling and helpful and willing to miss her lunch to see us safely on our way. At one point I put Jasmine on the phone to BA and that seemed to bring everything to a head. Within an hour of our flight and within 5 minutes of talking to Jasmine the guy from BA rang. The flight should never have been booked and we had to cancel and rebook. This is where things began to go right because he had set everything up so that we only needed to give payment details to BMI to get on the flight. Another £1000 on credit card later and we were at the checking desk … with Jasmine booking us onto the flight … and still not appearing on the passenger list. Finally after 2 further phone calls from the mobile phone someone at BMI gave permission to Jasmine to put us on the plane.
We got back tired and fraught over 24 hours late.
In sharp contrast to the shocking attitude of Ryanair, BA admitted their mistakes and despite not getting any money from me in the end they put things right. I guess that’s why BA have their reputation…and Ryanair have their’s.
So far Ryanair have refunded my tickets but are refusing to pay their obligations in compensation in EU261. Despite no other flights being cancelled, arrivals and departures (including their own planes) and the airport staying open throughout they are saying that the weather was too dangerous to fly in and therefore they don’t have to pay. The real reason was that a delay in the flight would have meant they would have missed another connection with the tight turnaround times built into Ryanair schedules – this is clearly spelled out as no defence in EU261. It looks like I have to join the queues taking Ryanair to court before they finally do what they should have done in the first place. And meanwhile Michael O’Leary is busy telling his shareholders (because all he is interested in is money) that he is going to change the culture of Ryanair to treat customers better. He could do worse than to look at what MAP, BA and BMI Regional do to see what real airlines behave like. He should definitely look at Jasmine to see what real customer service can do.