The Rack of Doom and other Ryanair adventures


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What is about Ryanair that makes travelling with them so stressful? It's as if every time a Ryanair flight is booked, the gods of travel get together to stir up a frightful blend of chaos and confusion.

… And so it was a week last Tuesday that my gf and I embarked on what should have been only a simple journey from London to Limoges in France but turned into one of the most stressful mornings I can remember, largely thanks to my own ineptitude.

It was early morning and the Terravision bus from Liverpool Street to Stansted was nowhere to be seen, running late, as they often do. My gf handed me our printed bus tickets and boarding passes for the flight, all of which I promptly lost (ineptitude alert).

This created our first Crystal Maze-like challenge of the day. I had to get online on my phone and set up a WiFi hotspot so my gf could get into her emails on her iPad and get to the bus tickets to show the steward. But what about the boarding passes? Ryanair put a great deal of emphasis on printing them before you go. They're famous for it, in fact – part of their bid to get rid of the checkin desk altogether.

I had a quick run around Liverpool Street and of course there were no Internet cafes, especially that early in the morning. But not to worry, the bus arrived (nearly half an hour late) and and we hopped on board while I tried to concoct some kind of scheme on the off chance we made it to the airport in time for the 9.30 am flight.

I started Googling on my phone and learnt a few things: 1. It says on Ryanair's website that if you forget your boarding passes you have to pay a fee to print each one. 2. According to various travel websites the fee is 40 quid a pop. 3. There are Internet kiosks at Stansted from which you can print.

We arrived at the airport with about half an hour to spare and ran in to find an Internet kiosk, which happily accepted my credit card details. Time was of the essence and as my gf couldn't remember her email password we tried to get into the booking on the Ryanair site, but of course we couldn't get to the booking as the credit card she used had recently been cut up. So we went back to Hotmail and eventually got the right password tapped in so we could get to the original Ryanair email, copy the booking number and log in to the site.

But Ryanair don't let you print your boarding passes within four hours of travel, so there was no PDF waiting for us. Then another plan was hatched and we called her brother, woke him up and got him to logon to my gf's computer to see if she'd downloaded the PDF. This proved troublesome as the said brother had never used Ubuntu before and halfway through the conversation we ran out of phone credit.

Eventually, though, he found the PDF and emailed it to us, but it turned out to be a completely blank document, for some mysterious reason. We were stumped – again.

The flight turned out to be at 10 am, rather than 9.30 am, so that gave us an extra half hour to figure out what to do. Even so, by this point my gf had given up hope and was ready to leave. With no other option apparent, I logged off the computer, 10 quid the poorer, and we ran to the Ryanair desk to plead our case. As two tired-looking, sweating messes, I figured we could just start crying and play the sympathy card.

At the desk, we told the lady what had happened and without saying more than two words she printed our boarding passes and handed them to us without charging a penny. How kind and yet cruel, the gods of travel.

We made it to the departure gate after a lengthy sprint. As the last passengers to board, I imagined they'd just shoo us on, but no, they wanted us to try and squeeze our bags into the little luggage-measuring rack. If you've ever flown Ryanair, you have probably witnessed the circus of people coming face to face with these pesky racks. It usually goes something like this:

Well, my bag was OK, but my gf's was too big, so we had to jump up and down on it a few times and switch things from one bag to the other to make the big one fit, which it did, after a while. My mother had told me that when she flies Ryanair, she literally wears most of her luggage to get past the Rack of Doom before putting everything back in the bag. Such wisdom, my mother.

And that's the end of what is really a rather pointless summary of a morning that caused me so much stress I just had to tell someone about it.

As the BBC put it: Ryanair is the airline we love to hate, but not so much we want to stop using it.

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