Posted by: phynbarr | April 8, 2013

An open letter to Michael O’Leary and Ryanair

Let me first of all state the fact.  I AM LIVID.  Spitting mad, furious and apoplectic doesn’t even begin to cover it.  And that’s after I’ve had a night to calm down

Now let me give you the background.

My daughter is at University.  She decided to spend her Easter this year volunteering for Hitch 2013 which encourages students from across the UK to Hitch to one of 2 destinations in Europe – Morocco or Croatia.  Now I can hear you thinking “Lucky b****r, some of us never had the opportunity” and you may well be right.

So far she has raised £780 plus GiftAid for Link Community Development (LCD)  – a charity which encourages educational opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.  And yes, she has had the opportunity to travel – mostly using her own hard –earned, hard-saved money – at a times when many people are finding the purse strings tightened beyond bearing.  She yes, in that sense, she’s a very fortunate person.  AND one who has initiative, guts and a caring nature

She has been hugely supported not only by those who donated but also by the Hitch community, LCD, and all the people who gave her team lifts and encouragement across 4 countries and 2 continents as they travelled for the best part of 2 weeks.  I was so delighted by her achievement I invited myself along to greet her in Marrakesh and take the opportunity to spend the weekend with her.  Which was just as well.

Because she had been lugging across Europe – on and off ferries, in and out of cars, trucks and various modes of transport – a very large and very heavy rucksack to enable her to live and sleep and keep clean during those 2 weeks.

In fact it was so heavy that when the time came to depart Marrakesh last night via a Ryanair flight it was over their weight limit for hold luggage by 3 kilograms.  Hold that figure in your mind

3 kilograms

For the record, that is roughly the weight of 3 bags of sugar

Now we were aware the bag was heavy but I said “Don’t worry, if it is over the weight limit, we’ll pay.  We’ll get it home somehow.  So, what to do?  There was nothing she could leave behind, this was stuff that had been vital to her very survival, was she supposed to dump it in the nearest bin?

Fortunately, very fortunately I was there.  Because I took my little chit stating that the bag was 3 kilograms overweight to the Ryanair desk as instructed prepared to pay around £50.  That’s what Ryanair charge when you cabin luggage is deemed not to fit in their little boxes (as an aside, I saw some poor violinist fall foul of this little box and the intransigence of Ryanair staff on the outbound flight.  He was forced to pay £50 to have his precious possession placed  – one hopes it was placed – in the hold. At the desk I was told that the charge for excess baggage would be 720 Moroccan dirham (MAD).  For those of you not versed in the pound to dirham conversion that’s £55.  Nearly the £50 I was expecting. So I ground my teeth, smiled politely and got out the credit card.  Which brings me back to my original point.

It was lucky I was there

My daughter is a student.  She doesn’t have a credit card.  She has a debit card she uses carefully with a very strict limit and a student loan.  She’s not living high on the hog here.  And don’t forget she had been saving all the previous term JUST so she could hitchhike with a modicum of safety. Had I not been there, I’m not sure how she would have rustled up £55 without a deal of stress, distress and time.  So she may even have missed her flight and been stranded alone, at the airport, late at night.

However, back to the plot.  We were just about done, I had signed the credit card slip and was about to walk away when the girl behind the desk said (I translate roughly) “That’s not right, I’ve only charged you for one, I should have charged you for 2”.  So by now we’re up to 1440 MAD or around £110.  I have to admit that at this point I forbore to point out we were actually talking about 3 kilograms (that’s roughly the weight of 3 bags of sugar) because my boiling point was reached.  I was – and remain furious.  How dare you take advantage of travellers at a foreign destination, stressed by trying to get through check-in, security, passport control and all the other hurdles air travel involves these days and the charge unconscionable amounts of money for an extra 3 kilograms?  There’s profit, then there’s greed and then there’s downright usurious avarice.  Not content for charging for every possible item, whether it be phone calls, reservations, emergencies – didn’t you try to charge for wheelchairs to get passengers through terminals at one time? – you go ahead and make money out of distress.  It’s not as if she flew out and should have known better.  She went by ferry.  She, personally hauled 18 kgs around on her back through 4 countries and 2 continents for the best part of 2 weeks.

You have rewritten the book on poor customer service to make it abysmal, appalling and non-existent customer service and I deeply, deeply regret the fact that I was persuaded – against my own previous judgement – to fly Ryanair again.

So, now, I insist, no, I DEMAND that you repay that 1440 MAD – which will go straight to the charity the hitchhike was intended to support – and I further challenge you to match – Pound for Pound, Euro for Euro, Dirham for Dirham – the money that my daughter has raised for Link Community Development here.  And I call on everyone reading this to donate something – no matter how small – to make that matching donation as substantial as possible.

I remain utterly and implacably furious and I personally ban myself from ever setting foot on one of your planes ever again

So stick that in your impossible and annoying trumpet and toot it!

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Responses

  1. More power to your elbow. I do hope, but do not expect given his track record, that Michael O’ Leary responds with the action that you have demanded. Please keep posting. And well done to Hettie! You are a tough pair the two of you and now no challenge (even the obnoxious Mr O’ Leary) is too great for you both.


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