Tag Archives: Ryanair

How I conquered my fear of flying – Funda-mental facts

24 Jul

I used to be so petrified of flying that I’d lock myself away in the airport loo half an hour before boarding and demolish a quarter bottle of neat Fundador.
Then I’d happily jet off to my destination full of carefree spirit, knowing that if the bottom fell out of the plane at 38,000 feet, I could ferry passengers and crew across the sky to safety using my own 40 per cent proof alcohol tank.
Even in those days, I was awafundadorre that flying was much safer than driving. So, indeed, are the masses of nervous people today who are so scared of air travel that they think a Ryanair loo and a hot flush are the same thing.
So why did I ever get into a flap over what is statistically the safest form of travel on earth (or a few thousand feet above it to be accurate)?
Global airline safety reports confirm there were a total of 90 commercial aeroplane accidents in 2013, just nine of which involved fatalities .
The 173 people killed on those doomed trips may seem a lot but when you look at the figures in the context of 32 million flights worldwide, the overall statistic of one accident per 300,000 flights and one fatality every three million trips proves conclusively that there is no safer form of transport.
If you are set on meeting St Peter at the Pearly Gates ASAP, then I can reveal that making the trip on two wheels is by far the best bet.
Yes, the riskiest way to travel anywhere is on a motorbike. Mile-for-mile, motorcycling is statistically 3,000 times more deadly than flying – and you are 100 times more likely to die travelling to Spain on four wheels than on a UK charter flight to or from the Costas.
Feel free to double the car-death figure if you include the loony Spanish fly boys who have brought a new skill to the art of driving. It’s called airborne overtaking and it’s soaring in popularity on my local autoroute.
I was approaching my fifties (in age, that is, not maximum driving speed) when I finally came to terms with the fear-of-flying nonsense. During a rare moment of airborne sobriety, my pickled brain came realised that Fundador-mentalism at ground level was much more likely to kill me than an extinct bird trying to board Ryanair ‘s smallest aircraft.
So when I now squeeze myself into one of Michael O’Leary’s tiny 3,000-seaters, I am reasonably relaxed, albeit still with the ability to panic whenever turbulence is around. Admit it, you laid-back veterans of sky travel – don’t you cast a quick look at the cabin crew’s faces whenever the engine sound changes or if the fasten seat-belt signs suddenly lights up?
I’m sure the aircraft staff are trained to remain calm at all times. But I defy them to keep a straight face if and when a desperate dodo sticks its beak into the starboard wing and the engine catches fire.
For all that, it’s great to be smugly dismissive of the occasional flyers who break into a round of applause when their holiday flight touches down. What’s coming next – a windbound for the driver?
For me, the most sobering thought is that my daughter and her other half run a major training centre for motorcycle riders in Manchester.
I need a drink. Anyone seen my hip flask?
PS. A thought on the new menace of terrorism in the air. In the wake of the 9/11 horror, airline passenger miles in the United States fell between 12% and 20% while road travel rocketed. By the time the panic ended and sky travel returned to normal, academics estimated that 1,595 extra lives had been lost. I never could figure out the Americans.

Checking in the Ryanair way…with one in the ‘I’ from Michael O’Leary

2 Jun

RIGHT, I admit it. I’m paranoid about Ryanair. And it’s not fair on my pet cheapskate airline…or on me.
My tongue-in-cheek account of my flight to Manchester two weeks ago was, I now confess, a little over the top. I even blamed them for the ‘lobal’ warfare between my handbag strap and left earring at the security desk before I had even set eyes on anyone from Ryanair.
And the paranoia resurfaced last Thursday when I spent at least an hour trying in vain to check in for my return flight to Alicante. The check-in section simply would not accept my reservation details…and my warped mind decided there was only one possible reason. They had turfed me off the flight because of all the negative coverage I’ve been giving Ryanair in The Courier.
Either that or they had hatched a plan to charge me an extra 60 euros at the airport because I hadn’t checked in online.
Yes, this was Michael O’Leary versus Donna the Old Deary – and the Irishman had decided there was only going to be one winner.
You’ll gather from that last sentence that at this point I was also suffering from delusions of grandeur. Yes, Michael O’Leary actually had someone as insignificant as me in his firing line.
And he was now taking the Michael – for deliberately mixing him up with the other silver-tongued O’Leary who used to present the X Factor.
My reservation details listed the booking reference as QY312V – two letters, followed by three numbers and another letter. Quite simple and clearly noted at the time on my mobile phone calendar.
However, every time I attempted to ‘manage my booking’ in order to check in, I got a message saying the details did not match their own…and that I should re-enter them correctly.
On Friday morning, the problem persisted, so I took a deep breath and called Ryanair on their unexpectedly cheap reservations line. Within two minutes I was actually talking to a human voice with a body attached to it. A male one.
I had expected to be hanging on for 20 minutes and probably to run out of patience before I got through and slam the receiver down. But this was NOT the sort of treatment I had expected. I hadn’t even had time to work myself up into a very minor frenzy, never mind get angry.
The operator wasn’t interested in my name. He just asked me for my reservation reference . “I have it down as QY312V,’’ I said. “Q – Y – three – one – two – V.’’
‘’I tink you may find that is incorrect,’’’ came the reply. (No, he wasn’t Irish, I accidentally left the H out of think and don’t have time to go back). “It actually says QY3I2V, that’s Q – Y – three -the letter I – two – V.’’
I can see Dermot, sorry Michael O’Leary laughing at my stupidity. That’s one in the ‘I’ for me, he’ll be saying. What else can we do to annoy her?’’
Annoy her, paranoia… help, I need to see a psychiatrist!

Published in The Courier (www.thecourier.es) June 1st 2012

Spanish airport strike: The 22 dates when it’s best NOT to fly

10 Mar

If you are planning to fly from Britain to the Spanish sun this summer, take care – your holiday could be ruined before you even get here.

Unless planned  talks between union chiefs and Spain’s development minister Jose Blanco are successful, travel chaos is set to strike over Easter, when airport ground staff are planning two 48-hour walkouts.
The proposed stoppages are apparently being held to protest against the government’s plans to sell off parts of Aena, the state-owned firm that runs Spain’s key airports. The issue is so sensitive that three trade unions have announced a total of 22 strike days between April 20 and August 31.
Airport fire brigades, baggage handlers and runway staff are all involved in the strikes, which will also embrace Spanish bank holidays and the start and finish of the peak holiday season.
My friend Arno Otto of Murcia-based Seguro Parking tells me the dates to avoid travelling are April 20, 21, 24, 25 and 30; May 2, 14, 15, 19 and 20, June 13, 23, 30, July 1, 2, 3, 4, 15 and 31 and August 1, 15 and 31.
If you’ve already booked, then it’s cross-your-fingers-and-hope time.
Will the Spanish union of misery makers settle their differences before we all start tearing our hair out?
ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, are certainly hopeful the chaos will be avoided.  A spokesman pointed out that the Spanish industrial action was “only a proposed strike”, adding: “Chances are it won’t go ahead.”
As for me, chances are I won’t be leaving Spain until September at the earliest!

Ryanair’s cheap shots will leave O’Leary on a loo-ser

15 Feb

I’ve only once flown Ryanair and had no real complaints. But when, loo and behold, company boss Michael O’Leary began spouting about charging passengers for using his aircraft toilets in-flight, that was bladder-well not on.

As far as I was concerned, the Irish cheapo fly-boys were just cheapskate penny pinchers, at the same time screaming hypocritically that they are the cheapest and best airline around.

The problem is that O’Leary has got himself stuck uncomfortably between two stools (more Donna toilet humour). He’ll do anything for publicity – but in the process tends to ostracise a huge number of people, including passengers and staff.

Some travellers will no doubt be happy to save a few more quid by utilising the ‘‘standing seats’’ he plans to introduce in order to shoe-horn as many passengers as possible into short-haul flights.

Not me – I get backache after ten minutes shopping, so what price surviving a trip from Manchester to Murcia or Alicante on my feet?

Last summer O’Leary riled his own pilots with his ridiculous questioning of whether commercial airliners actually need two pilots on the flight deck.

“Really, you only need one pilot,’’ he ranted. ‘‘Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.”

O’Leary’s logic is that flight attendants could do the job of the co-pilot, who he claimed was only there ‘‘to make sure the first fella doesn’t fall asleep and knock over one of the computer controls.”

He wants one of the cabin crew on all Ryanair flights taught to land a plane, with the pilot ringing the bell in an emergency and calling her in to take over. Following those comments, O’Leary quickly found himself on the receiving end from his own pilots, with Marseille-based Captain Morgan Fischer proposing that Ryanair ‘‘replace the chief executive with a probationary cabin-crew member currently earning about 13,200 euros net a year. “Ryanair would benefit by saving millions of euros in salary, benefits and stock options,” quipped Fischer

saw the funny side and joined in the banter, as did Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara, who said: “Michael thinks that cabin crew would make a far more attractive CEO than him so we are going to seriously look at the suggestion. “After all, if we can train cabin crew to land the plane, it should be no problem training them to do Michael’s job as well.”

They say that any publicity is good publicity – and that certainly seems to be Ryanair’s policy. But if they don’t soften their attitude towards their customers, I reckon they will pay heavily for it in due course.

A Cork-based friend of mine often travels from Cork to the UK with Ryanair because has no other option. And he reckons their attitude is not one of gratitude for his business but that THEY are doing HIM a favour in providing a service.

Another friend’s recent experience suggests that Ryanair should consider adopting the expression ‘The Customer is Always Wrong’ as their official slogan. My pal Andres Ballesteros, whose English is adequate but not perfect, paid on line for a return ticket from Liverpool to Alicante for his UK-based son – only to realise almost immediately that he had booked the flights back to front.

It was clearly a genuine mistake but Andres accepted he’d have to fork out another 20 euros or so to have the dates reversed. But when he phoned Ryanair’s call centre, a dismissive female operator told him haughtily: ‘‘It’s your mistake. You’ll just have to pay again’’.

Poor Andres was forced to rebook both flights, more than doubling the cost and adding a tasty bonus to O’Leary’s greed machine. World’s Most Popular Airline? World’s Least Caring Airline more likely.

As for all those O’Leary cost-cutting ideas, I’m not sure how serious he is – and whether any of them will actually be introduced rather than merely touted for publicity reasons. But don’t you find Ryanair’s endless purse-squeezing in order to increase profits a little worrying?

We have to believe that safety is as much a priority with O’Leary as it is with every other airline – and that he is not cutting corners in crucial areas like aircraft servicing.

However, I bet his constant stream of penny-pinching ideas has sewn just a tiny seed of doubt in the minds of some people. Me for one.