Trying to get home from Barcelona

Air traffic controllers’ strike will test Ryanair’s new friendly image writes Pamela Duncan

Barcelona airport where a strike by French air traffic controllers has disrupted schedules.

Barcelona airport where a strike by French air traffic controllers has disrupted schedules.

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 14:48

The airline representative is smiling. This is the new face of Ryanair, helpful, open and customer-orientated. But with an air traffic controllers strike causing flights to be cancelled across Europe the airline’s new friendly image will be tested. Will the reformed airline revert to type?

My boyfriend and I are booked on the 10.55am flight from Barcelona to Dublin. Shortly before we reach the gate we are informed somewhat abruptly by airport staff that the flight is cancelled and directed to the Ryanair desk.

The queue is long and getting longer. We are given a copy of our customer rights and join it. The document leaves us with more questions than answers and provides little solace.

And then she appears. A Ryanair representative patiently answers our questions advising us to use the website to book a later flight for free, to keep receipts for any accommodation costs incurred, that the accommodation should be no more than three-star and that we can apply for a refund at a later time.

She advises us to leave the queue and rebook online to save time. It is good advice. We leave the queue, get on the airport WiFi and are able to rebook our flights within 20 minutes albeit for two days time. But while our experiencence is as positive as can be expected in the circumstances not everyone is as lucky.

At the top of a queue that snakes its way to the end of the terminal Emma Adams raises her voice in frustration.

“But I don’t have any money,” she repeats looking close to tears.

As she rejoins her mother and two dughters she says she got little satisfaction at the Ryanair desk.

“She said the next available flight is Thursday...I told her I have no money and I have two kids and my medication is going to go off and she just said to me ‘well you should have money when you’re going on holiday’”.

Her mother Maria, who lives in Tralee, said that just this morning she had been talking to a man at breakfast saying “how Ryanair have changed and that I have had no trouble and now this”.

Others complained that they had been given little information and that not enough staff were on hand to answer queries.

“There was nobody down there, no representatives, nothing,” Christine McCracken who is originally from Dublin but living in Hawaii said.

Deirdre Doherty who is travelling with her two young children summed up the feelings of many others in the queue: “We just want to go home,” she said.