Ryanair’s Response to Cancelling a Flight Will Shock You (or Why Flying on Spirit Doesn’t Seem So Bad)

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Back in August, thanks to one of The Flight Deal’s alerts, we bought round-trip tickets to Ireland in March for $560 each. Then The Flight Deal asked me, so are you going to fly Ryanair to compare to your Spirit reports? My first response: not if I can help it. See, I’ve already flown on Ryanair before, and that experience has made me try to avoid flying on them again ever since.

The year, 2007. I was planning a 3-week trip to Europe with my husband. My in-laws offered to take our son, so it was going to be just the two of us. We started in Berlin and made our way down to Vienna over the first two weeks. For the last week of our trip we were going on a cruise and needed to get from Vienna to Stockholm. That’s when I first found about Ryanair.

ryan airlines logo

It was a little convoluted, but I figured we could take a short train ride from Vienna to Bratislava then fly from Bratislava to Frankfurt on Ryanair that night. We’d overnight in Frankfurt, then first thing the next morning we would fly from Frankfurt to Stockholm (also on Ryanair). That would get us in a day before the cruise; so I also reserved a non-refundable hotel in Stockholm. The cruise was also overnighting the first night in Stockholm so that would give us almost a full three days to tour around there.

There were so many things that could (and did) go wrong with this plan.

We had no problem getting train tickets (that were cheap) from Vienna to Bratislava. It was also fairly easy to get around Bratislava and we enjoyed hanging out there for the day while we were waiting to catch our flight.

The weather was bad going into Germany (that was a ridiculously cold summer for Germany from what everyone told us). The fog was so thick everyone in the plane actually applauded when we landed. I think most of us weren’t certain we were going to be able to land there that night.

Since we only had a carry-on and a backpack each we decided since we weren’t going to be there long we could just sleep at the airport instead of getting a hotel room.

Keep in mind we were flying on Ryanair.

We were not at Frankfurt Main, the big international airport. We were at Frankfurt Hahn, a much smaller airport. Once we got there we thought getting a hotel might be the better move, but every place we called was full for the night. As a result we added the first thing to our Murtaugh list (things we’re getting too old for); sleeping on the floor of an airport instead of getting a hotel room.

The next morning we were waiting for our flight to board. And waiting. And waiting. We finally realized, our flight wasn’t going to leave. What we ddidn’t realize, was that instead of rescheduling us for another flight, Ryanair’s policy was to simply refund us our money. What?!?!

We were in a panic for about an hour and trying to figure out if we could find a train that could get us to Stockholm when Ryanair announced they chartered a bus we could take if we wanted. And the bus cost over twice as much than our plane tickets originally cost us.

It was bad, but what other choice did we have?

Keep in mind this is 2007 before wifi everywhere was the norm and we could have easily looked up other options. We coughed up the €100 (each) and reserved seats on the bus. It was going to take 24 hours to get there. So instead of getting in the day before our cruise started, we were getting in the day of.

Sleeping overnight in a bus isn’t great, but we kept reminding each other, it was better than sleeping on the floor of the airport again.

I was glad I planned to get to Stockholm sooner rather than later. I would have loved an extra day in Vienna, but the fiasco with our flight getting canceled confirmed that I had chosen wisely.

It’s unusual for a cruise to dock overnight in the starting port; we were lucky this was the case so we still had time to see some of Stockholm before we left.

At lease we made the cruise.

At least we made the cruise.

I kept kicking myself for booking the non-refundable hotel room, however, by the time we figured out we weren’t going to make it to Stockholm that day I probably wouldn’t have been able to cancel any hotel room without a penalty.

So yes, having a flight canceled and potentially being stranded in Germany did not give me a warm fuzzy towards Ryanair. The chartered bus added insult to injury with how much it ended up costing us. The whole thing would have probably been cheaper had we gone with a traditional carrier to begin with.

Are we going to use Ryanair when we go to Ireland? The honest answer is I hope not. There will be five of us traveling together which makes everything more logistically challenging, especially if something goes wrong. If we make plans where that becomes necessary, I will definitely have a back-up plan figured out for a worst-case scenario.


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.

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