Pay peanuts, get monkeys

I’m a Yorkshireman and it’s been scientifically proven that us Yorkshire folk like to be careful with our money. My genetic heritage guides my spending policies such that I will always try and find a cheaper way of doing something if I can.

However, such behaviour doesn’t always end so well.

Last weekend we headed over to Ireland to attend a wedding of a friend of ours. We had an amazing time, as blogged last week. Everything went well, apart from the areas where we skimped a little bit in expenditure.

We flew with Ryanair. This Irish airline are proud of their budget airline stance. They have cheap fairs and basic facilities on their aircraft. Understandably you have to pay for extras, such as food and storage of your suitcases. All this is fine, except for their attempts to bleed extra money from you unexpectedly, plus the fact that their customer service is difficult to get hold of.

I was appalled that Ryanair will charge you £80 to change the name on a flight ticket. We’d booked our flights before we got married so Jo ended up changing her name. We should have thought this through at the time but she obviously couldn’t fly with a passport showing a different surname compared to her ticket, and Ryanair insist on charging far more than the ticket was worth to make a small administrative change. It’s not like they actually issue physical tickets – it’s all done electronically!

This policy seems entirely driven to stop people buying tickets cheaply and then selling them on for a higher price, however that didn’t really help us. Luckily Jo still had her driving license in her maiden name and she was able to use that as photo ID for Ireland. I would not have been happy if I’d have had to buy another ticket.

To make this even wors, Ryanair make it as difficult as possible to contact them by email or by direct line. You can write them a letter (very 1980s) or phone an 0871 number and pay 10p a minute. We tried to ring the reservation desk number but nobody bothered to answer it after five minutes. It’s just as well we found out that we could travel on our driving licenses.

They’ve also cut corners on the website. It’s just awful. It’s cluttered, difficult to use and will give you a headache if you look at it longer than a few minutes. They also sent us an email a week or so before departure telling us that we needed to confirm our travel details:

“Thank you for booking with Ryanair. You will need your confirmation number and a VALID ACCEPTED FORM OF PHOTO-ID at check-in to receive your boarding card.

This was fair enough but they then provided a warning:

Ryanair are required to collect specific information from every passenger travelling to Spain (including the Canaries and Balearic Islands) from the UK, Republic of Ireland, Morocco & Switzerland. FAILURE TO PROVIDE THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION PRIOR TO ARRIVAL AT THE DEPARTURE AIRPORT WILL RESULT IN YOU BEING DENIED BOARDING WITHOUT REFUND. Please click on the link below and retrieve your booking & complete the security questions for each passenger travelling

Initially, I skimmed the email and didn’t realise that this part of the email was targetted at people flying to Spain. It says it right there in the text but all I saw at the time was the fact that we might not be able to fly if we didn’t provide details of our travel documents. I chuntered to myself for a while before realising my mistake, but why was this even in my email? We weren’t going anywhere Spanish.

Luckily the rest of our Ryanair experience was much more positive. Checkin was painless, the flight was OK for a short hop over the Irish Sea and they did provide us with James May on the way back, which was nice. I suppose if you ignore the blatant attempts to bleed you for more cash then Ryanair are a good choice of airline. Unfortunately, they’d annoyed the crap out of me before I even got on the aircraft. I found BMI Baby to be a much more pleasant experience in general but your mileage may vary.

Ryanair were saints compared to our car hire company though. Once again we decided to save a few pennies by finding a cheap way of hiring a car for our stay in Ireland. We booked with Argus Car Hire who seem to be one of those “search the internet for you” websites that deals with the hiring of cars. There was not problem with that site but there were huge issues with the company that we ended up dealing with: Thrifty.

At least with Ryanair we had an ultimately adequate experience. Thrifty were just crap all-together. Let me list the ways in which there disappointed us.

Firstly, picking the car up was just painful and not a little frustrating. At the Thrifty check-in desk we handed in our details, at which point they attempted th fleece us for some unnecessary and over-expensive insurance. The rental included third-party cover and damage up to 900 Euros but they obviously want you to take our their 15 Euro a day insurance. In order to “encourage” you to do so they tell you that if you don’t take the insurance they’ll need to take a deposit of 900 Euros which they’ll pay back once you return the car. WTF? Oddly enough this was not mentioned at all in the rental agreement and I was bloody livid when the woman at the counter told me this. I wasn’t about to pay for the extra insurance so I reluctantly agreed to give them the deposit, however they couldn’t even take that properly – they told me to take my card before it had finished processing and I didn’t even end up paying the deposit at all.

This “deposit” is just a ruse to get you to pay for the extra insurance. Bollocks to them. Use someone else.

Our disappointment didn’t end there. Thrifty’s cars are parked at an off-airport facility that requires you to be bussed out to pick it up. The woman at the check-in phoned them up after we paid to get the car ready and we headed off to the pick-up point. There were quite a few people waiting when we arrived – some for Thrifty and others for more expensive (and almost certainly more reliable) car hire companies. We saw several Hertz vans pull around to pick up their passengers but the Thrifty transports were very thin on the ground. It ended up taking us over an hour to get to the Thrifty depot. We were bloody seething by this point.

To make it even worse they hadn’t even bothered to get our car ready. We handed our paperwork over and the somewhat uncommunicative girl behind the counter left us to our own devices while she went off to run the car through the carwash. She didn’t bother to tell us what was going on at any point and eventually turned up with a Hyundai i30. It was clean, still wet in fact, but it had a dent in one side and several scuffs. Not impressed. I was even less impressed when the girl serving us disappeared back into their office without a word and then eventually opening a window and shouted us in to sign for the car.

This was turning out to be a very disappointing, and stressful, start to our trip to Ireland. It didn’t help that the car was utter shit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the most hideous car ever made and the interior is not bad at all but our i30 was a putrid goldish colour and it had one of the most rubbish engines of any car I’ve ever driven. I’m not sure what engine size ours was (probably the 1.4 considering how little acceleration it had) but it was crap. The clutch was too sharp and difficult to gauge and there was no go to it. Crap crap crappity crap.

Still, it got us to Kilkea Castle but not until we had to negotiate the hideous quantity of roadworks going on in and around Dublin, and seemingly just about every mile of road between there and our destination. Murphy builders seem to be raking it in at the moment with the amount of Tarmac being laid in Ireland, and it took us another couple of hours to get there.

Luckily things improved no end once we arrived at Kilkea Castle and we had a wonderful time, even with the crap car.

There’s one shred of hope for Thrifty. When we arrived back at their depot there was once again a shortage of transport to the airport. Luckily, one of the guys behind the desk was kind enough to source an extra van and we got back there in plenty of time. Thanks go to him, but there is no way that I’m ever going to use that company again. Awful customer service and disingenous attempts to fleece us for extra cash are not a way to encourage repeat custom. The next time I hire a car it will be with a much more reputable company.

3 thoughts on “Pay peanuts, get monkeys

  1. In the same way that I would never, ever use Virgin Media (was ntl); I will never, ever fly with Ryanair. I’ve flown with them twice and it has always been an unpleasant experience. In my experience the staff have at best been unhelpful and at worst down right rude. As far as budget airlines go I’ve never had any problem with Easyjet. Going to Dublin, Aer Lingus are good (their pilots do some of the fastest taxiing I’ve ever seen!) and my one experience of BMI Baby was positive.

    I’ve flown all over the world with my job at Ericsson and for long haul flights I always try to fly BA as they are very reliable, but the best airlines do seem to be the Asian airlines, Singapore and Malasyian in particular were good and I understand Emirates are excellent too. Like with Ryanair I refuse to fly with United for long haul transatlantic.

  2. Hi Greg. Both our out- and in-bound flights were pretty good with Ryanair. I just think that there are better airlines out there. I still might use them in the future but only if there isn’t another cheaper alternative.

    My one flight with BA was less than impressive. I’m tall and even on a 747 I was crammed in too tightly. Not enough seat pitch for me and that’s more important than the quality of the in-flight entertainment! I thought that Virgin Airways were excellent, but then I did end up flying Upper Class the first time! I’ve not had the chance to use the Asian airlines but my wife thinks that Singapore Airlines were rather wonderful.

    We may end up checking out those Aer Lingus “vomit comets” out – they fly from Leeds/Bradford and we’re thinking of getting a short break from there around Christmas.

  3. I’ve flown with RyanAir about a dozen times, never had a problem (besides the £5 for a sandwich and small drink!), then again, I’ve not needed to change my name on the ticket! Now Monarch airlines have small leg room, and I’m short so I feel sorry for lanky sods ;o) British Airways long haul (Hong Kong, NYC) has probably been the most comfortable flight.

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