My Story

The events of 2003 that led to the setting up of this Web site.

The Initial Trip

My Ryanair flight on 8 September 2003 was from Stansted to Ancona, Italy, and back. My intended holiday involved crossing the Adriatic by boat. My baggage contained tent, waterproof clothing, walking boots etc. Ryanair left me with only the clothing and soft shoes I wore on the plane.

My baggage was not put on the plane to Ancona. It was very rainy at the time and I spent the next 24 hours there, with no coat or proper footware, getting soaked and shivering under bus shelters. I couldn't realistically use up phone card after phone card queuing for Ryanair's premium rate phone numbers from overseas, so I was completely on my own and this was a very stressful period.

When I returned to the airport 24 hours later, my baggage was not on the next plane either. I found that they had made no serious effort to get it to me and that the best I could do was to hope that I might get it after a further 24 hours, by which time my trip across the Adriatic was becoming impossible, I said that I was cold, wet and filthy and had nowhere to stay, and could they at least do the decent thing and get me back to the UK.

The Ancona Airport staff do not work for Ryanair, but after several failed attempts to contact Ryanair offices, they spoke to a Ryanair controller at Stansted who made the final decision to demand an extra 160 before I could be allowed on the plane. It was getting late; I had nothing but the wet, filthy light clothing I was standing in, and I didn't know after all the argument whether there was still a bus back to town, and I had nowhere to stay. It was still raining outside.

The situation was entirely of Ryanair's making, and I was left helpless and desperate. Any decent company would have compensated me. I didn't expect Ryanair to do that, but I didn't expect that they would see my desperation, caused by their incompetence, as an opportunity to charge me 160 "if I wanted to change my flight".

My return flight was paid for without refund, and they would resell it. The seat I was going to take was also paid for by someone else who had cancelled without refund. I was cold, wet, filthy and desperate, entirely due to Ryanair, and just needed to get home safely. I felt that their demand for 160, or else go back out in the rain with no clothes, was extortion by any reasonable definition, and it was that 160 which I set out getting refunded.

Assuming that they sold my return flight to another desperate person for 160, Ryanair would have earned themselves 320 by failing to bring my baggage.

I have never asked for, nor received, any refund or compensation for the original cost of my flight and my ruined holiday, because I understand from Ryanair's terms and conditions that I am not entitled to it. However, when Ryanair effectively held my baggage to ransom in order to force me to pay extra to get home, I felt that this was criminal activity.

My baggage was not lost forever. It turned up at Stansted, apparently having been to France.

Ryanair's Response

As soon as I got home I faxed Ryanair asking for a refund of the 160 (but not for anything more).

I also wrote to many other organisations, including the BBC's Watchdog, the Air Travel Users Committee and the Anna Tims consumer page in The Guardian newspaper.

On 17 September 2003 Maria Browne at Ryanair wrote

I regret to advise that in accordance with Ryanair's general conditions of carriage, no refund applies in the case of your ticket.

Furthermore, the non-refundability of "all monies paid" is advised in the "Important Please Read" section on all Ryanair flight itineraries and email confirmations and also under the Terms and Conditions on our Website.

Amendments of flight dates and passenger names, can be requested, prior to the original date of departure. [their punctuation] This service is subject to a change fee and upgrade fee (if applicable).

Whilst I sympathise with the your circumstances, which led to the curtailment of your visit I regret that I am unable to offer a refund on any additional charges incurred.

This seems to be an unambiguous indication that they were aware that they had caused my "circumstances" and had no intention of giving back the money they had taken from me.

On 8 October 2003, I got an unexpected email from Caroline Green at Ryanair, saying (pasted exactly as it was)

Anna Tims from the Guardian has forwarded your correspondence to me, relating to your baggage delay and the flight change fee that you were charged in Ancona Airport

Firstly, I would like to apologise that this has not been dealt with before it was necessary for you to go to the Guardian. I have refunded the flight change fee of 160 back to the credit card used in the booking and it will be processed by Ryanair tonight and your bank will take 3-5 working days to process it back to your account. Ancona Airport have the flexibility to make exceptions is these kind of circumstances and in this case they made the wrong call. Also, my staff her in Dublin should have dealt with this situation more sympathetically after the situation that occurred with your baggage.

I would like to again extend my personal apologies for the delay of your bag and the problem you encountered at Ancona Airport.

Well, it had been dealt with before, whatever she said. It was dealt with by refusing to refund me. I am very pleased to have got that money back (although I still paid a lot for the holiday I never had), and grateful to The Guardian, but I find it very hard to believe that there was ever any intention of refunding the money in the month before The Guardian got involved.