The airline that doesn’t care

On a recent TV show in the UK a pilot who used to work for Ryanair said that the company “detests” its crew. That’s a bit rough but maybe true. In fact Michael O’Leary the controversial head of Ryanair once described pilots as glorified taxi drivers.

The full article is available on the Daily Star Online website (a UK online newspaper) but in that they state other woes that the airline has gone through – See below.

 2017, hundreds of thousands of passengers had their travel plans wrecked after Ryanair admitted it had “messed up” the planning of its pilots’ holidays.

The airline was forced to cancel 20,000 flights – a move that, along with strike chaos throughout 2018, lead to it issuing profit warnings.

Customers came forward to tell the Channel 5 show the tales of appalling rudeness experienced by those who dared complain.

One woman, who was charged €300 for Ryanair to print out the boarding pass she had forgotten, was told to forget about a refund.

The general tone was that “it was your f***-up”, she said.

Daily Star Online has approached Ryanair for comment.

Well as long as they don’t ask Michael O’Leary for a comment – but they probably won’t get one. The travel industry press had great fun back in the day when O’Leary would entertain us all with his outrageous statements. It seems however that Ryanair has somehow managed to shut him up and we haven’t had comments from him for a few years. Here are a few beauties from the past …

On British Airways: “BA have got waterfalls in their head office. The first thing I’d do if I were in charge of BA is turn off the waterfalls. The only time we have waterfalls in the Ryanair office is when the toilet leaks.”

On how to keep employees motivated and happy: “Fear.”

On refunds: “We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”

If you can’t find a low fare on Ryanair: “You’re a moron.”

On charging passengers to use the loo: “One thing we have looked at is maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in the future. If someone wanted to pay £5 to go to the toilet I would carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver.”

The list is long and full of **%#@@ words but if you want to have a good chuckle go to https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/lists/Michael-OLearys-most-memorable-quotes/

My personal favourite ….

On travel agents: “Screw the travel agents. Take the ******* out and shoot them. They are a waste of bloody time. What have they done for passengers over the years?”

Fly and flop

I made Leslie Horton laugh when I first used that expression.

FLY AND FLOP

It is a bit of a British way of making fun of the annual holiday down to Mallorca. Pack up, get on the plane – get to the hotel – and flop for a week. Never mind that rubbish about sight seeing, churches, museums – heck no. Get on the plane – get down to the beach and …. yes that’s right – flop!

Look – there’s nothing wrong with that. After a whole year of working hard, taking the kids to hockey practice, cleaning the house, shoveling the driveway – yeah – hardworking people are quite justified in their desire to get somewhere they don’t have to make beds and cook meals and they can just lie on the beach for a week – even if it is pouring with rain!

Of course it has bred a whole sub-culture of the locals who laugh at the tourists and regard them as a necessary pain in the butt. I understand that. I grew up in Mullion, Cornwall – a pretty village with spectacular beaches. There was always a bit of a panic in the air towards the end of June – the “visitors” were coming. And you could spot them a mile away. Dad would have a hanky on his head and would be enjoying an ice cream cone.

Mom would be struggling down the main street with an oversized beach bag and very burnt arms. We fled to beaches that only the locals knew about and waited there until 4th September when peace in the village was restored and the visitors all went home.

And here we come to the “flop” part – it’s problematical. Finding somewhere to flop that is. Pop your head out of the window of your hotel in the early hours of the morning and I bet you will see people sneaking down there to drop a towel or a book on a couple of chairs to reserve them. The hotels don’t like this and nor do the other guests. But a place to flop is very very important.

The strange thing is that the all inclusive hotels these days have so many activities on the go you would be hard pressed to spend the whole time flopped in your chair. What with aqua aerobics in the morning and karaoke in the afternoon round the pool and name that tune in the evening. (Can I run away now???)

So if lying on the beach all day is your thing – Go for it! I say. You worked hard. You deserve it. It is your holiday and you should spend it how YOU want to spend it and forget about any criticisms. Just remember the suntan lotion and don’t fall asleep in the sun.

The final word is from Jokesoftheday.net. It says it all…..

A guy fell asleep on the beach…
A guy fell asleep on the beach for several hours and got horrible sunburn, specifically to his upper legs. He went to the hospital, and was promptly admitted after being diagnosed with second-degree burns. With his skin already starting to blister, and the severe pain he was in, the doctor prescribed continuous intravenous feeding with saline, electrolytes, a sedative, and a Viagra pill every four hours. 
The nurse, who was rather astounded, asked, “What good will Viagra do for him, Doctor?” 
The doctor replied, “It won’t do anything for his condition, but it’ll keep the sheets off his legs.”

Read more on page: http://www.jokesoftheday.net/joke-A-guy-fell-asleep-on-the-beach/2017073022

Who’s an old bag?

Well not me.

But now that I have your attention – what did you pay for your checked bag the last time you travelled? This handy chart is a great little overview of the checked bag flourishing industry.

Hmm – that’s pretty interesting. So what has happened since 2010? – LOTS.

I found that most international airlines allow one free bag – that is with the exception of a few such as Transat, Jet Blue, Frontier, Norwegian Air, Spirit, Frontier, Westjet and Wow. Some even charge for carry on such as Wow, Spirit, Allegiant and sometimes also on American Airlines for some fares.

Now when baggage fees were first charged, as you can see from the chart above, people started trying to avoid those fees by not checking luggage and bringing everything carry on. This might be OK for the business traveller who is away from home for just a few days but if you are going on vacation for a couple of weeks it can be a challenge. And if you are travelling with kids – well good luck!

How many flights have you been on when you could not even find a place for your bag in the overhead bin? And what the heck are some people thinking of when they get on board with a carry on bag that clearly would never have fit into the frame at check in if they had tried?

So what is a traveller to do? Well first of all read the rules on the airfare – many airlines now are introducing different layers of pricing for the same journey and some will include free checked bags and others will not. Check this out and see if the difference is worth it. Chuck out those old heavy suitcases and invest in some new lightweight luggage so you can make the most of the weight you are allowed.

Wear your jacket and sweaters on the flight and those heavy hiking boots. Yes it might be a schlep to take them off and on when going through security but it will save you a ton of weight in your luggage.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3155944/Boyband-singer-collapsed-heat-exhaustion-EasyJet-flight-wearing-clothes-avoid-excess-luggage-fee.html

Ladies – you don’t have to take all those special shampoos from home – or the heavy jars with face cream. I promise you – your face won’t fall off in just a couple of weeks. Pick up the travel size items – they might not have the fancy brands but it will save weight. And if you cannot live without your Estee Lauder expensive face cream go and ask the salon if they have a trial size for you.

All in all, it looks like baggage fees are here to stay – and I am just going to blame it all on the shoes.

Most spectacular harbours

Cruising means ports – you start in one, you finish in one, you dock at others to get off the ship and explore. Some are wonderful and some are ugly – really ugly. Sometimes you might feel as if you are in a container warehouse far removed from the wonderful sights you signed up for.

So let’s keep with the positive and look at some of the most spectacular ports around the world – whether you are arriving or departing. Here are some of my personal favourites – please send me yours….

MALTA

This is always a fabulous sight to behold, coming into the harbour in Malta. The sandstone coloured buildings seem to reflect the sunlight in a very special way. Malta, slap bang in the middle of the Med, has had an interesting history. Christianity was brought to the island by St Paul who was shipwrecked on the island in 60 A.D. Then the islands were conquered by the Arabs in 870 who were there for centuries until the island was bequeathed to the Knights of St John who ruled the island for 300 years. Napoleon stepped in for a brief while but the British soon saw to that. Malta was far too strategic and in fact was a godsend to the Allies during the Second World War.

Even if you don’t get off the ship you will be assured of views in every direction – but do get off and explore. It is well worth it.

VENICE

It’s pretty hard to beat the experience of arriving into Venice port on a ship. But what size of ship? There’s the thing. There is a big movement to stop large cruise ships from coming right into Venice and I support this because the city is so precarious and so beautiful. It is something that needs to be preserved. The cruise ship in the above picture is the Star Pride which used to be with Seabourn and has now been taken over by Windstar. A beautiful little ship holding just over 200 guests – now that is the way to cruise into Venice. Those super large cruise ships are just too big for this port.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

The old fort dominates the entrance to San Juan, as it should. I love this port for the beginning of a cruise. It is worth taking the longer flight to get down there because once you start your cruise from San Juan you are deep into the Caribbean. Also I enjoy extra days in San Juan, Puerto Rico, far more than spending extra days in Maimi or Fort Lauderdale – sorry Florida! The Old Town of San Juan is a muddle of cobbled stone streets and great restaurants, the fort is very well maintained and the beaches are wonderful. A definite plus to any cruise.

CAPE TOWN

Queen Mary 2 at cape town harbour. pic Whitestar

How could I not include Cape Town, the most beautiful city in South Africa. I sometimes imagine those early settlers after having spent months at sea, suddenly coming across the sight of Cape Town across the waters with the tablecloth of cloud draped over Table Mountain. Once docked in Cape Town the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront offers a huge variety of restaurants and shops, fantastic sea food and wine at prices you won’t believe. Having grown up in South Africa I was lucky to experience Cape Town many times and it still remains one of my favourite cities.

DUBROVNIK

Dubrovnik has become more and more popular, maybe thanks to Game of Thrones, or maybe just because it is a beautiful walled city that is a delight to experience. Now the cruise ships do not sail into the harbour seen in the picture above but just around the corner. Nevertheless, once you dock you can easily get into the old city which is superb. A tour around the walls of the city can be done with a handy audio guide and offers great photo ops.
The walls were completed in the 16th century and protectively surround the old town. The buildings are well-preserved and range from baroque to Renaissance and Gothic. Paved with limestone, the pedestrianized Stradun (or Placa) is lined with shops and restaurants. In fact these limestone streets have been polished for centuries by countless numbers of feet that they shine like glass.

FINALLY – MY MOST FAVOURITE HARBOUR THAT NEVER SEES A CRUISE SHIP

Mullion Harbour, Cornwall, UK. This is where I grew up and in my humble opinion it is the most beautiful harbour in the world. The coastline in this area can be treacherous and has seen lots of action going back to attacks by Spanish galleons. Luckily for the Spanish a change of wind enabled their escape from Sir Francis Drake otherwise there might have been a different outcome. Many shipwrecks along this coast provided bounty for local “country folk” such as tea, fruit and coffee as they scavenged whatever might have washed up on the rocks.

It was also a haven for smugglers who were able to make good money by buying smuggled barrels of brandy from France and selling for four times the price in England. Good business for a little harbour. We had many happy afternoons there and our school swimming lessons took place in this very harbour. There were tons of crabs so there was a big incentive to not put your feet down. So … no cruise ships here. Just fishing boats that go out every day at dawn to drop the lobster pots. Pure bliss!

Fasten your seatbelts

How many times have you heard that? Fasten your seatbelts please, we are going through some turbulence. Um…. what happens if you don’t have a seatbelt because you don’t have a seat and you are sitting on the floor of the plane. That’s what happened to a British family flying from Menorca back to Britain.

They had their boarding passes with their seat numbers all in the same row together. Only problem was that row did not exist. The airline had had an “equipment change” which even the check in agent at the gate apparently did not know about as she checked their boarding cards. Does this sound unbelievable?

Well the same thing happened to me flying from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. We boarded the plane and could not find our row number. We stood around like lost sheep – the flight attendant told us to stand aside so others could board – so we huddled up against the bulkhead while everyone impatiently brushed passed us probably thinking to themselves “bloody fools – they should have booked their seats”.

Eventually the flight attendant told us that there had been an “equipment change” yep – so she was going to put us up front in business class ….

YAY

Until she realised we were travelling with two children. Then suddenly we were not OK to go into business class. We offered to throw the children out of the escape hatch or hide them in the overhead bins but that did not work. Instead four smug adult passengers were escorted up front and we were settled down eventually in our economy seats.

Seat selection is a very personal, very emotional issue for some people – especially on a longer flight and the playing field is changing. Often advance seat selection attracts a price to be paid and after that, what happens if there is an equipment change? The seat you carefully selected to be far away from the toilet might not exist any more – perhaps you even end up next to the toilet. Ah well – as the old song goes – Always look on the bright side of life! At least you won’t have far to walk. It’s all part of the fun… right? Nope 😦

Airline food – how to do it

If you have ever wanted to know how to cook airline food here is your chance. United Airlines has released a cook book – yes that’s right. And no – it does not show you how to bake pretzels or roast peanuts. Admittedly it is based on the food served to its business class passengers (for the most part) – so quiet down all you hooligans in the back – and eat your pretzels!

Oh wait …. there’s more. They do have recipes for economy class food as well but one reviewer found them to be a lot of “oily pasta” dishes. Ah well – you can’t get it all people! This is science fiction you know – flying through the sky in a metal tube. C’mon.

So how good are the recipes – well overall the book has been received with a lot of hilarity….. One Mile at a Time (Tiffany) bought the book and checked out the recipes. Some of her thoughts are really funny ….

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Lebni, Saba, Hazelnut and Dill

“Brussels sprouts get a crunchy makeover in this adventurous starter. Quartering the sprouts allows them to fan out and achieve maximum crispness when fried, and dousing them in a few shakes of sweet Saba makes for the ultimate salty-sweet-sour bite.”

This recipe calls for both a candy thermometer and a deep-fryer, both things commonly found on planes that definitely produce easily-reheated meals. “

Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket

“Not a barbecue pit master? This savory centerpiece gives you the barbecue flavors you crave, but skips the smoke by sneaking in some liquid smoke with the braise instead.”

The acknowledgement that Boeing doesn’t typically include smoke pits in the galley might be the most reasonable accommodation in this book.”

So I guess the book does point out that these recipes are inspired by the food served on United and not necessarily identical – so don’t worry – there isn’t a smoke pit on your next flight.

Seriously though – airline food is just one of those things that you just have to get over – or pack your own. And on that note – I really don’t like sitting next to someone who has brought their own meal on board – sometimes people just don’t really think. Just translate this to that person at work who heats up their left over fish stew in the staff room microwave…. right? Flight attendants have to deal with this all the time. In an article in Insider magazine –

” Joyce Foley, a flight attendant with Hawaiian Air, identifies the most common offenders of too-fragrant food as eggs, tuna fish, anything too garlicky, and fast-food burgers. “

If it smells good at ground level – you know it is probably going to stink to high heaven at 35.000 ft. And don’t even mention sushi!

Now before everyone shouts at once – I know that lots of people have food allergies and have to, of necessity, pack their own meals. It also helps when you are travelling with children to pack some snacks or even a meal just in case.

Trip Savvy website has some good advice on what to pack for example granola bars, dried fruit, crackers and hummus. But I was a bit amused when I read the tip for taking chilled items. They suggested taking a bag of frozen veggies to keep everything cool. A bag of frozen veggies! On a flight! Oh so that is why there was a packet of defrosted peas in the seat pocket!

KIDDING!

Listen to the hand

Hands can talk – they can say a lot. They can be mean or they can make you blush. Think about your drive to work. It’s early morning, the Deerfoot is at its usual height of madness and in the lane next to you is a complete idiot who is trying to get into your lane. What the hell is he thinking of? Eventually you pull back a little to let him in just to get him out of the way and what does he do? ….

He flashes you the courtesy wave. Wow …. what a difference that makes. Suddenly he is not such a dufus….. just a busy (polite) guy trying to get to work.

But you have to be careful how you use hand signals – and if you don’t get it right you could look like a right twit. I love the story of Sir Winston Churchill who decided to adopt the “V” for victory sign at the beginning of the war. The only problem was he got it backwards. Here is an early photo of him ….

Well as one of his secretaries at the war office pointed out to him this was a rude sign (at least in England). When he asked exactly what it meant she softened it down and said it meant “Up your bum!”. (It actually is much worse than that.) That’s OK. Churchill was a quick learner and switched the V around so that it became respectable.

You might find yourself making a similar mistaken when you travel. For example – how often might you offer this hand signal when you don’t know the language …

As in – “thanks mate” … “good luck” …. Well don’t use this gesture in the Middle East or West Africa. It’s pretty much the same as “giving them the finger” if you know what I mean.

Ever find yourself crossing your fingers for good luck – well don’t do this in Vietnam. It is regarded as an extremely rude gesture. Nodding and shaking your head can also get you into trouble. Generally if you nod your head it means “yes” as in “Is this your round, mate?” Nod nod. Yes I will buy this round.

But it depends where in the world you are as Wikipedia explains –
“NOD …. To indicate refusal. There are few exceptions with some countries swapping the meanings between nodding and shaking head: in Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Bulgaria, Albania, and Sicily a single nod of the head up (not down) indicates a “no”. “

This all sounds pretty complicated – so maybe you can travel the world and get by with a smile to all concerned. …. Nope – sorry. Do this in Russia and they will all think you are a blithering idiot…. This was discussed in a recent article in Business Insider – one of the writers being Masha Garstein, a Professor of Psychology at Washington State University, who grew up and was educated in Moscow. The article explains in more detail …

” ………Masha – is a Russian immigrant. She’ll be quick to tell you that in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect. Of course, in the U.S. and many other countries, smiling is a common, reflexive gesture of goodwill.

There is, indeed, truth to the “smiling gap”: In our psychology research, we’ve noticed a striking difference in how often people smile in the United States when compared to Russia. To Americans, it might be easy to assume that this says something about Russians – that they’re an unfriendly, callous people.

But that’s not the case at all. Instead, it’s worth looking at why certain expressions, like smiling, become a key part of social exchanges in some cultures and not others.”

It’s a fascinating article and is worth reading in full. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-russians-dont-smile-2018-6

So what’s the lesson here? When in Rome* do as the Romans* do…. *substitute relevant country.

And if you don’t know what the Romans do – buy the book before you go and do your homework.

4th century A.D. — — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS