I had an interesting encounter with the big baddie at the weekend.
We were to travel from Gothenburg in Sweden back to Ireland via Stansted. Having nothing better to do we decided to make our way to Gothenburg City Airport early to return our car and have a bite to eat at the airport before takeoff. There had been no indications of any delays or cancellations so we were pretty comfortable in the knowledge that we were to leave as scheduled. Travelling back to Ireland was, literally, a problem for another day.
Having checked in my bag and had something to eat we still had some time still to spare so I decided to check my email. Imagine my surprise to receive the following:
Important Information Regarding your Flight
Dear Customer We sincerely apologise for the cancellation of your flight departing the 08 May 2010 The flight has been cancelled because of the closure of Spanish/French airspace due to the ash cloud caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland TO REBOOK FREE ONLINE: Click on the link below to rebook to the same destination airport on an alternative flight free of charge, subject to availability. Customers can access this link up to the 11/05/2010 for travel on flights up to the 20/05/2010. PLEASE NOTE: If your booking has a return flight included and you have already checked in for this flight you will NOT be able to transfer your flight to a different departure airport online. If you wish to do this you will need to call our reservation centre on the following number. Alternatively, go to the airport ticket desk and they will transfer you onto an alternative flight. We have instructed airports that passengers affected by these flight cancellations may not be able to check-in online and therefore airport staff will reissue boarding passes at the airport free of charge. TO APPLY FOR A REFUND ONLINE: Customers who are booked on any of the below flights, who wish to cancel and claim a full refund on the unused flight(s) can do so directly by clicking on the link below and entering the required details. Refunds will be processed in 30 working days back to the form of payment used to pay for the booking.
Slightly bemused, I had my partner go around the corner to check (Gothenburg City airport isn't exactly Heathrow) where the lady on information said that it was "an IT mistake" on the part of Ryanair. The flight, she said, was definitely running - and on time at that.
A pretty serious "IT mistake" it has to be said. If we had got the email before we left the hotel we would still be busily running around Gothenburg looking for accommodation and re-booking flights to Ireland.
Is the dreaded ash cloud not enough of a distraction for air travellers without Ryanair's IT system firing out cancellation notices willy-nilly?
I sent full details of my problems with the notification by email - but I wouldn't be holding my breath for a reply from Mick and Co.