Ryanair survivors

Dot writes:
It’s a Small World is soothing our Christmas withdrawal by collecting together posts about the joys of travelling with children. As it happens, my friend Sarah edited a book on this very subject; and I should possibly have read it more carefully before deciding to fly alone with a baby and a two-year-old, by Ryanair, to Stansted on Boxing Day to visit my parents. Let’s have that again but with scary music: I flew alone with a baby and a two-year-old. On Boxing Day. By Ryanair. Actually there were no projectile vomiting incidents or lost bags or cancelled planes, and I didn’t even murder my firstborn, but there was enough adrenalin for a Schwarzenegger movie even so.

For example: the moment when, just as we were waiting at the gate, I realised that Hugh needed a rather serious nappy change. So we left the queue (because it is the custom, when waiting for a Ryanair flight, not to wait comfortably in the seats but to form a vast grim queue that straggles past four other gates) and made for the baby-change cubicle; but we were beaten to it by another toddler; and then the flight started to board. I ended up making poor Hugh wait until we were in the air and then changing him on the ridiculously tiny shelf in the plane loo, with his legs sticking up in the air because there was no room for him to stretch, so that when the plane lurched as I was re-dressing his lower half I dropped a shoe on his face. Fortunately another family were kind enough to look after Frank while I did this.

For example: the hideous moment when we began to descend and we were told we had to turn off the laptop and stop watching Bob the Builder. Cue major tantrum – kicking, shouting, crying, and then slipping off his seat-belt (why are aeroplane seat-belts so laughably un-toddler-proof?) and slithering off the seat, while I instructed him in increasingly hysterical tones to sit down and tried to wrestle him back into his place. Making this even more fun, Frank was also screaming, as he objected strongly to a) the pressure in his ears (he did not settle down to feed or fall asleep on this flight); b) being squeezed and tipped and joggled as I struggled with his brother with my other arm; c) being put down when one arm was clearly not enough. Then when Hugh had been wrestled into submission, exhausted by his tantrum he fell asleep. Which was nice in a way, but it meant I had somehow to carry a 16kg toddler off the plane as well as two bags, the coats and the baby. Again the kindness of strangers came to our aid. Despite the fact that Hugh must have been kicking them in the back for much of the flight, the three nice Irish people in the row in front popped up and announced that they would do whatever we needed to help us get off the plane. One of them carried Frank and another the bags while I concentrated on Hugh, and the third helped me re-erect the buggy, which had been unloaded at the bottom of the steps. There’s an odd sort of camaraderie among Ryanair passengers, born of shared humiliation and suffering, and my helpers were getting an enjoyable glow from being so much more attentive than the paid staff. With righteous indignation they recounted how they had seen a little girl hesitating at the top of the aeroplane steps, too nervous to climb down on her own, and on pointing this out to a stewardess had been told it wasn’t her problem. Anyway, they made us their problem, and I was very grateful.

Third example: Hugh doing a lying-down protest just past the metal-detector arch as we came back through Stansted on the homeward journey. I had Frank strapped to my front and all the coats and bags to repack. A total stranger lifted Hugh back into the buggy, and he wasn’t quite horrible enough to kick someone he didn’t know. He would have kicked me.

In fact we had been allowed to queue-jump at security. “Are you alone with those two? Come this way.” And then, to the other staff: “she’s alone with two.” Unusual kindness as the reward for unusual folly.

And, fourthly: as we were showing our travel documents and passing through the gate at Stansted, Frank still on my front and Hugh in the buggy (which is a double buggy, graced with pneumatic tyres but nonetheless large and heavy), I suddenly had a hideous premonition. I grabbed a passing Ryanair person and asked “Is there a lift?” “I don’t know,” she answered helpfully. And there wasn’t. There was a double flight of steps.

The boys were quiet on the return flight, and clever grandma had provided little parcels with chocolate money in to unpack when Bob had to be turned off (see previous post). Still. Never again. Next time, if Ken can’t come too, I shall put stamps on Hugh’s head and post him.

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12 thoughts on “Ryanair survivors

  1. I’m quite used to travelling on my own with one (between age 4 months and now almost 3) on Ryanair flights and don’t like it much. I’m convinced every Ryanair gate has two flights of stairs just before boarding – how do wheelchair users travel? I don’t think I would attempt two on my own, the posting option would definitely be the one for me.

    1. kenanddot

      Thanks for visiting, Cartside.

      I wonder what exactly the relationship between airlines and gates is? As a fairly regular Ryanair flyer I know that they tend to have dedicated gates, but presumably the airports don’t build them to Ryanair specifications (“oh, and don’t bother with a lift”). Actually at the Dublin end there was a lift.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that travelling on one’s own with two tiny children is essentially impossible, but people are nice and that makes it possible. Which is rather a happy thought.

  2. Helen Conrad-O'Briain

    On our first trip to the states when Alice was 3 and a half months old, the stewardesses neglected everyone else to coo over her; we had to claim her back before landing. In New York she got us through customs without having to pay duty on eight bottles of Black Bush – ‘Baby’s first time home?- Merry Christmas, ma’am.’ Then she was carried down the aircraft steps in Pittsburgh by the pilot (her father was carrying the equivalent of a small house and I was on the verge of collapse). The moral of this story was that she, at the time, had rarity value. She was the only child on either flight. Families with small children just didn’t seem to fly back then.
    I once spent a Ryanair flight holding a series of babies whose ears wouldn’t pop – but which did once I used the un-hygenic and possibly actionable expedient of getting them to suck a finger dipped in sugar (provided by a flight attendant who had spotted my luck with the first one). The Ryanair flight attendants I have met to date have been good-natured and generally obliging (Knock on wood) Given some of the adult idiots I have seen them have to handle, I hate to hear a word against them.

    1. kenanddot

      I’m glad you had good experiences with Ryanair staff. Personally I’ve never exactly had a bad one – apart from that girl not knowing about the lift – just that I’ve never been offered help of any kind. Maybe I looked too competent and in control (hysterical laughter).

  3. Oh God, it brings it all back. Absolutely the best thing about not being emigrants any more is we don’t have to fly with small children to see our families.

  4. itsasmallworldafterallfamily

    Thanks for linking to the carnival, I’m really glad you liked it (if that’s the right word!). I’m going to add your post in as a late entry, if that’s OK. Your story is the kind that makes you just want to stay at home. It’s not terrible, but it is REALLY hard work travelling with toddlers and babies. I feel tired just thinking about it!

  5. Pingback: Carsick Carnival, the Sequel « It's a small world after all

  6. After the trip back to Holyhead – where we were 3 hours sailing and a further 6 just docking I think we will probably travel via Ryanair the next time we have to do a trip home – at least Amelia is at the age now where she needs little more than some water and perhaps a video (any video) on a handy iPhone. But I’d be hard pressed to travel on my own with Amelia – it is interesting enough just taking the train – our station only has lots of steps and I’ve never been offered any assistance with the buggy/toddler.

    1. Dot

      6 hours docking? My goodness, that’s awful. It must have been extremely rough.

      We quite like the sea route as it lets us bring the car and much more luggage, and although it means a long drive at least Hugh gets to run around in the boat. But I get seasick which meant it wasn’t a possibility for the solo trip.

  7. Oh I hear you…I feel your pain. I just did a Ryanair flight to Sweden before Christmas and as it was so packed and we were late and didn’t have priority boarding we got split – so I had the feisty 2 year old and baby which needs to be held the whole flight. It was like travelling on my own as my husband fell asleep!! I then proceeded to juggle the two kids and trying to keep the 2 year old entertained. What a pain. Hate those small changing areas. Decided never to fly alone with 2 unless my 2.5 year old starts listening to me and not running up and down the aisle or screaming or pulling people’s hair sitting on the seat in front. Admire anyone who can! So hats off to you!

  8. Matteo

    I’ll be doing the same thing at Easter, from Pisa to Leeds for a week, with 2 little boys (1 and 3). I’m fully expecting it to be a nightmare, but don’t really have a choice.

    The laptop and handy sweets are good ideas as I reckon the eldest is going to be the difficult one (though I’m sure the other one will have a good poo at a completely inappropriate moment).

    I’ve travelled with Ryanair many times, and their attitude is generally poor, especially when you are in need of help.

    Ah well, we shall see!

    1. kenanddot

      I wish you the best of luck with the journey, and I hope your fellow passengers are as kind as mine were (also that you get a full row of seats to yourselves, because having a bit more space makes a big difference). At least it’s just a day or two of horror and not a month on a boat…

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