Check in was easy and I made my way to the bar where I bought a cappuccino. I wandered around the departures lounge looking at the pictures of various world figures who had passed through the airport – including Boris Yeltsin who was meant to meet the Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds at Shannon Airport for an official three hour state visit during a layover in 1994 en route back to Moscow from the US. Poor old Albert was left waiting on the runway as Yeltsin got so drunk on the flight he was unconscious on the plane and never disembarked on that occasion. After the coffee I decided to check the departures board for my gate number.
What horror was this. On the screen was the appalling message ‘Flight delayed to 21.55. Gate announcement at 21.15′. A quick calculation in my head told me that this would mean touchdown in Marseille at 1.30am local time. A quick scan of google maps told me that there was no public transport at that hour – I’d have to wait until 5am for the first bus. The alternative was a taxi which was priced at eighty euros. I sat down for my long wait. After a period of ten minutes I decided to check the cancellation policy for my apartment. I would lose the full price of the first full night but would be reimbursed 60% of each subsequent night. Being a frugal traveller my four night stay had only cost me two hundred euros meaning I would be reimbursed ninety euro. I made an instant decision to cancel the trip and hit the red cancel button on my phone. A pity perhaps but not a decision that made me feel too regretful. I had a suspicion that the flight might be cancelled because of the ongoing air traffic controllers’ strike in France and I didn’t want to hang about for hours for this announcement.
I retraced my steps back to the security screening and asked the friendly policewoman how I should exit the airport. A look of alarm crossed her face. ‘You cannot leave sir, you have checked in. You need to inform the Ryanair staff and they need to remove you from their list of passengers.’
‘Why do I need to do that? I don’t want to fly now, I just want to go home.’
‘I cannot let you leave sir. I can tell you though that Gate 4 is where the flight to Marseille will depart from so I suggest you speak to a staff member there’.
Resignedly I made my way to gate 4. There were three men who looked like pilots, sitting.
‘Excuse me, do you work for Ryanair?’ I asked the most senior looking.
His lip curled in horror as he replied ‘Never’.
Walking the entire length of the departures hall there wasn’t a single Ryanair staff member to be seen.
Back at the security screening the policewoman declared that as the flight was delayed the Ryanair staff had not yet arrived and should be here by 9pm.It was now 7pm.
‘I just want to go home. Why can’t I simply leave?’ I pleaded.
‘If you do that then they will hold the plane for you as they think you are still here.’
‘No they won’t, this is Ryanair we are talking about’.
‘Let me give them a call.’
She had a pleasant phone conversation full of laughter explaining my circumstance. Turning to me she said ‘They are on their way. You’ll see them coming through security in a few minutes.
I went back to the screening area and logged on to the Ryanair app.
A stern faced policeman approached.
‘Are you taking pictures sir?’
‘I am not. I am checking the Ryanair app and I want to get out of this airport.’
‘Show me the picture gallery on your phone please Sir.’
I felt quite miffed. Not wanting to be arrested I handed it over where the first picture was one of Fidel Castro in Shannon Airport. Followed by one of Donald Trump in Shannon Airport. I also thought it wiser not to scream ‘I am being held hostage in this airport. By Ryanair.’
He handed the phone back to me before proclaiming sternly ‘Cameras are not permitted at security screening’.
I saw the Ryanair staff approaching laughing and joking with the security staff as they were screened. Once finished I asked the one who looked like the supervisor if she could take me off the list of passengers on the flight. She took my name and agreed she would do so. What a relief.
Back to the policewoman I trotted and beaming with joy I told her my good news. She looked annoyed.
‘They are meant to escort you out.’
‘Why?’ I replied.
‘You are crossing an international border when you exit the airport. You have to be screened again upon leaving. We ran after the Ryanair staff. A young gentleman agreed to take me to freedom. Down several corridors we travelled to arrivals where the border patrol guard was having a cup of tea as there was no flights arriving at that point. He looked at my passport and waved me through.
And just like that I was free. It was now 19.50. My phone beeped and I read a message which stated my flight was now subject to another delay with a new departure time of 22.50. Meaning arrival in Marseille at 2.30am. I had made the right choice. Trying to get reimbursed by Ryanair is going to be great fun I imagine.
As I sat in the bus that took me back to Limerick I hoped that my escapades in Shannon Airport haven’t landed me on some ‘no fly’ list. I have to travel to the wedding in Nigeria soon.