Ryan Air, cheap flights, baggage handling and simple mathematics

We all know the story of Mr O’Leary’s Ryan Air and their cheap flights all over the known universe, and I have used them fairly regularly from Stansted without any real dilemmas (OK – a cancelled flight due to fog, except other aircraft were taking off and landing just fine, so I wondered if the fog was with the flight crew – and a refusal to let me go through to the gate because I was a few seconds late and the flight manifest had been given to the pilot, when in fact it was on the table right there…) This week, however, I flew from Liverpool (John Lennon airport) to Pisa.

All looked set and everything progressed smoothly, until we were told that there was an extra bag in the hold not accounted for. To be fair, this isn’t strictly a problem with Ryan Air in any way and the other agencies involved have to accept the responsibility. However, I fail to see how this sort of thing happens.

You see, there is a list of all the people on the plane, and next to their names is a sticker which is put there by the check in desk staff. The sticker shows the number of bags passed through, and the list of names is, well, a list of names. In simple mathematical terms, you count both sets of numbers and you’ll know how many of each you have got.

The lists get sent to the baggage handlers, who collect the bags and take them to the hold of the (almost always) correct aircraft, then stow them there. They count them as they go because there is a big label applied to the bag saying which plane it neds to go on. They then check their count against the list and make sure no-one has slipped an extra bag or two on. Yesterday the numbers didn’t add up.

So we were delayed as they went through the entire lot until they found the bag they didn’t know about, checked the name on it and talked sternly to the person on board to let them know… except we missed our slot for take off… twice! The net result was an extended stay in my seat – thank goodness I opted for one by an emergency exit where there is more leg room.

So I was thinking, what happens if there are less bags accounted for? Is that alright? Do they go through the lists so rigorously and make sure everyone has got their bag on board? I dont think they do – hence the amount of lost luggage in the world that doesn’t arrive at the destination when you do.

So perhaps it comes down to simple adding up and fear of an extra bag, when no such fear exists for a missing bag. If it isn’t there, it couldn’t explode, right?

Still, the ryan air flight was excellent, the staff very professional and the prices for the food on board astronomical – some things are always able to be relied upon! I wonder if the baggage system is the same eveywhere, or just in Liverpool? I’ll find out on Monday morning when I fly back and land at Stansted 🙂

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