Guest Post by Meghan Prichard, Peppercom UK
I doubt Jimmy Buffett would ever have predicted that his song “Volcano” would become so many people’s theme song over the last week, but many of us really didn’t know where we were “gonna go when the volcano blow.”
As I boarded the plane April 14th for my first journey out of the country since arriving in England four months ago, trouble was brewing on another island nation 1,000 miles away, erupting later that day into a crisis that continues to wreak havoc on travelers, consumers and businesses alike.
As both a traveler and a consumer affected by the alphabet soup volcano Eyjafjallajokull, I was surprised by the lack of communication offered by any of the organizations I expected would serve as the most salient sources of information—specifically, my flight company and my home country.
There were no resources on the website for the U.S. Embassy in Germany. There was advice on the U.S. Embassy website in the United Kingdom, but it was for Americans stranded in the United Kingdom. I had registered my trip abroad with the Department of State, but received no email updates or suggestions on how to get home.
Meanwhile, Ryanair canceled my flight, which I learned from a prominent link on the website. A day later, Ryanair informed me of the cancellation by email and text message. The airline also offered a free rebooking for the following day. When that flight was canceled, it appeared that Ryanair’s already tenuous communications skills were collapsing. No email, no text, just another ominous link on the homepage.
Ryanair is notorious for its poor customer service, even when not in times of crisis. Any customer helpline number I called promised to charge 60 pence per minute and would undoubtedly cost more than my original flight by the time I got through to someone. Yet any travel alternative promised to cost even more time and money.