My First European Travel Nightmare – and Yes, It Involves Ryanair

Ahh, my first European travel nightmare.

Or second, if you count my delay getting to Dublin.

It was bound to happen eventually.

Leaving Brussels, Chelsea and I went our separate ways for the weekend. She jumped on a train to Amsterdam while I was to hop on a flight to Rome to see a friend who was on vacation there. It’s pretty awesome that a flight to Rome in Europe is like a flight to Chicago in the U.S. Spend the morning in Brussels and the afternoon in Rome? I could get used to this.

I was flying Ryanair to Rome so difficulty number one was that I couldn’t print my boarding pass.

If you’ve met a young American who has traveled to Europe, you’ve probably heard of Ryanair and the complaints. You have to check in and print your boarding pass ahead of time or else you have to pay a fine. They check every bag to make sure it will fit in the overhead bin and if it doesn’t it’s a 50 Euro fee. Carry on overweight? Fee. It may be a budget airline but boy, do they get you with fees.

In Brussels we stayed at a tiny little B&B outside the city where the owners didn’t speak a lick of English. I tried to explain to her that I needed to print something but all she could say was, “No Ingles.”

As I freaked out trying to check into my flight before the train came (and I lost wifi), the little French lady at the B&B rubbed my back and said, “OK, OK,” over and over. She didn’t really know how to handle the tears.

But I accepted it. I was just going to have to pay a fee. I could handle a 15 Euro fee as long as I can get on the flight.

I get to Brussels National with almost two hours until my flight and there’s no one at the Ryanair desk. OK…now what?

Twenty-five minutes later someone finally shows up. He informs me that I have to go to a different desk to print my boarding pass and then come back to check my bag.

Whatever Ryanair. Fine, I’ll go to the other desk. If that’s the biggest hassle you’re going to give me, I can handle it.

Insert Svetlana, a Brussels airport employee. She tries to look me up in the system and can’t find my reservation.

“What flight are you on?” she asks.

“9:40 to Rome,” I answer tentatively.

“There is no 9:40, only a 10:30.”

I’m sorry, WHAT!?

Guess who was at the wrong airport? This girl!

Svetlana informs me that I can’t make it to the correct airport before my scheduled flight to Rome. Lovely.

But there is one seat available on the 10:30 flight so I am in luck. Except that she cannot rebook me on that flight until after my scheduled flight departs (still not sure why) and it will cost me. And who knows if the one seat will even still be available after 9:40.

Cue tears. No, not tears. Sobs. Uncontrollable, convulsing sobs. Svetlana, like the French woman at my B&B, was quite taken aback by the sobs. Europeans must not cry.

“Go get a coffee, come back at 9:35 and we’ll rebook you. It will be OK,” Svetlana says.

God invented Starbucks to calm Jenn Abbey’s nerves. One blueberry muffin, an iced latte and a FaceTime call to my friend later, the tears have started to subside.

9:25 and I was in front of Svetlana’s desk staring her down. Another woman was also trying to get on the flight but my homegirl Svetlana said, “Nope, that is reserved for Ms. Abbey here.” Thanks Svetlana! I got your back if you ever make it to New York.

Also, she didn’t charge me the full price to switch the ticket to the new flight. I guess tears work just as well in Europe as they do in America.

Sprinting through the airport I go, headed for my gate. I made it with time to spare and I was in an exit row with some serious leg room. While I always love leg room, why does a little extra mean you have to save lives? Either way, it was time to relax.


The view of the Alps as we flew over wasn’t a bad addition either!


So I arrived in Rome about an hour and a half later than I originally planned. While it does suck, it’s not the end of the world.

What’s the lesson from this nightmare? No, it’s not “get your stuff together earlier instead of waiting until the last minute.” It’s “get really rich when you get back to America so you can always fly private.”

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Brussels will get you with the two airports. I don’t think RyanAir is that bad though, if you pack things up tight. At least they responded well to your tears!

    1. I was expecting much worse after the stories I had heard. But agree with you Nathan, they aren’t that bad!

  2. Michael says:

    Another valuble lesson is “use sign language when people don’t understand English and double check which airport you’re flying from”. I’m not trying to be mean or cheeky, just speaking from my own, compatible experience of being the idiot who went to the wrong airport (described here

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