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My Book Report on Ruinar

I thought about writing about more cuts that were announced by Frontier, Northwest, and Delta, but really, aren’t you getting tired of this? Click the links above if your answer is “no.” Otherwise, keep reading for a little bit of escapism to end the week.

It’s been a long time since I wrote a book report. I mean, throughout school it usually meant finding a way to write paper after paper on books that absolutely drove me insane. It’s safe to say that I haven’t fully recovered from “Ethan Frome.” Of course, this time around it’s a different story. I’m writing about a book about airplanes, well mostly about airplanes, so that’s a good start. 08_06_10 ruinaircoverThis time, I’m writing about “Ruinar: How to be Treated Like Shite in 15 Different Countries . . . and Still Quite Like It.”

The title had me interested right away. That and the pretty airplane on the cover. So when the author offered to send me a copy, I was more than happy to dive in. It arrived and the first thing that caught my eye was the big red sticker on the front saying, “Only €0.01* – *price excludes fees and charges of €12.98 (full price €12.99)” I love it. The author clearly knows Ryanair well.

So what did I think? It was a fun read without question, but there were a couple of things that seemed to be thrown in just to fill up space and other parts that didn’t seem to fit at all. Overall, it’s a worthwhile read if you’re looking for something light (mostly) with a dry and witty humor.

The premise was simple enough. The author had a bad flight on Ryanair back in the day, and he paid €300 for the privilege. So, he decided to try to fly to every single country in the EU with a couple others thrown in (not counting recent Eastern Europe additions) for the same price and tell his story. You might think (and hope) that the book would focus more on his flying experience, but it seems to be more of a hybrid. While he talks about the flights, he spends an equal or greater amount of time talking about his experiences in the countries themselves. In those chapters that focus on his flying and traveling experiences, the book works quite well.

Possibly the only thing that really bothered me was the intentional misspelling of airline names (Ruinair, EZjet, etc) throughout the book. I’m not quite sure why he had to do it, maybe he was afraid of a lawsuit or maybe there are some funky EU laws that made him change them, but it seemed rather odd to me. He also seems to be a little dusty on his facts sometimes, especially regarding Southwest Airlines. He mentions that Southwest requires you to pay for food and drink (uh, no) and that Southwest doesn’t compete with other airlines, just train transportation. Sounds to me like he picked up a book about Southwest from 1985 and has missed the fairly significant changes since then.

But those are nits, because they are not central to the book. The author’s snarky and dry sense of humor worked well. (“In the recently upgraded Galleria lounge a glorious Bentley GT is parked centre stage. . . . ‘Would you like a car like this?’ he asks. Talk about asking a bleeding obvious question. It’s £200,000 plus. ‘Nah, I already have one.'”)

And yes, it even works when he’s taking his potshots at Americans. For example, “Only 20 per cent of Americans possess passports so we must be grateful for small mercies . . . .” Oh but don’t worry, he’s an equal opportunity insulter. “Greeks are dark, short, stocky, squat and hirsute. And that’s the ladies.”

A warning for those of you like me who are not very familiar with Irish pop culture: he has plenty of references that leave me running to Google to figure out what he’s saying. “Much like the duck at Fawlty Towers I suspect one can have tripe with orange sauce, tripe with cherry sauce, or tripe surprise.” Now, I’ve heard of Fawlty Towers, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes. Jokes like this are completely lost on me, but it’s easy to read beyond them.

As I said, when he’s writing the chapters on his country trips, it’s really a fun read. Yes, there are some helpful travel tips, “Never eat in a restaurant with a multilingual menu. Never eat in a restaurant with pictures of the food on the place mats. . . .” I couldn’t agree more. He also apparently shares my love of Mars bars (the European kind without nuts, not the second class US version), but there are a couple of times he strays into oddly serious territory. His chapter on the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the horrors of the holocaust seemed out of place with its humorless (obviously) and dark tone. It didn’t belong in this book.

Toward the end, it seemed like the author had a set number of pages to fill but ran out of content. There are a good 25 pages of material copied straight from the internet. Online reviews of the airline at Skytrax, a note from the PPrune board, and an excruciatingly-painful description of a video on YouTube left me skipping further to find more of what I couldn’t find for free online.

In the end, I enjoyed the read. The author certainly has a love-hate relationship with Ryanair, and it’s one that I think many people feel all over Europe. The airline will get you there cheaply and mostly on-time, but when things go wrong, it can be an ugly experience if you’re not prepared for it. It’s worth picking up a copy.

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