The BBC News website has just reported an incident at the Belgian Liege airport, the scene of a fog-diverted, already 3 hour delayed, RYANAIR flight originally intended to go to Beauvais in northern France.
More than 100 passengers, mainly French tourists returning from holiday in Morocco, had staged a sit-in, refusing to leave the aircraft, and demanding that they be flown to their true destination.
The sit-in lasted almost 8 hours and a spokesman for the airport is reported to have said, “It was a very tense situation”, “Some of these people were very aggressive, very rude.”
Ryanair had offered bus transportation for the 350km (225 miles) journey which passengers from other diverted Ryanair planes had accepted but these passengers said,
“The plane did not land in Beauvais but in Liege without warning. Consequently, we refused to leave the plane,” Mylene Netange told AFP. Reda Yahiyaoui, a businessman who was travelling with his wife, a two-month-old baby and a three-year-old, said passengers had been left with no water and the toilets in the plane were locked. “The pilot left and he even left the cockpit door open,” he said.
Now, whatever any of us think about the merit or otherwise of the passengers’ sit-in in response to being delayed 3 hours in the first place and then, at 23.30 hours, being faced with another 5 hours or so bus journey to get home, what is interesting is the response of Ryanair whose spokesman, Stephen McNamara, said,
“The passengers were unreasonable and refused to follow the advice which would have allowed them to complete their journey,”
Going on to say, according the the BBC, that diverting planes to the nearest airport in case of fog is standard procedure, emphasising that the passengers would have been returned home by bus earlier if they had not protested. Mr McNamara apparently denied that the crew had abandoned the passengers, saying that they had stayed in the plane for an hour before leaving and adding that they only disembarked when passengers became “disruptive”.
So, no sense of sorrow at the sad experience for their customers from Ryanair then? No statement like,
We really regret that fact that fog caused us to divert this flight, and that on top of our failure in getting the flight away on time too. A 3 hour delay is unacceptable. There is no wonder the passengers were upset and we want to say how sorry we are for our part in adding to their painful experience. In fact we are so concerned, that we will be offering them full refunds for what we admit was a serious failure on our part to get them to their homes after their holiday, and we understand how much that would have detracted from the benefit of that holiday. We hope they will give us another chance.
But instead, the official response of Ryanair was, “The passengers were unreasonable”. There could be no better example of the detachment from the customer that seems to permeate the whole of our corporate world these days, let alone the low cost airline business. Ryanair are enormously profitable. Their business model is technically, financially, efficient. Ryanair is servceable, but it is emphatically not service-able and it is open to question how long they can go on with this approach. The history of the corporate world is littered with the corpses of companies that have lost sight of the humanity of their customers. Could Ryanair be yet another one of these? Time will tell.
Oh! And as an afterthought, here is a video that may help to put the whole thing in perspective: