Voluntarily stuck in a Plane: RyanAir Passengers stage sit-in

Ryanair flight left Fez, Morocco late.  The passengers were mainly French tourists returning home from their vacations.  The flight delay created problems for the landing.  The plane was to have landed in Beauvais, France. Instead, the flight landed in Liege, Belgium which is over 200 miles away from the original landing place.  Initial reports claimed the flight was too late and the airport had closed.  Later accounts said the airport was closed due to fog and more than this flight has been diverted.  In fact, a four Ryanair flights found themselves in Liege (http://www.startribune.com/business/108681119.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUvDEhiaE3miUsZ)

As Ryanair noted:  “It is standard safety procedure for all airlines to divert to another airport when weather closes a destination airport, and it is standard procedure to coach passengers to their destination” (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-17/ryanair-passengers-refuse-to-leave-paris-flight-sent-to-belgium.html).

It happens, planes are forced for some reason to land at a different airport.  The authors have had that happen.  It creates uncertainty such as how will I get to my intended airport and the car I have parked there?  The usual answer is a bus ride.  A ride on a crowded bus is not what people want to add to the end of their trips.   Passengers on three of the planes “accepted” the bus ride to Beauvais.  Some 90 passengers on one plane decided they had had enough and became angry.  When the crew could not get the people off of the plane, they left.  As they left, the crew locked the toilets and turned off the lights.  But the angry passengers stayed on board for four more hours negotiating with a variety of officials including those from the airport and the police.  “,The passengers were unreasonable and refused to follow the advice which would have allowed them to complete their journey,’ Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said in a statement” (http://www.startribune.com/business/108681119.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUvDEhiaE3miUsZ) . 

Ryanair is a low cost airline that keeps costs low being no frills and charging fees for anything resembling a frill including the idea of charging for passengers to use the toilets.  Here is how Ryanair describes itself:

“ Ryanair is the World’s favourite airline and operates more than 1,400 flights per day from 44 bases and 1100+ low fare routes across 27 countries, connecting 160 destinations. Ryanair operates a fleet of 250 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft with firm orders for a further 64 new aircraft (before taking account of planned disposals), which will be delivered over the next 2 years. Ryanair currently has a team of more than 8,000 people and expects to carry approximately 73.5 million passengers in the current fiscal year.

Here is a brief history of Europe’s first and largest low fares airline” http://www.ryanair.com/en/about

Christian Delcourt, the spokesman for the Liege Airport described the situation as follows:  “’It was a very tense situation.Some of these people were very aggressive, very rude.’” 

The BBC story included comments from passengers and the airline.  Here is part of the story:

“’The plane did not land in Beauvais but in Liege without warning. Consequently, we refused to leave the plane,’ Mylene Netange [a passenger] 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.

Mr McNamara 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’” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11776062

Questions to Consider

1.  How serious of a threat is the incident to Ryanair’s reputation?  Explain your evaluation.

2.  Do you feel the Ryanair comments reported here were effective in handling the situation?  Explain why or why not.

3.  Were the passengers being unreasonable and does affect the evaluation of Ryanair’s efforts?  Explain why or why not.

4.  Why would this story get so much attention in the online and traditional news media?

5.  Ryanair did not post its comments in its web site.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of that communication decision?

6.  What does this situation say about the line “the customer is always right?”


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