It was a Valentine’s Day flight, but angry passengers were feeling no love for Ryanair after being stranded aboard one of the discount airline’s jets for three and a half hours.
Cupid finally arrived though … in the form of an English police officer.
About 15 minutes after the officer boarded the plane the 100 passengers were finally allowed to disembark Ryanair Flight 8347. By that point, it was 3:45 a.m. and the flight from London to Porto, Portugal had been delayed by nearly eight and a half hours from the original departure time of 8:25 p.m.
Ryanair passenger Joao Pinheiro posted a video diary of the ordeal to YouTube. The video went viral and currently has more than 1.1 million views.
According to the video, passengers finally boarded the plane at 12:15 a.m. after waiting out a weather-related delay at Stansted Airport. Three hours later they were still on the plane and frustrated after having their requests for food and water, air conditioning and the right to get off the plane turned down. The tired and hungry travellers then called police.
“What did the police say to you? Did you tell him that the airline has been lying to us the whole time … that they just give us excuses,” one woman asks another passenger on the video.
The video shows the flashing lights of the police vehicle arriving outside the plane.
Police boarded the plane at 3:30 a.m. and told the passengers the terminal was closed but that they would be allowed into a “restricted area” where they could stretch their legs. Unfortunately, no food and beverage services were open, the officer said.
The passengers counted down and cheered after finally being allowed to deplane and enter the terminal.
Ryanair, though, is disputing the video account. The Irish carrier issued a statement on Feb. 21 saying it “wishes to correct several false claims” in relation to the incident. Ryanair said:
• the claim that passengers had to call the police is untrue — the Captain called the police.
• the claim that the air conditioning was not switched on is false — the Captain switched on the air conditioning.
• the claim that passengers were held by Ryanair against their will is false — the Captain made every effort, first with the handling agent (Swissport) and then with the police, to arrange for passengers to be allowed into the terminal which was locked.
• the claim that passengers were not provided with refreshment vouchers or water is untrue — Ryanair crew provided water to passengers on board and refreshment vouchers were issued to passengers following disembarkation.
Ryanair blamed the long wait aboard the plane on Swissport, the aircraft ground handling company at Stansted.
Swissport also issued a statement through Ryanair, saying the weather on Feb. 14 was some the worst to hit the UK in decades with high winds causing travel chaos. Stansted was one of the few airports in England able to accept diverted flights, with some 30 additional aircraft landing.
The Porto flight finally took off at 7:50 a.m., more than 11 hours late.
Even though embattled Ryanair has pledged to present a cuddlier image, the Stansted showdown was the second mutiny of sorts aboard one of the airline’s planes in less than a month. In late January, frustrated and hungry passengers boldly helped themselves to food and drink aboard a Madrid-to-Paris flight after lengthy delay. It seems the low-fare carrier either isn’t prepared with extra food and water or isn’t willing to give up the supplies when a flight encounters extraordinary circumstances.
Before your next Ryanair flight you may want to a make a note to yourself: Pack a snack.