Furious Ryanair passengers protest in plane
More than 100 angry Ryanair passengers sat in a dark cabin for hours last night after it was diverted to Belgium, refusing to disembark until buses took them to their original destination in France.
The Irish low-cost airline said the plane was among four flights that were forced to land at the airport in Liege, southern Belgium, because fog forced the closure of the airport in Beauvais, France.
The passengers from three of the planes followed a request by cabin crews to disembark in order to take buses that would drive them to Beauvais, but tourists in one aircraft refused to heed the call, Ryanair said.
"Of the four AC (aircraft) that diverted to Liege just one group of passengers were disruptive," Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said in an email to AFP.
"This is clearly a case of unreasonable behaviour by a minority of passengers," he said, adding that buses eventually took all passengers to Beauvais.
The passengers, mostly French tourists who were supposed to land near Paris after returning from holidays in Morocco, refused to come out of the aircraft even after the crew had left it, people aboard the plane said.
After several hours of tense negotiations with furious passengers, officials convinced them to leave the plane and wait inside the airport for buses that would take them to their original destination, a firefighter told AFP.
"The negotiation was so difficult that we weren't sure they would come out," the firefighter said by telephone.
"People are obviously outraged. I'm just trying to look out for their well-being," he said.
Passengers on the plane told AFP that the flight had left Fes, Morocco, three hours late at 7:15 pm local time on Tuesday but had been unable to land in Beauvais.
The plane landed in Liege at around 11:30 pm and passengers only agreed to come out after 3:30 am the next morning. Their bus left at around 4:30 am.
"The plane didn't land in Beauvais but in Liege without warning us. Consequently, we refused to leave the plane," Mylene Netange, who runs a network on social responsibility for business leaders, told AFP.
Reda Yahiyaoui, a business owner who was travelling with his wife, a two-month-old baby and a three-year-old, said the passengers had no water and the toilets in the plane were locked. "The pilot left and he even left the cockpit door open," he said.
McNamara denied that the crew had abandoned the passengers, saying that they had stayed in the plane for an hour before leaving.
Diverting planes to the nearest airport in case of fog is standard procedure, he said, adding that the passengers would have been bused home earlier if they had not protested.
Liege airport does not usually host Ryanair flights and the airline has no personnel there. The Irish company's only destination in Belgium is Charleroi, south of Brussels.