Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ryanair criticised over £6,000 fee to fly group home from Brussels


People bring flowers and candles to mourn at Place de la Bourse in the centre of Brussels. Photo: AP
People bring flowers and candles to mourn at Place de la Bourse in the centre of Brussels. Photo: AP

Hugh Morris

A group of passengers stranded in Brussels after the attacks were told by Ryanair they must pay £6,000 if they wanted to get home.

The 28-strong party had been invited to the Belgian city by UK Labour MEP Afzal Khan, but after the explosions at Brussels Zaventum airport and the city's metro, which left 34 dead, decided it was safest for them to return to Manchester as soon as possible.

They had flown into Brussels South Charleroi Airport with the low-cost airline on Tuesday morning and were due to return tonight, but after arriving at a city on lockdown attempted to change their flights - only for Ryanair to tell them it would cost an extra £6,000 (€7,640 approx.).

Bill Esterson MP brought up the issue in the House of Commons yesterday:

“I have been contacted by a number of my constituents who are in Brussels, who travelled there [yesterday] and are trying to get home, as I'm sure many others are as well.

"They have been told by the airline Ryanair that it will cost them £6,000 to be brought back to this country.

"I wonder if, through you, Mr Speaker, I can ask ministers if perhaps they might intervene and suggest to Ryanair and other carriers that all efforts are made to help those who want to come back to this country in a reasonable way."

A spokesperson for Ryanair said the group had paid £20/€25 each for their return fare and when they arrived at the check-in desk asking to move their flights forward by a day they were required to pay £60/€76 each for a change fee and £154/€196 each to cover the difference in fare.

“The reason for the upgrade is that there were only 28 seats remaining [on the flight],” the spokesperson said.

“This group declined to accept this change offer as is their right and we look forward to welcoming them on their scheduled flight from Brussels Charleroi.”

The spokesperson added:

“We regret any inconvenience caused to this group but our priority [yesterday was] re-accommodating our disrupted Brussels Zaventem passengers, and all other passengers are free to avail of our change facility in the normal manner.”

Meanwhile, UK Councillor Chris Webb said that the service the group, which ranged in age from 18 to 80, received was “absolutely atrocious”.

“This is a stressful situation as it is. Obviously it doesn’t compare to the tragedy of the lives lost. But all I want is for us to get a flight home,” he said.

Cllr Webb spent two hours on the phone to a customer service representative but to no avail.

The leader of the St Helens council, Councillor Barrie Grunewald was also part of the group and described their treatment as “utterly disgraceful”.

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