Ryanair plane seized by French authorities, forcing 149 passengers to disembark
‘Maybe they have been hoping to glean enough funds from all the extra charges for hand luggage,’ says wife of delayed passenger
For Europe’s biggest budget airline, 2018 has just got even worse. Ryanair had a £30m jet seized by French authorities in a row over an alleged unpaid bill.
Ryanair flight 1782 flew normally from Stansted to Bordeaux on Thursday afternoon, and was due to return from the French city at 6pm.
But the French civil aviation authority grounded the Boeing 737, disrupting the travel plans of the 149 passengers booked on flight 1783 back to Stansted. The travellers were told informally by French officials the aircraft was being impounded because of an unpaid debt of €500,000 (£435,000).
The dispute centres on payments made to Ryanair during its short-lived use of Angoulême airport in southwest France a decade ago. The European Commission ruled the subsidies constituted illegal state aid and should be repaid.
The Independent understands that the aircraft was impounded as soon as it arrived, and that no luggage was loaded. The passengers were given a €5 (£4.35) voucher for a meal and drink while a replacement plane was dispatched from Stansted.
Vicki Olverson, whose husband was on the disrupted flight, told The Independent her husband had not seen any Ryanair representatives.
“Maybe they have been hoping to glean enough funds from all the extra charges for hand luggage,” she said, in a reference to Ryanair’s reduction in its free cabin-baggage allowance this month.
As the evening dragged on, the information on Ryanair.com was that they would depart at 10pm.
But the flight was delayed for a further hour. The plane finally arrived at Stansted at 11.30pm, nearly five hours late.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules each of the passengers should qualify for €250 (£217) in compensation. If they all claim, the cost to Ryanair will be €37,250 (£33,000).
Ryanair paid back the subsidies to French authorities who released the plane. The country’s aviation body said it was “regrettable” it had had to seize the jet.
Ryanair has been contacted for comment.