Mutiny on the Cheap Flight
While grazing on Huffington Post the other day – and completely sticking with my New Year’s resolution not to read the annoying and depressing comments - I came across an article on yet another passenger mutiny on board a Ryanair flight.
All you need to do is google “Ryanair mutiny” and you’ll find a reference to June’s Strathclyde uprising, fomented by a four hour drinkless, foodless tarmac wait at Prestwick Airport, and quelled only when police went out of pocket to buy bottled water and Mars bars for the beleaguered passengers. Not exactly the drama and peril of the raid on Entebbe, but, still, an admirable intervention on the part of the local constabulary. (Source story.)
Then there were the November flights to Paris-Beauvais, diverted to Liege in Belgium because of French fog. Ryanair had buses lined up to transport the travelers, but 100 passengers staged a sit-in. Hell, no, we won’t go. Wonder if they sang, We Shall Not, We Shall Not be Moved. Not exactly the drama and peril of the Greensboro lunch-counter sit-ins of 1960 but, hey, I guess one man’s petulant acting out – just hop on the bus, Gus – is another man’s crucible. (Source story.)
The latest tempest occurred a few days ago in the Canary Islands, when police had to take a number of unruly passengers off a plane after a mutiny prompted by Ryanair trying to get a passenger to pony up the surcharge for excess carry-on. Of the 168 passengers, over 100 apparently leapt to the defense of the big-bagger. After the police arrived, only 64 were allowed to stay on the flight. Not exactly the Mutiny on the Bounty, but, while the Canary Islands are no Tahiti, if you’re going to be stranded somewhere because you’ve been bounced from your flight for “disruptive behavior”, you might as well be stranded on a tourist island. (I guess.)
What these episodes have in common, of course, is that they involve Ryanair, the airline that added the word “basement” to the bargain airline category. They’ve long offered stripped down flights to secondary and tertiary airports “near” popular tourist destinations – note that Paris Beauvais is about 50 miles from Paris. In exchange for getting to within approximate range of your destination quite cheaply, you pay for everything. Last year, Ryanair’s head guy even toyed with the idea of charging for use of the toilet. That add-on hasn’t gone through yet. I guess the thought of a bunch of guys whipping it out and peeing in the aisles gave Ryanair a bit of a pause. (If they could figure out how to role down the windows, however….)
While Ryanair has been in the vanguard of no-frills flying, and many more mainstream airlines have followed suit.
What Ryanair has done is also make vacation travel affordable to a lot of folks (mostly in Europe) who might otherwise have stayed at home, content to vacation in their own little countries, however blighted the weather and crappy the food. Ryanair made it possible for the Irish to stop shivering in 60 degree “beach weather” in Bundoran, and the Brits to forego bathing in parkas in the chill waters of Brighton, and head to Spain.
But where there are folks on holiday, there is drinking. And high spirits. And cranky kids. All of which, no doubt, contributes to some of the restive behavior that Ryanair seems to attract.
Not that experienced business travelers don’t get unruly on occasion. I remember the story of one (drunken) Wall Street big shot flying from South America to NYC. When he was denied any more mini-bottles, he proceeded to drop trou and crap on the drink cart. Resulting in his arrest, and some sort of compensation awarded to those who had to witness this indecent act up close and personal. (Talk about “eww’. And I thought it was stomach-churning to have to sit beside a nose-picker all the way form LAX to BOS.)
Personally, I’ve never been part of an on-board mutiny. Not that I can’t envision circumstances under which I would do a bit of online rabble-rousing. It’s just that I’ve never actually experienced those circumstances.
A couple of times I was caught in a tarmac trap – once in the sweltering summertime heat in Newark for a couple of hours; another time in Phillie, where, since all the airport restaurants were closed, they boarded us and fed us on the ground, so we didn’t have to call for the police to rescue us with candy bars. And I have been caught in plenty of long delays in the waiting area, most notably a six hour delay at Shannon caused, the pilot informed us once we were in flight, by having to give the plane an especially thorough check out, as it had been struck by lightning on the trip over from the States the night before. Thanks for sharing, Captain!
So I can’t really appreciate these Ryanair mutinies.
Not that you’re going to starve to death if you don’t eat for four hours, but everyone who flies should make sure that they have a bit of a snack with them – trail mix, candy bar, piece of fruit, bag of nuts. And, obviously, no airline should deny passengers access to the toilet. (This isn’t an EST session, after all.) Beyond that, all sorts of things can conspire to make plane travel unpleasant. Bad weather. Mechanical failure. Crew problems. Air traffic controller strike.
You have absolutely no control over this whatsoever. So lean back and leave the flying to them.
As for those who jumped in to support a passenger being charged extra for carrying on outsized baggage.
This I don’t get at all.
Having been inconvenienced on plenty of occasions by folks trying to cram a bag that appears to contain the content of a full-sized dumpster in it, into the already packed overhead bin, I can’t imagine taking someone’s side who’s gotten in a tiff with the airline about it. Especially on Ryanair.
Come on, folks, sometimes you really do get what you pay for.
Fortunately, I am blessed with an extraordinary capacity to sleep in an upright position, on the ground or in the air, and to keep myself content as long as I have something to read. I can, however, see leading a mutiny if I finished up my book, its backup, and the emergency Vanity Fair I brought at the airport. Especially if the crossword, Sudoku, and Mensa puzzles in the inflight mags had already been filled in. In that case, aux barricades!