Ryanair defeats passenger rebellion after four-hour sit-in

  • @robhastings

No-one, it appears, warned the French of the airline's uncompromising reputation.

More than 100 passengers staged a sit-in in one of the company's airliners on Tuesday night after their flight, which had been destined for Beauvais in northern France, was diverted to Belgium. The angry customers, mostly French tourists on their way home from holidays in Morocco, refused to leave the aircraft after it landed in Liege at 11.30pm and spent four hours in their seats in protest.

The flight had been rerouted from Beauvais because the airport there was closed due to fog, leaving the passengers with the prospect of a 225-mile coach journey to complete their journey. Having already been agitated at taking off in Fez three hours late, the passengers on flight FR5222 were not in the most understanding of moods and demanded to be flown the rest of the way.

It was only at 3.30am yesterday morning that they were eventually persuaded to leave by police and made their way out on to the tarmac to be driven home.

One of the rebels, Mylene Netange, told Agence France-Presse: "The plane did not land in Beauvais but in Liege without warning. Consequently, we refused to leave the plane."

The pilots and cabin crew stayed onboard the jet for an hour, trying to convince the frustrated band of men, women and children to disembark. The airport authorities also offered the passengers food and drink in a departures lounge, and it was made clear to them that the coach journey would be free.

But realising they were not making any progress, the crew eventually decided to leave the airliner themselves – and, according to the passenger Reda Yahiyaoui, locked the lavatories as they went.

Travelling with his wife, three-year-old daughter and two-month old baby, Mr Yahiyaoui said: "We were all tired after a long journey and angry at being dumped 200 miles away in Belgium. We just wanted to get back home, so we sat on the plane asking to be flown to France.

"But they just parked the plane then turned off the lights and locked the toilets and left us with no food or water. The pilot also got off and even left the cockpit door open."

A spokesman for Ryanair said that the crew had only left after the passengers became "disruptive". Christian Delcourt, a spokesman for the Liege airport, said that some of them were "very aggressive, very rude," adding: "It was a very tense situation."