Two Ryanair passengers were forced to spend the night outside Rome’s Ciampino airport after the airline refused to allow them access to their flight home.
Becky MacInnes-Clark and her partner Kurt Finch, from Suffolk, were booked on the Thursday evening Ryanair flight from the Italian capital to London Stansted.
Ms MacInnes-Clark, who had a valid passenger locator form and was fully vaccinated, said that a Ryanair ground staff representative insisted that she needed a negative Covid test taken in the previous 48 hours before travelling back to the UK.
This requirement was dropped by the UK government in October for passengers who have been vaccinated in the UK.
Ms MacInnes-Clark said: “I said no, I didn’t need one. He told me I did and told us we couldn’t board.
“This was at final boarding. I asked if there was anywhere in the airport we could have the test and was told ‘no’ and told to leave and speak to information.
“At the information desk they handed us a sheet with a farmacia address and told us ‘taxi’.
“We found a taxi, which cost us €60 return, the taxi driver spoke to the farmacia for us as none of them spoke English and managed to get the test done for us instead of queuing and took us back.”
The flight had left. After checking the UK rules to ensure that they had not been changed, they went to the Ryanair desk and were told to book online for a flight the following morning – which cost them €288 (£244).
As they had paid over £300 for tests and new flights, they could not afford a hotel for another night.
“When we dared to ask for some money towards accommodation or the taxi as they had made us stay, the Ryanair rep walked out and locked the door of the booth,” said Ms MacInnes-Clark.
At 11pm police ordered the couple, and some other passengers, to leave the terminal. They were locked out until 3.30am and spent the night in a bus shelter.
During a thunderstorm while they were waiting, Ms MacInnes-Clark filmed a social media message to Ryanair, saying: “I didn’t expect to be sleeping in a bus shelter because your agents here decided we needed a Covid test from Italy when we don’t.
“It’s all over the government website that we don’t, but they wouldn’t listen.
“So aren’t you lucky – you’ve got another €270 out of us plus other expenses and we’re sleeping in a bus shelter and hopefully getting on a flight with you tomorrow because we don’t have any other choice.
“I hope you’re all sleeping well in your beds – we aren’t.”
The next day, the couple boarded the rebooked flight and were not asked to produce a pre-departure test result.
They returned home to Suffolk some 20 hours late, at 4pm on Friday afternoon – “astounded and knackered”, according to Ms MacInnes-Clark.
The airline later said its ground agents at Rome Ciampino were at fault.
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “We sincerely regret that Ms MacInnes-Clark and Mr Finch were incorrectly refused boarding to this flight in Rome Ciampino by the airport handling agent who wrongly believed that a Covid-19 test taken in the last 48 hours was required to board this flight.
“We sincerely apologise to these passengers and our Rome Ciampino airport handling agents have agreed in this case to compensate Ms MacInnes-Clark and Mr Finch for the amount of €500 plus the full refund of their unused flights (£62.98), the difference in cost of the new flights (£180.22) plus any additional expenses they incurred to get home for the inconvenience caused.”
The €500 (£424) in compensation is stipulated for wrongly denying boarding under European air passengers’ rights rules.
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