France takes the take-off jet after Ryanair does not pay the bill

Posted: 9 November 2018 08:00 Updated: 9 November 2018 21:29

PARIS (AP) – Storms, strikes, computer failures – now you can add "your plane was seized by the government" to the list of things that may delay your flight.

In France, 149 passengers were preparing to take off for London at the end of Thursday, when the French authorities ordered the seizure of their Ryanair Boeing 737.

The budget carrier owed money and it was "unfortunate that the state was forced" to evacuate the aircraft, said the civil aviation authority.

Passengers had passed passport control and security and were about to walk on asphalt to get on the plane when airport authorities told them to turn around, said passenger Boris Hejblum.

"The airport staff told us that there was a problem with the aircraft," he told the Associated Press in an e-mail.

No Ryanair staff was available, and the only communication from the airline was two text messages that simply said the departure was delayed and a 5 euro ($ 5.75) coupon for food – " less than what a sandwich cost at the airport bar, "said the 30-year-old Frenchman.

"I found it strange that the police were the only ones to give us information," he said.

The passengers were put on another flight that eventually took them to the London Stansted airport – five hours late.

The multi-million dollar jet, meanwhile, was only released on Friday after Ryanair paid an account of 525,000 euros ($ 610,000).

The scene took place at the Bordeaux-Merignac airport in western France, where authorities say the airline was ordered to repay funds that the EU had declared to be illegal subsidies. Ryanair has not publicly commented on the seizure.

The French aviation spokesman, Eric Heraud, said that the regional authorities that originally granted subsidies have been trying to recover the money since 2014 and have sent their final legal warning in May. After six months without a response from Ryanair, he decided to act on Friday.

The deadlock with the French authorities will not help Ryanair, which more than most carriers, has come to symbolize the unceasing attention of budget airlines on the bottom line to the cost of customer service.

Ryanair has become the largest airline in Europe for passenger numbers, constantly offering some of the cheapest fares available. This ensures that its planes are packed.

So earn extra money with add-on rates. In addition to paying for choice of seating and food – now a standard practice for low-cost flights around the world – travelers also pay for each piece of hand baggage that is larger than a bag.

It manages to keep costs low by flying out of airports in odd hours to get cheaper airport slots.

Its CEO, Michael O & # 39; Leary, personifies the brash approach of the airline, sparring with the unions and the authorities of the EU. And although we concede in 2013 that "we should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily anger people," the airline maintains its reputation as something to bear for the sake of flying cheaply around Europe.

"I would say that we took it as another Ryanair problem, having no information from them," Hejblum said of the Thursday incident. "When we heard about the kidnapping, I would say that the general sentiment was to blame Ryanair for not complying with the law."

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Piovano reported from London.

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