Last week, a Scottish police force bought chocolate and bottled water for 168 air travellers, after their Ryanair plane became stranded on a runway at Prestwick Airport. The aircraft, which was bound for Girona, Spain had been waiting on the Ayrshire tarmac for six hours, unable to take off.
There was nothing wrong with the plane, but a strike of air traffic controllers in France meant that airspace in Western Europe was subject to extensive queuing. The strike forced hundreds of cancellations at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports. Teachers, train drivers, dockworkers, and factory hands were also refusing to work.
Ryanair’s ‘hostages,’ to quote the Scottish Sun newspaper, became agitated when staff refused to allow them any water or food. Travellers were permitted to use toilet facilities, but they were not allowed access to the aircraft’s bar, and told to remain in their seats in case the plane was granted clearance to fly.
The warm weather made the situation worse – with the engine switched off, the aircraft’s fans were not functioning. The problem was exacerbated when a bottle of water was handed to the pilot, but not to any of passengers, many of whom were worried about their children becoming dehydrated.
Fearing a revolt, the budget carrier called Strathclyde police at 18.00. ‘It was hectic,’ explained Sarah Toom, one of the stranded passengers. ‘Parents with young kids were getting upset and raising their voices. There was a loud cheer when police showed up with food and water.’ No arrests were made, and the plane finally took off at 19.49.
Ryanair claims that its staff were following aviation laws by not allowing passengers access to bars and food trolleys. The airline has since apologised for the incident.