The Irish discount carrier Ryanair has a well-earned reputation for unapologetically burying its customers in fees, including charges for carrying their bags on board. It isn’t as well-known for its unfailingly polite defenses of its indefensible policies and their uneven implementation.
Yomna Nasr’s story probably won’t change your opinion of Ryanair. But after reading it, you may grudgingly give it points for its clever non-apologies.
Nasr was flying from Malaga back to the UK on Oct. 28 with her family when she was stopped for having an oversize carry-on bag. “We were subjected to a bitter confrontation and despicably racist remarks,” she says.
She’s asked Ryanair to refund the carry-on fee, but so far, it’s refused. She wants me to intervene on her behalf.
Let’s get a few details from her first:
My family and I were stopped just as we were about to board the plane, as our bag was apparently too large and was subject to additional charges.
I was suspicious as to why we were held, as fellow passengers walked past us with larger cabin bags. We believed this was somewhat unfair and thought it would be appropriate to ask why.
She instantly became hostile and refused to reason with us in a sensible manner. Matters became worse when she continued yelling, also screaming at my brother, telling him to “shut up.”
When Nasr asked to speak with a supervisor, she says the employee hid her name tag and threatened to call security. Then the Ryanair agent added, “It’s funny how foreigners like you come to our country to get a European passport,” according to Nasr.
The ordeal left us contemplating as to how it was possible to be discriminately targeted and treated like barbarians by an established airline. My family and I can no longer fly free from institutional racism and abuse. I hope you can understand the seriousness of this matter, as I cannot trust flying with Ryanair in the foreseeable future.
Now, I wasn’t there when Nasr’s family boarded their flight in Malaga. Here are a few things I can say. Any Middle Eastern flyer is going to attract attention, for obvious reasons. And if those passengers are carrying oversize bags, then yes, they’ll probably be flagged.
It’s how those passengers are flagged that’s important. Telling a passenger to “shut up” and making remarks about their ethnicity and then hiding your nametag is not in the Ryanair employee manual. It can’t be.
Nasr sent an email to Ryanair describing the ordeal. Here’s how the airline responded (I’ve made a few edits for brevity):
I can confirm that a full internal investigation has been carried out with our airport handling agents whom were on duty at Malaga Airport on the 28/10/2012.
Our handling agents at Malaga Airport have completed written reports in relation to this particular incident.
Once again, on behalf of Ryanair, I do regret any difficulties that you and your travelling companions experienced at Malaga Airport. We regret if this incident caused you any upset or discomfort.