RYANAIR HAS MADE headlines over the past 48 hours after the actions of a group of Irish holiday-makers led to an Ibiza-bound plane diverting to Paris.
During the incident in question, a group of men from Cork were on their way to Ibiza for a stag party when they became involved in what the airline claimed was a disturbance, which led to the flight being diverted to Paris Beauvais Airport. Three passengers were removed and detained by French police on arrival at Paris.
So, we all know that flights can be diverted if cabin crew deem passengers to be behaving in an anti-social manner, but what happens to the passengers after a flight is forced to make an emergency landing?
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, editor of www.travelextra.ie Eoghan Corry said that oftentimes the passengers can be faced with a hefty fine.
Corry explained that the country that the plane is forced to divert to is the jurisdiction that deals with the incident.
“The fines are draconian, they really are. The potential fine is massive,” he said.
Of course, fines will vary depending on whether local authorities decide to pursue the incident further, the severity of the incident, and the country in question.
“In some countries, you can actually be charged for the cost of diverting the aircraft, which runs into tens of thousands of euro,” Corry said.
“Basically, the punishment in the hands of the judge is enormous. They generally tend not to be too severe or to go to the extremity of it,” he added.
“When there’s a diversion, it takes ages to pursue it through the courts but it is a big deal for whoever caused the diversion of the aircraft.”
Corry said that the majority of these cases in Ireland tend to go through the courts in Limerick because the majority of diverted flights that land in Ireland tend to go to Shannon Airport.
“Ireland doesn’t tend to be more draconian, not surprisingly the United States tends to be the most draconian and the French somewhere in between.”
Speaking of how much a passenger could be fined in a situation like last weekend’s, Corry said: “It’s very hard to call this but I would speculate knowledgeably that the fine will be around €1,000.”
Diversions through the years
Cases of passengers being fined as a result of causing a flight to divert have been widely reported in the media through the years.
In 2015, the Daily Mail in the UK reported that a passenger on a Jet2.com flight from Leeds Bradford to Alicante was charged with an invoice for £4,809 (€5,480) after his behaviour onboard forced the flight to divert to Toulouse.
Similarly, Newstalk reported in 2015 that an American man was fined €1,000 after a plane was forced to divert to Shannon Airport.
TheJournal.ie asked Ryanair and Aer Lingus whether passengers who caused planes to divert as a result of anti-social behaviour incur a fine as a result.
In a statement, Aer Lingus said: “In common with other airlines, Aer Lingus has a strict no-tolerance policy towards disruptive guest behaviour.
“Ireland and all states served by Aer Lingus are signatories to the International Civil Aviation Organisation Tokyo Convention. This international agreement provides for the management of disruptive guest incidents. Additionally, regional regulatory bodies such as the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) have recently published appropriate regulations and most States have specific national legislation governing such incidents.
Furthermore, Aer Lingus assess guests at the gate and refuses carriage of intoxicated guests. Alcohol purchased in the airport that has been opened, or decanted, is confiscated and disposed.
Ryanair did not respond to queries.
Speaking to Neil Prendeville on Cork’s Red FM, Niall Harrington, one of the stag party members onboard the Ibiza-bound flight, said that police had told them that they weren’t going to face a fine.
He told Prendeville that a friend of his had opened a naggin of vodka on the flight but put it away when asked.
Later on he opened it again and before we knew it, we were told we were being diverted.
He said that reports of an “unruly, drink-fuelled disturbance” were “fake news”.
There was nothing like that, it was just good fun – people going on a stag, people going on holiday – everyone was in good form. We’ve met people over here who were on the flight who couldn’t believe it – it was a total over-reaction.
Harrington explained what happened when French police officers removed himself and two friends from the plane at Paris: “They brought us in and they weren’t interrogating [us] but they were sitting down just asking our side of the story and we got a chance to give our statement. Then about an hour later they said we were free to go.”
He added that the authorities chose not to press charges or to fine Harrington and his friends.
However, Harrington said he has since received an email telling him that he is prohibited from flying Ryanair in future.
“There was an email yesterday so I replied to that email and I tried ringing and that but there was no response,” he said.
Calls for alcohol restrictions
Ryanair has since called for restrictions to be put in place on the sale of alcohol at airports before 10am, and that a two-drink limit should be placed on passenger purchases.
Speaking to RTÉ News, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “Everyone at Dublin Airport and other airports, you have to use your boarding pass if you want to go to any one of the retail outlets.
“Just make the rule that you have to use your boarding pass if you want to buy drinks and two drinks should be enough and generally the vast majority of customers will be very happy with that.”
It must be noted that Ryanair allows the sale of alcohol on its flights before 10am.
“Our average flight length is about 90 minutes and we only do short haul flights so even if we really did want to sell more it’s very limited what we’re about to do,” Kenny said.
“We’ve also trained all of our staff that if you see customers who have taken too much alcohol that they’re not to be served anymore.”
In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a Dublin Airport spokesperson said: “The behaviour of some individuals on the Ryanair flight in question was clearly unacceptable.
“Dublin Airport has worked in the past with Ryanair and other airlines, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the gardaí and airport police on a joint education campaign to stress that such behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated at the airport.
Dublin Airport will continue to work with its airline customers and all other agencies in relation to this issue and will again remind the licence holders in its bars and restaurants of its responsibility in this area.
“Ryanair’s suggested response is a highly draconian one that would affect all passengers because of the behaviour of a very, very small minority of airline travellers.”