A group of Britons in Brussels for a tour of the European Parliament have accused budget airline Ryanair of “absolutely atrocious” customer service after they were told it would cost them around £6,000 to fly home early in the wake of bomb attacks.
Councillors were among the party of 28 people from north-west England who had been invited to Brussels by Labour MEP Afzal Khan.
They flew into Brussels South Charleroi Airport with Ryanair yesterday morning and were due to return tonight.
One of the group, councillor Chris Webb – who represents the Northenden ward at Manchester City Council – said after arriving they were told the centre of the city was “in lockdown” following the attacks on the metro system and Brussels Zaventem airport.
He explained that the group, which ranged in age from 18 to 80, feared for their safety and wanted to return home immediately.
But Mr Webb said he was told by staff at Ryanair’s customer service desk at the airport that it would cost around £6,000 to change the flights.
He then spent more than two hours trying to speak to someone from the airline over the phone, without success.
“It’s absolutely atrocious. This is a stressful situation as it is,” he said. “Obviously it doesn’t compare to the tragedy of the lives lost. But all I want is for us to get a flight home.”
He added: “There’s a lack of understanding.
“Their first reaction was ‘pay for a flight home’, not ‘you already have a flight home, you are a customer’.”
Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, raised a point of order in the House of Commons to urge ministers to “intervene and suggest to Ryanair and other carriers that all efforts are made to help those who want to come back to this country in a reasonable way”.
Ryanair issued a statement which noted that the group had paid £20 each for the flight departing on Wednesday.
The no-frills airline said they were offered to alter their schedule to return yesterday at a cost of £60 for the “change fee” and £154 for the difference in fares.