July 4, 2022

Wales Online has the story of how “a woman with diabetes was abandoned at a Spanish airport” by Ryanair, and “had to sleep alone overnight at Alicante airport without her medication.” That sounds terrible, and I’m sure it was all unpleasant, but which party was actually at fault for this? Let’s dig into the details…

Traveler spends all her money on holiday, can’t afford to check oversized bag

That headline actually sums up what happened here, so let’s go over the facts. A 63-year-old Scottish woman with Type 2 diabetes took a five day holiday in Spain, flying from Glasgow to Alicante. Here’s what happened prior to the return flight, according to the traveler:

“We were at the gate queuing for priority when a woman came up to me and told me to go with her and bring my suitcase. I went with her and she told me my suitcase was too big to go on the plane. I said ‘how can it not come on the plane? I travelled here with it.’

She told me I would have to pay €69 but it was the end of my holiday and I didn’t have any money left. I couldn’t understand why I needed to pay for the case when I had flown over from Prestwick with it just five days before.”

She then tried to explain to airport staff she needed to get home in order to take her diabetes medication, as she hadn’t taken it on the trip, and she was expecting to get home that day. They didn’t budge, and said that if she wanted to speak to a supervisor, she’d have to leave the secure area.

At this point a friend transfered her €69 to pay the bag fee, but it was too late, as the flight was already closed. She then spent the night at the airport, though the traveler was “frightened to close her eyes.” As she described it:

“I tried to find somewhere in the airport safe and I dozed on and off on the seats. To think Ryanair left a female in a foreign country on her own is absolutely shocking.”

My take on this Ryanair “denied boarding” story

The whole basis of this story seems to be that Ryanair let her take her bag to Spain in the cabin, but demanded it be checked on the return. Those who buy priority boarding with Ryanair (which it seems this traveler did) can take on a small personal bag (40x20x25cm) and a 10 kg wheelie bag (55x40x20cm).

With that in mind:

  • It’s possible they let it slide on the way out, but not on the way back; if a cop pulls you over for speeding, suggesting you drove too fast in the past but weren’t stopped isn’t much of a defense
  • It’s possible her bag was heavier and bigger on the way back, because perhaps she did some shopping in Spain
  • Ryanair has baggage sizers at each boarding gate, so I’m pretty confident they didn’t make up that her bag was above the allowable limit, or else she could have proven otherwise

I don’t want to come across as uncompassionate toward this traveler, because I’m sure this was a bad experience for her. If I had witnessed a situation like this, I would have gladly paid the €69 fee so she could get home, and to avoid this issue.

At the same time, it’s also important to take personal responsibility here, and in this case the airline really has little to no fault, as I see it:

  • I realize everyone has a different financial situation, but spending all your money on a trip so that you couldn’t even afford an oversize bag on the way back seems like unwise planning
  • If you are going to travel with zero savings for an emergency, make sure you’re at least fully aware of the rules that you’re agreeing to when booking a ticket on an ultra low cost carrier that’s known for charging fees for everything; simply saying “well they let it slide in the past” doesn’t meet that threshold
  • If you have medication that’s essential for survival, don’t plan on your flight operating exactly as scheduled, and leave a buffer

Bottom line

A story of how Ryanair “stranded” a Scottish traveler in Spain is getting quite a bit of attention. And by “stranded” I mean that the traveler had an on oversized bag, and regrettably didn’t have the money to pay to check the bag, in line with Ryanair’s policy.

Ultimately I feel bad for the fact that this traveler had to spend the night at the airport, because surely this isn’t a position anyone would want to be in. It would have been nice if other travelers pitched in to pay the fee so this woman wouldn’t be stranded. At the same time, you can’t really blame the airline for wanting to enforce its (very reasonable) policy.

What do you make of this Ryanair story?

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