French seize Ryanair jet just before takeoff
— Storms, strikes, computer failures — you can now add “your plane has been seized by the government” to the list of things that can delay your flight.
In France, 149 passengers were preparing to take off for London late Thursday when French authorities ordered their Ryanair Boeing 737 impounded. The budget carrier owed money and it was “regrettable that the state was forced” to evacuate the plane, the civil aviation authority said.
The passengers had gone through passport control and security and were about to walk on the tarmac to board the plane when airport authorities told them to turn around, passenger Boris Hejblum said.
“The airport staff told us there was an issue with the plane,” he said in an email.
No Ryanair staff members were available, and the only communication from the airline was two text messages saying simply that the departure was delayed, and a $5.75 voucher for food — “less than what a sandwich cost at the airport cafe,” Hejblum, 30, of France, said.
The passengers were put on another flight that brought them to London's Stansted airport — five hours late.
The jet, meanwhile, was released Friday after Ryanair paid a bill of $610,000.
The scene unfolded at the Bordeaux-Merignac airport in western France, where authorities say the airline was ordered to pay back funds that the European Union had declared to be illegal subsidies. Ryanair had no comment.
French aviation agency spokesman Eric Heraud said regional authorities who originally gave subsidies to the Irish-based carrier had been trying since 2014 to recover the money, and sent its final warning in May. After six months without a response, it decided to act.